Positive Life Change Is Possible

Positive life change is appealing.

For all the theories out there about how to change your life, experience is perhaps the best metric to gauge how valuable they really are.  Experience is proven.  The downside of course – experiences are not universal.  What works for you might not work for me and vice versa.

Genetics and environment are two variables that do determine a whole lot about who we are.  Some might even say that a person with a capacity to change for the better and “carve their own path” is genetically and environmentally predisposed to that way of thinking, that potential.  I am in no position to refute that.  Be that as it may, just because someone has the environmental and genetic potential for positive life change, (sadly) does not mean the potential will be realized. For those who have that potential (I believe most people do), I will reflect on what has worked for me in regards to positive life change.

It is true – Genetics and environment have a great effect on us – but it is still possible to break through those molds.  I think of people like Stevie Wonder (Superstition is just plain good).  But before you assume where I’m headed, I’ll pose the question – did he rise to musical legend status because he is blind? It is well known that the other senses are commonly heightened after the loss of one.  Many would point out the wonder of a blind person rising to such success and ability despite their inability to see.  Right now, I look at it from the other point of view – many people are motivated by their disadvantages, disabilities, failures, etc.  Those who have average, normal lives will often be complacent.  Real struggles and challenges can drive people to huge success.

If I find huge success one day, pencil me in as one of those people.

Things That Have Changed My Life (Positively)

Listing all of the things that have contributed towards my positive life change would take all day, so I’m going to cover the main ones that have produced the strongest positive life change.

Failure

It is funny to me how learning often entails seeing how everything is the opposite of what you once thought it was.  I’m beginning to really appreciate failure.   This blog would not exist if I hadn’t been unemployed since I graduated in July 2010 with a B.S.B.A. in Finance.  It was my plan to get a degree so that I could get a good job.  The degree and my “obvious skills” were my automatic get-a-job ticket.  Oops.  Hey there reality, I can’t pay rent this month (I will soon because I just got a job).

It is hard for me to look at this as pure failure, as I never was given a chance to fail.  But I certainly felt like a failure.  I’ll say it right now, job hunting is the most demoralizing and inspiring thing I’ve ever done. You can’t help but feel worthless as company after company notifies you that they are “pursuing other applicants.”   More commonly, they’d ignore you altogether as you continue to beg for work. This experience has forced my hand and I am a different person now.  I decided one month ago that I was sick of other people deciding what I was worth.

Since then, I’ve launched this blog and I’m working on another website with a couple of friends that has a lot of potential for success.    Nine months ago, I was ready to get a regular job and just make money.  Now I’m ready to pursue my dreams.  I need this job short term, but I’m living my dream on the side (and I plan on living it full-time eventually).  I can’t thank those companies enough.

The Hot Seat

Hot Seat

Have a seat. I warmed it up for you.

The title of this one has you intrigued, doesn’t it?  Don’t run off and sit on hot coals quite yet.  The hot seat is a metaphor and you’ll soon understand why it is called that.  A wise friend of mine (PsyD, married, 3 kids) told me about the hot seat.

Here it is – one person sits on a chair in the middle of a group of people (or in front of a semi-circle of people).  While seated, the people surrounding this person will begin to be very honest with him/her. Major and minor flaws are exposed, and it is not comfortable, but I love it.

A couple years ago, I eagerly entered the hot seat because I knew it was a growth opportunity.  At the time I was spouting the merits of brutal honesty, so here was my chance to not be a hypocrite.  It was tough and I think there were 6-7 people in the semi-circle.  After sweating it out, I learned a few very interesting things about myself.

  1. I added qualifiers to everything (a non-committal technique) –  “I think I feel nervous right now.”  “Yeah, I probably do that sometimes.” This showed a lack of confidence or a fear of offending people with opposing viewpoints.
  2. I internally screened everything I said (too much) and when it came out of my mouth, it was monotone.  My goal up until that point was to control how people interpreted my communication to ensure accuracy.  We discovered that I spoke in monotone so that people would only be able to listen to the words I was saying and not “read my emotions/tone.”  The issue with this, as you may have guessed, is that a dull monotone voice does send a message and it was not the one I wanted to be sending.
  3. To go with # 2, I absolutely over-analyzed social situations. I felt I had to account for every person in the room.  I would attempt to analyze how everything I said and did would affect each person in the room.  Crippling.

Since the hot seat, I’m much more social (and laid back), confident, and I speak in a larger variety of tones!  I may have never found these things out on my own.  The hot seat is awesome.

There Are Others…

But I want to wrap this up because I’m tired (+ 3 honesty bonus).  The different ways I’ve changed my life actually have two common factors – deep thinking and a change of perspective. That’s the theme of my blog and there is a reason for it.  Below is the description for this website, the one that people will see when it ranks in Google for keywords.

