FIFTH CHOICE: Something vs. Nothing

1/ I remember the time I just fell apart

I used to be nothing.
In my own mind.

2/ My wild attempts at change

Please help me with this!
That’s what I said to Dr. Nathaniel Branden as I told him about my wife’s condition and my attempts to raise children on my own.

We talked about the foolishness of trying to change immediately and radically from nothing to something. From scared to confident. Instead, he taught me his 5% solution.

Dr. Branden had me give six rapid answers to the sentence stem, “If I were 5% more responsible for my life today…”
My answers, off the top of my head, were like these:

He applied the same process to being 5% more peaceful inside, to being a 5% better parent, a 5% better husband, better provider, and on and on.

It amazed me that the answers were always inside me, ready to pour out. They just needed some prompting and a kind of game to get it going.

I saw all kinds of little things I could be doing immediately.
I saw I could do anything 5% better, but to change something completely was frighteningly hard to think about.

3/ No more false magic

having personal productivity appear out of nothing is false magic. It is not how real-world success works. Thanks to Dr. Branden, and my own experience, I now knew that.

I told Bradley we would only make progress if he was willing to see that he was already somewhat productive. Then we could go from productive to more productive.

That’s where all success lies—going from good to better and better, not trying to go from bad to good. Movement is always on a continuum. It’s a learning curve, not a leap of faith.

I asked him to list for me ten ways he was productive. Then I asked him to list five people he knew personally who were less productive than he was.

He said, “I’m just not nearly as productive as I want to be.”
“Yes. Right. Good! Now we can work,” I said. “Because now we can go from productive to more productive. That’s your path.”

It didn’t take long for Bradley to find many ways he could be 5% more productive each day. And if you do the math, that adds up fast.

4/ He was pumping from a dry well

Have you ever had that feeling? That nothing in your life was really working? That you were pumping air? I’ll tell you truly: I have had that feeling.

We criticize ourselves. We think we’re failures. We think that critical self-talk might shame us into doing something. But it doesn’t. It just returns us to our emptiness.

You need water to get water! Add a little water to the dry seals and pipes and the well water will begin to flow.
By adding past successes to our thinking, we began to get some water. No matter how small those achievements have been, they are enough to get a good life flowing.

5/ I needed to make a big, magical leap

If I was weak, I had to become amazingly strong. If I was overweight I had to become rail thin.

It never worked because it was a dysfunctional approach. It was a dream that divorced me from reality.

Before Dr. Branden, I had always been stuck inside the innocent malfunction of using self-criticism as a motivator.
Self-criticism is like pulling a lamp’s plug out of the wall because it isn’t giving the room enough light. But now the room goes completely dark.

6/ Just whose side are you on?

To produce something you have to start with something.
You have to see the good in who you already are.

You have to acknowledge that you’ve done the best you could so far, given what you’ve been believing and how you have seen your life.

Now you’re on your side. You are your own attorney. You represent yourself from now on.

SIXTH CHOICE: Systems vs. Dreams

1/ If you can dream it you can do it

“Dream big!” many good people say.
But then what?
it’s a nice thought but I haven’t been able to make my credit card payments this month and I’m slipping deeper into debt and failure.

“Every system is perfect for the result it gets. If you want a different result, put in a different system.”
Oh, wow. That was a moment.
My system of not earning enough to pay my bills—or, of earning enough but spending it on other things—was perfect. It was perfect! (For the result it was getting. And that result was debt and worry and fear.)

I simply needed a new system. A system that would be perfect for producing the result I wanted. A system I could jump into and benefit from every day because it was not out there, stranded in my future.

SEVENTH CHOICE: Serving vs. Pleasing