Instead of seeking change, you’ve limited your potential for change. Instead of focusing on what you can do to enhance your life, you’ve merely tried to discover or understand why you’re disabled or limited. Instead of improving yourself, you’ve submitted to simply accepting yourself for who you “really” are.
What matters is who you want to be.
What matters are the choices you make.
Regardless of who you’ve been, you no longer have to be that person
“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”
Who are you going to be? And how specific and intentional will you be in that creation process?
Emotions are the doorway to change and transformation.
CHAPTER 1 - The Myths of Personality
Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.
—- Daniel Gilbert, PhD
Diamandis calls this “MTP,” or “Massively Transformative Purpose.” The idea is simple: You have a purpose so big and inspiring that pursuing it transforms your entire life. You’re the one who selects and chooses that purpose. You invest yourself in it. You shout it from the rooftops. You change yourself and your life for it. You improve the world through it. From Diamandis’s perspective, and mine, you can and should have a personal MTP, as well as a professional or organizational one.
Myth #1: Personality Can Be Categorized into “Types”
Labels create tunnel vision.
Becoming insatiably committed to a future purpose and embracing emotions rather than avoiding them is how radical change occurs.
When you see people as being incapable of change, you begin to define them by their past.
So, where are you?
In what ways have you defined yourself or others by what was done in the past?
Have you limited and overly defined yourself by categorizing or typifying yourself?
What would happen if you stopped boxing yourself into a category and opened yourself to the possibility of change?
Myth #2: Personality Is Innate and Fixed
How much time do you spend imagining your future self?
- We assume our present personality is a finished product (the end-of-history illusion).
- We overemphasize the importance of the past, which leads us to become increasingly narrow in how we view ourselves and the world.
it’s time to start thinking about who your future self is going to be.
It’s best to make decisions based on what your future, not your present, self wants.
Life starts taking on a whole new meaning when you begin thinking right now what your future self will want. Rather than making decisions based on your current identity, you could begin making decisions your future self would love and appreciate.
It’s your responsibility to set your future self up for as much opportunity, success, and joy as possible. This is how you become the person and create the life you want, rather than becoming someone with regret.
Describe your future self.
Who is your future self?
How often do you imagine and consciously design your future identity?
What would happen if you based your identity on who you want to be, rather than who you’ve been?
Myth #3: Personality Comes from Your Past
- They continue to be defined by past traumas that haven’t been reframed.
- They have an identity narrative based on the past, not the future.
- Their subconscious keeps them consistent with their former self and emotions.
- They have an environment supporting their current rather than future identity.
“When I think about the person I was, I feel bad for that guy,” Tucker told me. “I can now understand why he was acting the way he was. I feel extreme compassion for him.”
Tucker’s “failure,” although tortuous in the moment, was exactly what he needed. It happened for him, not to him. And since then, it has led him to having a much higher and empowering purpose for his life.
As you truly learn and have new experiences, you begin to see and interpret your past in new ways. If your view of your own past hasn’t changed much over recent months or years, then you haven’t learned from your past experiences and you’re not actively learning now.
An unchanging past is a sure sign of emotional detachment and rigidity—an avoidance of facing the truth and moving forward in your life. The more mature you become as a person, the more differently you’ll view prior experiences.
Your past evolves as you evolve.
We reinterpret or reconstruct our memory in light of what our mental set is in the present. In this sense, it is more accurate to say the present causes the meaning of the past, than it is to say that the past causes the meaning of the present….
Our memories are not “stored” and “objective” entities but living parts of ourselves in the present. This is the reason our present moods and future goals so affect our memories.
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
new experiences alter former memories, adding new perspective and meaning to those memories.
Context is always superior to content because it determines the meaning, focus, emphasis, and even appearance of the content. When you change the context, you simultaneously change the content!
“That’s just the way I am because of my past” is to declare you’re emotionally stuck in your past.
A clear indicator that someone has unresolved trauma is that his life and personality are repetitive for an extended period. But as he faces, opens up about, becomes more aware of, and ultimately reframes his trauma, he allows himself to take a positive and mature view of his past. His present and future will then stop reflecting his past.
He is not the victim of his past. His past isn’t causing him to be the way he presently is. Instead, the meaning of his past continues to expand and change because he chooses not to be stuck there.
How we describe, interpret, and identify with our past has far more to do with where we are, here and now, than it has to do with our actual past.
If you’re still angry with your parents for your childhood, for example, this speaks more to who you currently are than what actually happened in your childhood.
It isn’t the contents of your past that need changing, but how you view them today.
As Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” It’s not about seeing a million things, but being able to see the same things a million different ways.
Psychological flexibility is the skill of being fluid and adaptive, holding your emotions loosely, and moving toward chosen goals or values. You need psychological flexibility to reframe your past and imagine a future self. The more flexible you become, the less you’ll be overwhelmed or stopped by emotions. Instead, you’ll embrace and learn from them.
The less emotionally developed and flexible a person is, the more they will avoid hard experiences. The more they’ll be limited and defined by painful experiences from their past. This is counterintuitive, as many people come to believe the best way to deal with hard experiences is by burying their emotions and fighting a silent battle, alone.
You build confidence, which enhances your imagination. You stop being as limited by who you were and how you feel, and instead, you’re enabled to be and do what you want, regardless of what is involved in being and doing it.
