Transformational, Long-Term, Permanent, Lasting Change: The Function of Change in Success

I learned early in my life that if things needed to change, it was up to me to change them.

I have had the great pleasure of working with Jim Rohn, who inspired me to new levels of success and happiness. As one of America’s greatest speakers, I consider him one of my early mentors. When I first met Mr. Rohn, I was sitting at a dinner table with ten other people. I grabbed a seat near him and just wanted to listen to his words of wisdom and conversation. When a lull in the conversation arose, I was caught off guard when Mr. Rohn asked me about my goals, dreams and aspirations. In response, I began to talk about many of the roadblocks I had experienced in my pursuit of success. I listed all the reasons why I wasn’t able to achieve my goals and dreams. I let him know who was to blame and insisted none of it was my fault. I thought I had made a pretty good case and then the hammer dropped. Jim looked at me and said, “Kurt, for things to change, you must change, and for things to get better, you must get better.” That brief moment in time changed my life forever. It was then that I realized that everything I wanted in life is on the other side of change, not the other side of excuse. I also realized that no matter the excuse (good or bad), it would not produce results.

If you want to make the same kind of transformation in your life, the first thing you have to do is take an honest look at yourself and where you are. You can’t make changes if you won’t acknowledge what needs to be changed. Where are you starting? What is your current situation? If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be? It is only from honestly assessing where point A is that you can develop a well-defined, well-planned route to point B. Then the next obvious thing to determine is where or at what point B is located. In other words, what exactly are you aiming for? What do you want?

Now is not the time to be timid. Don’t shortchange yourself because you want to be “careful” or “reasonable” or you don’t want to “rock the boat.” Shoot for the stars! You’ll define the path to get there, but first you have to know what exactly you’re even trying to reach. In other words, you must begin with the end result and then work your way backward. You have to know exactly where you want to go and what you need to change to get there. Sometimes, people are actually afraid of being “too” successful. To be brilliant or amazing might actually be a scary proposition. As success comes into sight, you might feel a lot of responsibility weighing down on you. So, how successful should you be? How healthy should you be? How wealthy should you be? How strong should your relationships be? Consider the following powerful quote from Nelson Mandela:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the World.

There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. – 1994

Inaugural Speech

We are unique creatures. In spite of the seeds of greatness that lie within us, we seem to program ourselves to do the least amount possible to get by. That is, we often do only what is necessary to survive. I see this tendency with my students at the local university all the time. Their mentality is: What is the least amount of work I can do to pass this class? They are paying top dollar to get their education yet rarely do you see a student take advantage of all the learning that is at her/his disposal. We see symptoms of the same mental laziness, lack of progress and resistance to change in the workplace, too:

What is the least amount of work I can do to get a paycheck and not get fired? When we are in this lazy mindset, we can’t find happiness, and as a result, our souls start to rust.

The challenge is that we often don’t see the consequences of our behavior fast enough.

Time ticks by, and by the time we’re even aware of how off course we’ve gotten, years have flown by. We live in a society where we want the quick fix, the easy way out.

Unfortunately, however, that is not how life works. If it takes someone five years to gain twenty pounds, why does someone else think he can completely lose it in a couple weeks? Another example is fast food. We know it’s not good for us, and yet hey, nothing bad happened today after I had that super-size order of fries. The consequences of the unhealthy food will take time to manifest, but in the meantime, the instant gratification of a fast and delicious meal now overpowers concerns about the future that, in the moment, seem immaterial. Imagine if every time you ate at a fast food restaurant the consequences were immediate. You took a bite and felt a bulge near your midsection. If that were the case, it wouldn’t take long before you changed your ways.

There are thousands of habits and patterns in our lives that fit the instant gratification scenario. Another example is debt. So what do we do when we’re constantly confronted with such difficult choices: immediate pleasure versus future gain? What do we do about it? You would be very wise to make a habit as soon as possible of analyzing your life on at least a weekly basis. Determine what you want to change now, not after years of reinforcing the wrong habits. The saying goes, “Old habits die hard” and it’s really true.