“Humans change when they experience a paradigm shift in their belief and understanding of reality. Deep, critical thinking equips the mind for positive life change using this concept.”

The reason we change when our perspective changes is because we then see the world in a different way and respond naturally to that.  If you’re trying to force yourself to change and you still see the world in the same way, you’re fighting a losing battle.

Example:  I used to have to come up with motivational techniques and programs for working out.  One I created was a complex point system where I could earn points and buy things (like ice cream) with them.  The motivation would fade and I’d start over.  However, my perspective of working out began to change as I noticed the positive effect it was having on my health, body, and life.  Exercise soon became essential in my mind like brushing my teeth or eating are.  You know the feeling when you forget to brush your teeth or it has been too long?  I get that feeling if I haven’t exercised in a while.  I wasn’t able to get consistent until my perception of exercise changed from something nice to something necessary.

Deep, critical thinking create opportunities to shift our perspective to one that aligns better with the reality of the world and the reality of how our current selves match up to our ideal selves.  As you can see from the hot seat example, other people are invaluable when it comes to perceiving things you cannot yet see.

Find other people who are interested in living better by means of thinking about life, and spend time with them.  These are the people you want to be around, because their thoughts and ideas might  inspire you or provide the spark you need to start a wildfire of positive life change.  The hot seat may have been that initial spark for me.

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Lindsey Morningstar

Hey, found your blog through a post you wrote on Problogger. I’ve recently started rethinking how I write and for whom I’m writing to. I’m a psychologist so my training helps me emphasize with others and make everyone feel comfortable, which unfortunately doesn’t help when I want to speak my mind. Trying to make every person who reads my work happy just leaves me with writers block and anxiety. So thanks for these tips, definitely helpful!

sguise

You’re welcome Lindsey. Thanks for sharing that with me. Wow! I can’t imagine trying to make every reader happy. What a burden! If you try to make everyone happy, you’ll see yourself doing #1 in this post – you won’t say anything definitively.

At the time I struggled with trying to please everyone, I would always attempt to give myself a way out of anything controversial I said. There are times to be sensitive to other beliefs and opinions, but most of the time it’s better to just speak your mind. The more honest and lucid you are, the more people will respect you and like you.

Justin Harmon

Hey,

Nice post. You are definitely on to something when you mentioned spending time with people who want to live better. I believe that by surrounding yourself with people who want the same things as you want will help you to stay motivated and keep your desire to succeed strong.

sguise

Thanks Justin. I agree with you. In my experience, when I’m around someone who has similar goals as I do, we tend to boost each other’s motivation significantly.

Angela Irvin

Hey, Stephen –

I really enjoyed reading this post! I agree with Justin. We can’t discount the importance of our surroundings, especially when it comes to the people we spend time with. There is a saying: Water seeks it’s own level. I think we should seek to spend time around others who are just as motivated and POSITIVE as we are (or even more so). Otherwise, if we are surrounded by people who aren’t aspiring for much, we can find ourselves gradually settling to that lower level.

Great points about changing perspective, also 🙂

sguise

Very true Angela. I hadn’t heard that phrase about water seeking its own level. It’s a good one!

I love positive people. 🙂 The blogosphere has so many bloggers that are amazing people to converse with and be influenced by.

alfa 4c

That hot seat stuff is very interesting. I am going to test myself with that.
I am going to give you the anti-hot-seat weapon. It is called “So what?” and it refers to some healthy piece of egocentricity. In my view we are all egocentric. We all view physically the world through our own eyes and we are the origin of our system of coordinates, the center of our worlds. The most egocentric people would like others to recognize them of the center of their worlds too. In other words, they believe they are the most important, and anything else than themselves is pure irrelevance. The less egocentric people can shift from their position and see the world from the perspective of another, understanding and caring for the needs of someone else. The most egocentric can become ignorant to other people’s views and opinions. “Ignorance is bliss” remember?

So what you have to do is analyze other people opinion and categorize those as true or false. Once you think they are wrong, simply ignore their view so that you can focus on your own. “So you think you’re better than me at this? So what? I don’t care. I KNOW I am better.” You don’t have to say it, just know it. In the end they’ll get it. Lack of self confidence leads to lack of confidence from the people around you.

As for the first one, failures but most of all learning from your own mistakes as well as others’ is one of the best ways to gain experience in a new field on your own. This is just as old as the world. I guess it’s called “trial and error”. But the main thing here is action. If you don’t act you can’t make a mistake, it’s true, but you can’t get stuck in your life fearing you’ll fail.

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