Emotions are the doorway to growth and learning. The reason people’s personalities plateau and get stuck in repetitive cycles is because they are avoiding the difficult and challenging emotions involved in learning and in connecting with themselves and others. As a result, they remain weighted down by their limited perceptions of their past far longer than necessary.
So, what stories are you telling about your past self?
Who was your former self?
In what ways are you different from your former self?
How has your past changed due to more recent experiences?
How would your life be different if your past was something happening for you rather than to you?
How could life change if you embraced the truth that your former and current selves are two fundamentally different people?
How would your life be if you never again blamed or limited yourself and your future based on the past?
Myth # 4: Personality Must Be Discovered
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
-— George Bernard Shaw
She’s hoping that at some point, lightning will strike, she’ll have an epiphany, and then she’ll be able to move forward with confidence. Then she’ll be able to truly be who she really is.
What Kary fails to understand is that inspiration follows action, not the other way around. Lightning isn’t going to strike for her. Unless and until she takes action, her confidence and imagination will remain low. She needs to decide what she wants and begin moving forward. With progress—even miniscule progress—her clarity and confidence will increase, opening the door for greater flexibility and change.
Kary’s concern that she hasn’t “found” herself or her passion isn’t new or unique. Common cultural wisdom suggests that your “passion” is something you discover and then maximize. If you don’t have a passion, you’re a nobody. You’re uninteresting. That’s the message of today’s pop culture, which fits nicely with our culture’s obsession with personality tests. Passion is viewed as something to be discovered because, like personality, your passion is something assumed to be innate and unique.
rather than trying to find your passion, you should instead develop rare and valuable skills. Find a need and begin filling it. Once you’ve developed skills and begin seeing success, passion comes as an organic by-product.
“Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”
Like passion, motivation isn’t something to be discovered, but to be created through proactive and forward action.
“You more likely to act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action.”
confidence is the same way. You can’t have it first; it must come as a by-product of chosen and goal-consistent action.
Wanting the passion first, before putting in the work, is like wanting to get paid before you begin a job. It’s get-rich-quick thinking and completely lazy. It’s equivalent to wanting a fully developed personality without making any effort, without being creative and taking any action or risks or going through any change. It’s like a spoiled rich kid who wants everything given to them.
Passion is the prize, but you have to invest first.
Personality is no different. It is not something you discover but rather something you create through your actions and behaviors. The idea that personality is to be discovered comes from the same faulty reasoning that personality is innate and past-based.
Personality—like passion, inspiration, motivation, and confidence—is a by-product of your decisions in life. It’s a limiting and ineffective idea to view your personality as the driving force for the decisions you make in your life, such as choosing a career you think fits your current personality.
Purpose trumps personality. Without a deep sense of purpose, your personality will be based on avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure, which is an animalistic and low-level mode of operating. This is the common view and approach to personality for most. However, when you’re driven by purpose, you’ll be highly flexible and you’ll make decisions irrespective of pain and pleasure to create and become what you want.
Your purpose isn’t something you discover, but something you ultimately choose for yourself. Stop looking for it and make the choice, then allow that choice to transform you.
Rather than your decisions and goals being the by-product of your personality, your personality should become the by-product of your decisions and goals.
It will adapt to the level of your goals and decisions, rather than your decisions and goals falling to the level of your current personality.
Trying to discover your personality leads to inaction, avoidance of hard conversations, distracting yourself through consumption, and making excuses for how you’re currently living. It puts you in the passenger seat of your own life. Instead, you can, and should, be the driver. You can be the creator.
Another inherent problem with the view that your personality is something you discover is that it leads to very self-centered thinking. Life becomes all about you, you, you.
Millennials, fairly or not, are viewed as lazy and entitled because they are unwilling to do anything they are not passionate about. They fall into the trap of believing their passion is something that should come immediately and instinctively, rather than through the process of developing knowledge and skills and making a contribution.
Millennials are never satisfied in their work in part because they were raised to believe they should have anything they want, not because they earned it but simply because they want it. They were given trophies without winning. They were raised on technology and instant gratification.
Personality tests are fast food for the soul. They make you believe you can discover your true self in an instant.
Instead of waiting for life to come to you, or for your parents or loved ones to come to your aid, why not take ownership of your own life? Why not learn how to make decisions and direct the ship of your life? Why be limited based on who you currently are? Why avoid failure and default due to a fragile identity? Why not watch yourself become someone great as a result of your own choosing and efforts?
The most successful people in the world know that work is about helping and creating value for other people.
“If you want to love what you do, abandon the passion mindset (‘what can the world offer me?’) and instead adopt the craftsman mindset (‘what can I offer the world?’).”
Rather than adapting to difficult situations, we lazily apply labels to ourselves, such as “introvert” to justify our lack of willingness, openness, and commitment in various scenarios. As a result, we fall to the level of our labels rather than rise to the level of our commitment. In turn, we avoid conflict, difficulty, and newness, boxing ourselves into a shallow perspective of ourselves. We stunt our growth. We only do what brings instant gratification or immediate results.
Believing you must discover your personality is a fixed mindset that stops you from taking advantage of and creating opportunities that will transform you as a person.
Parenting was, and continues to be, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, as many parents realize. It feels like a magnifying glass on my weaknesses.
I’m often disappointed in my reaction or lack of patience, compassion, and empathy toward my kids. But every once in a while I have a moment when I surprise myself, either by what I’m willing to do for my children or by how much I truly love them.
Something I know I can become great at.