Stop destructive cycles now before the   strands  that bind you become impenetrable rope.

Without changing your action, your wishes and hopes will only be whims that never go anywhere. It’s time for you dreams to start to bear fruit!

So, are you ready to welcome change into your life? Good! Remember, as Albert Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” Once you have recognized the need to change and have embraced the opportunity to change, then you will need to start organizing your plan of action. Think backward. What is the big picture? What are the major phases within that big picture? What are the steps within each phase that will move you from one point to the next? It is worth pointing out here that you must be careful not to let the opinions of others dissuade you. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before–you’ve gotten yourself all excited and pumped up, you tell someone you really care about all your great plans and they barely listen or care. Or worse, they start pointing out all the reasons why your plan isn’t going to work or why it’s a bad idea. Crash! You can’t remember the last time you felt so deflated. I’ll admit that it is hard to stay focused and persistent when people spit on your dreams. Fear of failure, fear of what others will think–these are totally normal feelings. But you can’t let them debilitate you. Napoleon Hill said, “The fear of criticism robs man of his initiative, destroys his power of imagination, limits his individuality and takes away his self-reliance.” You are destined for greatness. Follow your heart not the useless criticism and discouragement of those who have forgotten how to live and dream.

So many people assume that if they don’t try, then they can’t fail. If they don’t try, no one will criticize them either. The tragedy of this mindset is that they will fail by virtue of never having even attempted to succeed. George Shinn once said, “Growth means change and change involves risks, stepping from the known to the unknown.” I have always loved the phrase “jump and the net will appear.” Consider the fact that most of the fears we face in life are not life-and-death matters. And yet, we are so gripped by our fears that it’s almost as though they were life-and-death matters.

The next time you feel yourself paralyzed by fear, stop and honestly assess your feelings.

What is the worst thing that could really happen? Are the possible setbacks really life-or death situations, or are they just opportunities to learn and grow, even if they are sometimes unpleasant or painful? Reflect on the fact that almost all successful people have their stories about where they came from and what they had to go through to achieve success. What’s more, it’s rarely a rosy picture. It might also be worth asking yourself what the worst thing is that could happen if you do nothing. Chances are the consequences might be more severe in the case of inaction versus action. Either way, there is a price to be paid. Do you want regrets or do you want results? We say no to some things because we are saying yes to other things. You just need to be sure you know what hangs in the balance either way. Sometimes it is the realization of the imminent, stark reality hitting us in the face that provides the momentum for change. Whatever the motivator is, just don’t let fear stop you from forging ahead.

As you ready yourself for positive changes ahead, watch how you talk to yourself. In other words, there is to be no more talking down to yourself like: “Well, I blew it again.

Surprise, surprise.” Negative self-talk is a dead giveaway for an attitude tune-up.

Thoughts and attitudes are where change begins. Don’t take this advice lightly because your thoughts have the power to control your destiny. When you feel or think there is no hope, you are right. Understand that your thoughts control your emotions and that your emotions control your actions. What you concentrate on will happen. If your thoughts always focus on rejection and failure, you will see a self-fulfilling prophecy in your life.

Change your thoughts, change your focus and you will change the future.

Draw on strength and support from family and friends who will support you. Fortify yourself so that you’re immersed in an environment where success can grow from success. When you surround yourself with people, places and things that inspire you, you’ll feel encouraged. Sometimes we think that all this “change your attitude” stuff is great, but it doesn’t just click like the snap of your fingers. It’s true; unfortunately, our progress and results are rarely instantaneous. It can take a lot of effort to muster the mental and emotional fortitude that is necessary to forge ahead when the support seems so distant. This concept underscores my point even more: If you’re having trouble mustering the inspiration for change yourself, surround yourself with the people and things that will give you the springboard you need. Moreover, remind yourself that even under the best circumstances, progress comes in spurts. There’s no sense in waiting for everything to be just right before rolling up your sleeves because it’s just never going to happen. Let’s face it, fate isn’t going to just catapult you to the top without any scrapes or bruises. Sometimes, it will be a matter of taking three steps forward and one step back. Other times, you’ll go through a phase of feeling like you’re not taking any steps forward, and then you will suddenly leap ahead by ten or twenty steps or more. Don’t fight the natural growth curve you’re going to experience.