It is often by taking opportunities or responsibilities above (or seemingly “unnatural” to) your skill level and experience that forces the greatest growth. If you’re waiting to find something you feel immediate or intuitive passion for, then you’re going to miss most of your greatest opportunities for growth and success. You’ll miss countless opportunities to become more than you currently are. You’ll fail to realize the truth that your personality, just like passion, is something you create based on what you put into life.
Waiting for a passionate opportunity to align with your innate personality is equivalent to saying, “There are millions of opportunities for growth out there. But I’m going to wait for the one in a million that exactly fits the narrow experience and perspective I currently have.”
They think that when they find that “right” person, everything will just work out.
This is ignorance. Creating a successful marriage or partnership is just as difficult, and just as rewarding, as parenting.
Just as you will never “find” yourself, you will never “find” that perfect soul mate. The reason people want to find that perfect person, just like they want to find that perfect job, is because the “discovery” perspective is selfish. The end goal is all about meeting your own gratifications and happiness rather than happiness being the by-product of something much bigger.
“The path to happiness is about finding someone who you want to make happy, someone whose happiness is worth devoting yourself to.”
Will marrying this person enable you to do and be all that you truly want? And will you enable them to be all that they truly want? Who and what could both of you become if you were partners?
Marry for aligned purpose, not personality. That purpose will transform both of you over time.
Developing a powerful relationship isn’t about “finding,” but collaboratively creating and becoming new people together, through the relationship.
High-quality relationships are transformational, not transactional.
So, what purpose are you creating for yourself?
What would happen if you stopped trying to find yourself, and instead became more creative and collaborative?
How would your personality develop and change if you went to work on it, chiseling and shaping it in desired ways?
Who would you be if you could creatively design yourself? (Hint, hint: You can.)
Myth # 5: Personality Is Your True and “Authentic” Self
People believe they have an “authentic” self—their “truth”—which is who they should be true to.
“I need to be true to myself. I shouldn’t have to deny myself of how I’m feeling. I shouldn’t have to lie to myself. I should be able to do what feels right to me.”
this thinking reflects a fixed mindset, and often a reaction to trauma or a lack of healthy connection to parents.
I know many people who now, as maturing adults, are choosing limiting lives in the name of “authenticity” and being “real” with themselves.
The desire to be “authentic” keeps people stuck in unhealthy patterns, trapped in their insecurities.
If authenticity is the value you prize most in life, there’s a danger that you’ll stunt your own development. When I was in grad school, a friend asked me to give a guest lecture for her class. I was terrified of public speaking, but I wanted to be helpful, so I agreed. I figured it would be a good learning opportunity, so after the class I handed out feedback forms asking how I could improve. It was brutal. One student wrote that I was so nervous I was causing the whole class to physically shake in their seats. My authentic self was not a fan of public speaking. But I started volunteering to give more guest lectures, knowing it was the only way to get better. I wasn’t being true to myself, I was being true to the self I wanted to become.
“Authenticity” these days is usually another way of saying, “I have a fixed mindset. I am a certain way and shouldn’t be expected to do anything but what comes immediately naturally and easy for me. I shouldn’t have to do anything but what feels good, right now.”
Your authentic self is not who you currently are, and it is definitely not who you used to be.
Being authentic is about being honest, and being honest is about facing the truth, not justifying your limitations because you don’t want to be uncomfortable have hard conversations.
Who do you really want to become?
What would happen if you stopped trying to be “authentic,” and instead faced the truth of why you’re limiting yourself?
What would happen if you had hard conversations with the important people in your life?
What would happen if you were “true” to your future self, not your current fears?
Your personality is not something that can be captured by a simple personality test. Your personality isn’t innate and unchanging. It’s not your past, and it’s definitely not the “real” and “authentic” you. It’s not something you have to go out and discover so you can finally start living your life.
Although these perspectives are common, they are destructive myths that limit your potential and freedom as a person. If you’ve fallen prey to any of these cultural myths before, my invitation is for you to let them go, or at the very least question their validity and impact on your life and your future.
When you look at yourself or another person, you don’t just see an unchanged “type.” Instead, what you see is an identity, a story, a lot of history, expectations, culture, and so much more. People are dynamic. We should be more empathetic and understanding rather than judgmental and shallow.
As you will soon find, your personality is something you can decide and create for yourself. Personality is dynamic and malleable. When you understand how it works and the levers that move it, you become the director of who you become. You can radically advance in your life and success. You can become a better learner and be more flexible and adaptive. Your past and your future can increasingly become a story that you shape and define.
CHAPTER 2 - The Truth of Personality
Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. Without having a goal it’s difficult to score.
-— Paul Arden
His goal shaped his identity, his identity shaped his actions, and his actions shaped who he was and was becoming. This is how personality is developed.
“White guys stabbed my friends,” he thought to himself, “so I’m going to kill all the white guys in my solitary confinement unit.”
There were seven white guys in Andre’s solitary confinement unit. All seven of them were also “ranked” gang members. Killing them would put Andre unquestionably at number one. This was his chance. His goals and vision were finally within reach.
“Once this guy stops talking, I’m going to go and kill those guys. Then I’ll be the man,”
God gave me my “Wizard of Oz” moment that day. At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy realizes there is no Wizard of Oz. It’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s all a hoax. Before that moment, I thought I was going to become the king of the world. Now I realized I was going to become the king of nowhere. This is nothing.
Once he made it to the end, there would be nothing there. It was all a hoax. A shallow pursuit.