Although the words bear similar meanings, “change” and “alteration” are not synonymous. Change is driven from within and governed by the right intentions. Alteration is based on external factors–what others will think, what will impress someone, what will enable you to “keep up” or maybe even just what will appease someone so s/he’ll leave you alone. The trouble with all of these examples is that they are most likely to cause greater insecurity, which in turn breeds low self-esteem. When you’re feeling low, you’re not as likely to feel invigorated and ready to take on your weaknesses, and a downward cycle results. You’ve got to forget about any influences that lead you to look to others for approval. If you don’t, your happiness and success will always hang on the whims of others, and this reliance will only lead to a very frail emotional existence. You’ll never get ahead because you’ll always be fretting over and worrying about keeping everyone else happy. You must concentrate on making yourself happy instead. On the surface, many people are open to change, but privately, or even subconsciously, they resist change at every turn. When you don’t make the changes you know are necessary, you feel weak and depressed. Contrarily, when you successfully make changes, you feel positive and in control. Now here is a key thing to understand: It is the change that makes us uneasy or gives us anxiety; it is how we perceive and handle that change. Let’s now outline the three key ways in which people make changes in their lives. One of these ways is more powerful than the others in terms of conscious, lasting change: Drastic circumstances require drastic measures. You could have a heart attack, lose your job or experience some other sort of personal tragedy. Where you might not have felt compelled to change your situation before, however, such events force you to change. The second way people make change in their lives is slowly but surely. Gradual changes like this are more likely to evolve through personal relationships and other such long-term molding influences. The third change-inducing factor is internal change. Both positive and negative factors can compel you, but it is under this unique method where you have willfully hit the pause button and made a conscious transformational decision.

To get change to stick, you must make sure three things occur. First, you must have a firm commitment to change. You have to have reached the point where, in your mind, there is no other option. Second, you must be willing to pay the price for change’s rewards, persisting even when you feel weak. Third, you have to know where the change is taking you. How is this life transformation going to affect your life? What will the end results be? One thing that can really alleviate the fear of the unknown is doing your homework so you know exactly what to expect. Carefully plan your steps toward success–even when you’ve never been there before. Remember, there is much more security traveling new terrain with a map!

When those closest to you seem to be the most discouraging, remember that they have only seen you the way you have always been. They have no experience with the person you’re going to become. Fair or not, it is only human nature that we are judged and that we also judge others based on past experience rather than projections of their future potential. Some people may take these sentiments as unsupportive and extremely crushing to their confidence in proceeding. If you fall into this category, do not cast your pearls before swine! This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still pursue loving relationships with those around you, but you don’t have to constantly be laying everything out on the line for them to scrutinize, either. Why make yourself vulnerable to those you know are not going to cheer you on? In this case, it is simply a matter of being careful and wise about whom you open up to. On the other hand, some people may find the naysayer to be a serious motivator. Whatever works for you, go for it. Just make sure you keep the positive energy flowing.

Finally, we have all heard the saying that a habit is made in twenty-one days. If such a short-term benchmark motivates you, go for it, but don’t believe for a minute that twenty-one days will make you home free. Certainly, if you can persist in doing something for twenty-one straight days, you are on the road to success. These short-term successes are important because they enable you to start seeing and tasting what ultimate success might be like. But also remember that even after two or three months of steady commitment, we can still topple from our new routines. Such an experience would be more closely aligned with alteration than true change. The key is to continually reinforce your new habits and to hold yourself accountable to your new discipline. That way, you won’t revert back to the old habits of your comfort zone.


Post time: 05-20-2017