So much of his life and identity were flashing before his eyes. On an emotional and spiritual level, he was finally questioning the validity of his current goals.
He was considering the ultimate outcome, and whether that outcome—his future self and all that entailed—was something worth investing in and becoming.
This moment, when Andre truly questioned himself and his goals is fundamental to becoming a conscious human being. This is an experience you must have as well. Think for a moment about your own goals and ambitions.
What are you actually trying to accomplish in your life?
What is the ultimate end of what you’re doing?
Why is this what you’ve chosen?
Is what you’re doing worth it?
Are you on a yellow brick road to nowhere?
And even if you are headed “somewhere,” are your sights too low?
Dr. Stephen Covey once said, “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” The confidence you’re seeking, and the power you know is within you, cannot be unlocked if you’re pursuing the wrong goal.
What is at the end of your yellow brick road?
Where is your life going right now?
What wall is your ladder facing, and where will you be when you get to the “top”?
Andre didn’t stab anyone that day. Instead, he walked back to his prison cell, sat on his bed, and thought to himself, “If I’m not going to be the king of nowhere, then what am I going to do?”
He had to rethink his entire life. His plan for the last several years was to be the king. Now being “the king” meant nothing. He needed a new goal.
Initially, he decided he wanted to get out of prison. He didn’t want to be there anymore. But then he thought to himself that just “getting out” wasn’t enough. Seventy-five percent of people who leave prison come right back. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. Instead of “being free,” Andre made his goal to “be successful.”
“Where do successful people come from?” he thought to himself. “They come from college. If I go to college too, then I’ll be successful,” was his reasoning.
Sitting in his cell, rethinking his life and future after his Wizard of Oz moment, he decided he was going to go to Harvard.
Harvard become Andre’s new trumpet.
It was a goal and purpose worth aspiring toward. Like his trumpet, he could construct a new identity around Harvard—an identity that would guide his behavior, friends, and choices. He became fixed on that goal. It became his purpose for being. It gave him something useful and constructive to think about, work toward, and build a new life around.
That single goal, his new purpose, gave Andre a path to getting out of prison and becoming a new version of himself. It ultimately shaped in him a new personality.
It took Andre eight more years to get out of prison. During those eight years, he got busy. Everything he did was filtered through and fueled by his new purpose. When the why is strong enough, you can get yourself through and do any how. Andre taught himself how to read and write, taught himself law, and learned anger management. An Orthodox rabbi become his mentor, helping him understand his life and how it had turned out the way it had. He came to understand forgiveness, responsibility, accountability, and service.
“The rabbi taught me how to be human,” Andre told me.
Andre’s new goal created a new lens, allowing him to see himself and his environment differently. He stopped noticing all the negative forces around him and began focusing on the opportunities for progress toward his goal.
After Andre got out of prison, he became the poster child for men who leave prison and change their lives. He became famous. He gave speeches all over the world, even at prestigious colleges like MIT and Harvard.
He became a fellow at Harvard in 2015, sixteen years after getting out of prison. He has his own office at the university.
Andre is now an internationally regarded public speaker. He’s helped thousands of people overcome addictions and change their lives for the better.
Andre’s personality was shaped by his purpose. First his trumpet, then being the king, then Harvard. Each purpose shaped a different Andre.
Your personality is an effect, not a cause. The primary causes shaping your personality are your goals and the identity and behavior that flow from those goals. For most people, personality is a reaction to life events, circumstances, and social pressures. It isn’t intentionally designed. It isn’t questioned. It isn’t chosen.
When you’re intentional about where you’re going, then you can become who you want to be. You can get off your yellow brick road. You can let go of who you’ve been. Your past doesn’t need to be the ultimate predictor of who you are. Your behavior doesn’t need to be consistent with who you’ve been. You can change. Radically so.
Your Goals Shape Your Identity
Whether you realize it or not, everything you do has a purpose, or a goal, and these goals are what shape your identity.
Your goals, not some predetermined set of fixed traits, shape your identity. Over time, and through repeated behavior, your identity becomes your personality.
All human behavior is fundamentally driven by, and is a function of, its end, purpose, or goal. However, those goals may not be explicit or well defined. Jumping on YouTube to distract yourself for a few minutes has a purpose, even if it’s just to distract yourself. Paying the bills. Hanging out with friends. Even engaging in hobbies and interests.
Even the most benign, unproductive behavior is goal-driven. Procrastinating and distracting yourself has a goal, even if that goal is to numb yourself for a while.
Every behavior has a reason. Realizing why you’re engaging in a specific behavior is fundamental to becoming a conscious human being. Seeing every action you take as goal-driven allows you to take stock in the quality of your decision-making.
Why are you engaging in this behavior?
What is the purpose, reason, or end?
What is the goal?
How does this “goal” align with what you’re ultimately trying to do?
Every behavior is ultimately driven by an outcome. That outcome may be spiritual, economic, urgent, social, or emotional.
As Socrates put it, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
list all of the activities you can remember doing in the past twenty-four hours.
Activity - Reason
Woke up at 5 a.m. to write - Book deadline
Listened to an audiobook - To take a break, get myself moving, and feel inspired
Ate lunch - Satisfy hunger and distract myself from work for a bit
Watched YouTube videos - Distract myself but also to see if LeBron James won
Worked out - Get my heart rate going
Went to Publix grocery store - Get juice for energy after workout
Talked to Draye - Get things organized for a launch we were planning
Recorded voice messages for an hour - Improve the launch
Wrote for a few more hours - Deadline was pending
Picked up Logan and Jordan from school - Support family and be with them
Went to Kaleb’s baseball game - To support him
Now, each of these “reasons” likely has deeper reasons. heart rate for: “So I can be healthy and focused.”
Outcomes drove your behavior—outcomes you might not ultimately value.
How you spend your time matters. It reflects your goals. It reflects the outcomes you’re seeking for yourself.
Looking at what you’ve done the past twenty-four hours and then examining the reason for your behaviors will help you see what your goals are.
Why did you do everything you did yesterday?
What outcomes were you seeking?
Are those the outcomes you really want? Or is your daily behavior a reflection of goals that were imposed upon you, either by society, circumstances, a traumatic experience, or something else?
You will only be able to control your time and yourself when you truly determine what you want for yourself. Your goals must be consciously chosen and then fiercely pursued. Spending your days on activities leading you to something incredibly important, something you truly value, is how you live without regret.
Looking back at your list of activities from the past twenty-four hours, which ones are aligned with your future self?
Which of those behaviors will your future self not engage in?
Which of them, if removed, would free up more space and energy for what you ultimately want?
The Three Sources of All Goals
Personal confidence comes from making progress toward goals that are far bigger than your present capabilities.
—- Dan Sullivan
Goals come from:
You can’t make decisions and choices if you don’t know they exist. Your ability to make choices is limited by your context and knowledge. When you expand that context, you expand your options.
Your goals are based on what you’ve been exposed to.
Those who become successful constantly expose themselves to new things. They travel, read books, meet new people. They prize education and learning. They seek to be surprised. They happily shatter their current paradigms for new and better ones—knowing that with better information, they can make more informed decisions. They can set better goals and aims for themselves. They can have better reasons.
Knowledge is key to setting goals. You can’t pursue something you don’t know exists. Exposure is the first source of goals. Whatever you’re pursuing right now is based on what you’ve been exposed to.
“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate and you will be incompetent because your personal experiences aren’t broad enough to sustain you.”
Read everything you can get your hands on. And then get better at filtering the best books from the rest. Reading biographies of inspiring people is one of the best ways to open up your mind to what you can do and become. Learn about the human condition, history, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, economics, and more. As you do, you’ll change as a person. Your views will change. Your identity will change. Your goals will change.
Beyond reading books, you need to have experiences that stretch you, allowing you to see a different future, and giving you permission to actively pursue that future. Sometimes you need to go through very difficult experiences that show you that you can do hard things.
Don’t avoid experiences that will shape and transform you. Your future self must be stronger, wiser, and more capable than your current self. That can only happen through rigorous, challenging, and new experiences.
You won’t pursue or engage in something if you don’t want it.
But what if you want the wrong thing?
what if you wanted something else?
What if “paying the bills” was no longer the goal? Would you still keep that job you hated?
Desires aren’t innate. They are trained and fueled. They are clung to and identified with. Your desires shouldn’t be mistaken as the “real” you. They are simply things you’ve attached meaning to, which you can also detach from or change the meaning of.
Just because you want something now doesn’t mean you’ll want it in five years or even next year. If you look back on what you wanted five years ago, chances are that much of what you wanted you no longer do. You’ve changed, your circumstances have changed, and thus your goals have changed.
Often, your current desires—such as sleeping in, binge-watching Netflix, or staying up late with friends—are at odds with better outcomes.
allows you to question your current desires. It also allows you to proactively choose desires worth having and then training those desires to become genuine and deep.
You can get yourself to want anything. You might as well be intentional about what you train yourself to want.
Right now, you don’t truly want what your future self wants.
You have to learn to want and value what you don’t currently want. If your future self is successful, you must learn to want what it takes to become successful. If your future self is healthier, you need to learn to want to be healthier. Training your desires is essential to choosing goals that are worth pursuing.
What you want right now may not truly be worth your time.
the person I want to be—has knowledge, skills, characteristics, relationships, and more that I don’t currently have.
Personality is all about preferences and interests. The “introvert” prefers sitting in the corner. But that same introvert can, if they wanted to, train themselves to prefer being in the crowd. But “being in the crowd” would have to be relevant to their ultimate goals.
When you evolve as a person, you develop a sense of purpose that expands beyond your personal preferences and interests. This purpose pushes you outside of your preferences, and ultimately shifts who you are.
You train desire by actively and intentionally pursuing it.
passion follows engagement and skills. You can learn to become passionate about anything. You might as well be intentional about what you choose to become passionate about.
As Napoleon Hill stated, “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.”
Desire is the second source of goals. Your desires can and must be trained. Your life will become far more successful when you choose desires that produce outcomes your future self wants.
You won’t conjure or entertain goals you don’t believe you can achieve. The list you wrote of your past twenty-four hours reflects your current level of confidence.
Looking at your list, how many of those items required courage? How many came easily? How much of your time was spent advancing toward goals beyond your current capabilities?
Your job and income level are based on your confidence.
Your friends are based on your confidence.
Confidence is the basis of imagination—which is required for seeing and choosing a future beyond your current capability and circumstances. Confidence reflects your personal belief in what you can do, learn, and accomplish.
The greater your confidence, the bigger your future self.
People often have very limited goals due to unresolved trauma. Sadly, when such is the case, then avoiding the painful emotions becomes the goal.
Confidence is built through acts of courage.
It takes courage to face the past, expose yourself to it until it no longer hurts, and change it. It takes courage to admit what you truly want with your life. It takes courage to attempt challenging goals, and to fail along the way.
Peak experiences do not occur randomly but must be intentional.
"If you want a positive reaction (or a peak experience), your best chance of obtaining it is by putting yourself into an active, purposive frame of mind. . . . Depression . . . is the natural outcome of negative passivity. The peak experience is the outcome of an intentional attitude."
As you intentionally and courageously pursue meaningful goals, you’ll have peak experiences. Those peak experiences will open you up, making you more flexible as a person. You will stop rigidly seeing yourself as the person you once were. You will become more confident and capable to create and achieve bigger goals.
You must be intentional. You must be courageous. You must move your life in the direction you genuinely want to go.
Confidence is key to the goals you set as a person. The greater your confidence, the more powerful your goals. Your confidence is something you must protect. You earn your confidence through intentional action toward meaningful goals. You can only borrow so much confidence from the distant past. More so, your confidence is based on who you’ve recently been.
You can build confidence through small but consistent actions reflecting your future self. You can also build confidence through daring and bold power moves toward your future self.
The more power moves you make, the more peak experiences you have. The more peak experiences you have, the more flexible and confident you’ll become as a person. The more flexible and confident you are, the more imaginative and exciting will be the future you create and pursue.
Identity Should Be Intentionally Designed, Based on Your Desired Future Self
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.
-- Albert Einstein
identity and personality are reactions to life events, circumstances, and habits. Few people intentionally define and shape their identity, based on who they plan to be, and then become that person.
Your future self isn’t you. Your future self would do things differently, hopefully better, than how you do things now.
The practice is purposeful and measured, not random and based merely on a “love of the process.”
You need a vision that gives meaning and purpose to your practice. Yes, engaging in what you love for the sake of it is all well and good. But you won’t actually push your perceived limits without visualizing your future self free of those limits.
Successful people start with a vision of their future self and use it as the filter for everything they do.
Designing your future self requires imagining what their reality and daily experiences are like—the more vivid and detailed the better. What types of freedoms, choices, circumstances, experiences, and daily behaviors does your future self engage in?
What is your day-to-day life like?
What do you stand for?
How much money do you make?
What type of clothes do you wear?
How do you interact with other people?
How do you view your present and future?
What is your purpose?
Where do you live?
Who are your friends?
What skills and talents do you have?
Select and Pursue One Major Goal: Your Future-Self Filter
To decide on your mission, simply look over all of your goals and then ask yourself: Which one of these goals would enable me to become the person I need to be to achieve everything else I want in my life. The answer to that question is your mission.
-— Hal Elrod
Having multiple goals doesn’t require that you focus
You need one major goal. This one major goal needs to be measurable, definable, and visualizable.
when you improve one area of your life, all other areas improve as well. He calls this “keystone habits.” Think of your one major goal as your “keystone goal.” This one goal—by aggressively pursuing it and actively achieving it—helps you do everything else you’re trying to do.
Peter Thiel explains why “process” thinking leads to mediocrity. Instead, Thiel suggests having a “definite” attitude and purpose:
Indefinite attitudes to the future explain what’s most dysfunctional in our world today. Process trumps substance: when people lack concrete plans to carry out, they use formal rules to assemble a portfolio of various options. This describes Americans today. In middle school, we’re encouraged to start hoarding “extracurricular activities.” In high school, ambitious students compete even harder to appear omnicompetent. By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse résumé to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready—for nothing in particular.
in order to have high levels of motivation:
- A clear and compelling goal or outcome
- A path or process you believe will lead to the attainment of that goal
- A belief that you execute and succeed
You cannot have motivation without a goal.
The more clear and definable the goal, the more direct the path and process.
As you develop skills and knowledge, and move toward your goal, you’ll develop the confidence that you can then execute and succeed.
Commit to Your One Major Goal: Why Results Matter
We are all committed. We are all producing results. The result is proof of a commitment.
-- Jim Dethmer
Look at your life right now. Whatever you see, that’s what you’re committed to. Whatever you currently weigh, that’s the weight you’re committed to. However much money you make, that’s how much money you’re committed to making. Your commitment in life is reflected, 100 percent, by the results you’re currently getting. If you were committed to something else, you’d have different results.
After setting his goals in several areas of his life (e.g., health, spirituality, finances, relationships, service, etc.), and for one, three, five, and twenty-five years out, Assaraf’s mentor asked him, “Are you interested in achieving these goals, or are you committed?”
“If you’re interested, you come up with stories, excuses, reasons, and circumstances about why you can’t or why you won’t. If you’re committed, those go out the window. You just do whatever it takes.”
We’ve been taught that we should ignore the outcome and focus exclusively on the “process” instead.
when you commit to something specific, you’re forced to be honest with yourself and with everyone.
when you commit to a specific outcome, you’ve got to make that outcome your new narrative.
That level of honesty and transparency is both rare and contagious.
Another reason to commit to specific results is that it clarifies your identity. Your identity comes from your goals. Being totally bought-in and clear about the end you have in mind instills a deep sense of purpose. You can imagine your future self in the position you want to be. Without a clear outcome, your identity becomes muddled. Who are you really? What are you really all about? What are you going to do? Who are you going to be?
when I started blogging online, I noticed that other writers, those committed to their process, would publish tons and tons of articles. But they weren’t getting any better. As the years passed by, I went on to become a professional writer. Many of those bloggers are still banging away, blog post after blog post. But their results haven’t changed because they haven’t committed to a clear outcome.
When you commit to a specific outcome, you’re forced to get better. Your results speak for themselves. If your results aren’t getting better, then you should question how interested or committed you are to this thing.
You’ll know you’re serious about improving your results when you really begin tracking everything you do, down to the minutest detail.
“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”
Complexity kills motivation, which is why lasering in on one keystone goal changes the game.
“A definite purpose, backed by absolute faith, is a form of wisdom and wisdom in action produces positive results.”
It doesn’t take much faith to say, “I’ll try,” or “We’ll see what happens.” But it does take intense faith to say, “This will happen. I don’t exactly know how, but it will happen.”
This level of commitment forces you to your knees with greater sincerity. It leads you to doing things you’d never otherwise do. It forces miracles to occur.
Are you willing to commit to your future self?
Are you willing to commit to one specific goal?
Are you willing to put it all out on the line?
Are you willing to be honest about what you truly want?
Are you willing to refine and enhance your process to ensure improved results?
Go to Bed One Hour Earlier: Eliminate Destructive Consumption
A mistake repeated more than once is a decision.
-— Paulo Coelho
When you commit to a bigger future, you’re forced to improve how you spend your evenings and mornings.
Wake Up One Hour Earlier: Make Power Moves Daily Toward Your Future Self
Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.
-— Richard Whately
Peak experiences require intentionality and proactive action. By going to bed with a purpose, waking up, and immediately making progress toward your future self, peak experiences will become commonplace for you.
“Anyone who isn’t embarrassed by who they were twelve months ago isn’t learning enough.”
having these types of stretching experiences—what Maslow called “peak experiences”—is how you become self-actualized.
Maslow defined peak experiences this way: “Rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter.”
Few people are committed to a specific future.
Are you going to create more peak experiences?
Are you going to be more active and intentional with your time?
Are you going to exercise more courage and commitment?
Are you going to act toward your future self, become more flexible, and stop insisting that your former self is who you really are?
"If there is no choice, there is no uncertainty."
If you’re unwilling to face and interact with uncertainty, then you’ve greatly limited who you are and what you’ve become. You’ve limited your ability to make choices, because all choices involve uncertainty and risk.
Your brain is designed to keep you outside of situations of uncertainty. Uncertainty is something to be avoided.
Your brain wants your life to be safe and predictable. Your brain will try to stop you from putting yourself in risky situations. However, paradoxically, your brain formulates its most powerful memories and learning as you experience new things—especially when your predictions about the future are wrong!
our brain changes and learns through “prediction errors,” which occur as we incorrectly predict what will happen. A prediction error is another term for failing. Failing is another term for learning. And learning is another term for changing.
If you want to accelerate your learning, you’ll need to embrace uncertainty. You’ll need to take risks and make mistakes. As you do, you’ll experience far more emotions—highs and lows—and through those experiences you’ll change as a person.
Avoid consumption at night. Create peak experiences in the morning.
Transform Yourself Daily Through Journaling
Only through imaging a future self with improved skills may we be able to motivate, plan, and execute the honing of skills through deliberate practice.
-— Dr. Thomas Suddendorf
Your journal is a brilliant place to actively convince yourself, emotionally, that what you want is already yours—you influence yourself through strategic communication.
envisioning and strategizing the future will internalize and clarify your goal.
in order to effectively influence or persuade yourself during your daily journaling sessions, you want to set the stage internally and externally before you start writing. With the right preframe ritual, your journaling sessions will become daily peak experiences, putting you into a peak state from which to live out the rest of your day. You can preframe yourself for peak experiences in the following ways:
- Getting yourself into a distraction-free environment
- Meditating or praying before writing
- Reviewing your vision or goals before writing
- Writing about things you’re grateful for—past, present, and future
Reviewing your goals before writing in your journal activates the mindset and circumstances of your future self, so that when you begin writing in your journal, you’re writing as your future self, from their vantage point and perspective.
My own goals are written on the inside cover of my journal.
My goals are framed by answering the following questions:
- Where am I now?
- What were the wins from the past ninety days?
- What are the wins I want from the next ninety days?
- Where do I want to be in three years?
- Where do I want to be in one year?
Every time I open my journal, I start by looking at the front cover and reading my answers to these questions.
By looking at the recent wins from my last ninety days, I immediately feel a sense of movement and momentum. This gives me confidence. By seeing what I’m trying to accomplish in the short and long term, I’m reminded of my future self.
Each of these activities—from getting into the right environment, meditation, breathing, and viewing your recent wins and goals—puts you into the right mindset, so that when you write, you write from a higher and more powerful place.
There’s one more crucial thing you’ll want to do to properly get yourself in the right mindset, and that’s starting your writing from a place of gratitude and abundance.
Then, just write.
Don’t get overly attached to what you write about. You are only writing for your own psychological benefit. No one else will read this. Just write about your goals. They could be in bullet points. They could be in pictures. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Write with the expectation and excitement that your future self is real, and that you will be successful. Think in terms of what needs to be done to move yourself forward. Write down all of the things you’ll need to do now and people you’ll need to reach out to.
Expect to Succeed: A Conversation with Your Future Self
Nobody saw this coming, except Burrow.
I know the work I’d put in up to that point. I just felt like I needed an opportunity. I knew the kind of players that were here, and Coach O sold me on a vision. I knew the work we had put in this off-season. So we totally expected to be in this position.
Thinking about yourself, what would happen if your future self came to you and told you that everything you want to see happen was going to happen? Would you believe them? The answer better be yes. Because unless you believe it, it’s not going to happen.
The truth about personality is that it can, should, and does change. Your goals shape your identity. Your identity shapes your actions. And your actions shape who you are and who you’re becoming. This is how personality is developed.
Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.
CHAPTER 3 - Transform Your Trauma
Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still going on—unchanged and immutable—as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.
-— Bessel van der Kolk
she still wishes she could illustrate children’s books but honestly believes she can’t.
rather than building the life we genuinely want, far too often we build our lives around our trauma. To avoid the pain of the past, we create a pseudo-personality rather than our desired one.
Trauma Shatters Hope and Eliminates the Future
A hallmark of trauma is that it stops you from being psychologically flexible. Instead, you become rigid and fixed in your thinking.
Imagination is all about mental flexibility—seeing and believing different angles and possibilities.
According to Dweck, the fixed mindset is an approach to life defined by the past. The opposite of a fixed mindset is what Dweck calls a “growth mindset,” which is the belief that you can change your traits and character.
growth mindset means your life is defined by the future and focused on what can change.
It would make too big a mark on their identity, leaving them feeling like a total and utter failure. Instead of even trying, they convince themselves to simply go for something else—something less risky and more certain.
“We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.”
Quick exercise: Describe one negative or traumatic experience that you’ve had in your past. In what ways has this experience led you to pursue “lesser goals” or held you back in your progress in any way?
Now reframe those negative experiences by writing how they could ultimately help you become a stronger person.
Personality as the By-Product of Trauma
Yes, she avoids the intense pain of removing it, but there is a cost to this decision: In order for her to live with the thorn in her arm, she must ensure that nothing touches the thorn.
Rather than creating the life she truly wants, she continually settles for lesser goals in order to avoid pain.
You may not have a single thorn that changes your life to such an extreme extent, but all of our lives reflect thorns and bits of glass. Our thorns are emotional. They are the painful experiences—both in our past and future—that we’re avoiding.
Our true and authentic self isn’t who we currently are. It isn’t our limitations. Instead, it is our deepest-held aspirations, dreams, and goals.
Rather than facing our fears, and rather than facing the truth, we avoid them.
Rather than creating the life we want, we build the life that allows our problems to exist unresolved.
Rather than becoming the person we want to become, we stay the person we are.
Rather than adapting our personality to match our goals, we adapt our goals to match our current and limited personality.
How have negative experiences shaped you?
Where do you have a fixed mindset?
Where have you built your life around your thorns?
What goals are you pursuing to avoid dealing with your trauma?
How would your life be different if the trauma was gone?
What life would you ideally choose for yourself?
Who is your ideal future self, regardless of what you’ve been in the past or what has happened to you?
Moving Past Trauma
I always wanted to be better, wanted more. I can’t really explain it, other than that I loved the game but had a very short memory. That fueled me until the day I hung up my sneakers.
-— Kobe Bryant
In psychology, a refractory period is the amount of time it takes to emotionally recover and move on from an experience.
Becoming psychologically flexible enables you to shorten the length of refractory periods.
You hold your thoughts and emotions loosely as you actively pursue meaningful goals.
In professional basketball, players don’t have time to get upset and discouraged if they miss a shot.
The less you hold on to mistakes or painful experiences, the better you’re able to adapt to what the situation requires and perform in order to achieve your goals.
Her memory of the experience hasn’t changed or been recontextualized. Because the context of that memory hasn’t changed.
When a person remains stuck in an emotional refractory period following a difficult experience, they continue seeing and experiencing life from their initial reaction to the experience. Therefore, day after day, they continue reconstructing the emotions of the experience. They don’t regulate and reframe how they see and feel about the event.
Trauma becomes a rut.
If you keep that refractory period going for weeks and months, you’ve developed a temperament. If you keep that same refractory period going on for years, it’s called a personality trait. When we begin to develop personality traits based on our emotions, we’re living in the past, and that’s where we get stuck. Teaching ourselves and our children to shorten the refractory period frees us to move through life without obstruction.
Empathetic Witness: How to Transform Trauma
You’re only as sick as your secrets.
-— Alcoholics Anonymous
all painful experiences can be reframed, reinterpreted, and ultimately used as growing experiences.
In order for painful experiences to be growing experiences rather than debilitating ones, you can’t bottle up and internalize the pain.
You need to face your emotions personally and be willing to share them with others.
“Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.”
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
she never had any of these conversations or transformational experiences. And as a result, she is still defined by her initial response. She’s spent the past fifty years convincing herself of the truth of her experience and confirming the bias that came with it.
“It is this honest connection between two human beings that, in the end, makes what we endured together understandable and meaningful.”
if you’re serious about transforming your life, you need to surround yourself with a whole new cast of friends, mentors, and supporters. You need people you can talk with openly about your struggles.
A true empathetic witness encourages you to decide what you can do to move forward.
Courage transforms trauma.
Encouragement facilitates courage.
Quick exercise: List two or three people in your life who have been your biggest encouragers.
How have they encouraged you?
Why has it been so impactful?
Reach out to them and openly thank them for their help in your life.
Who are three important empathetic witnesses in your life right now?
What other people could you add, or do you need, as empathetic witnesses?
Who could you get on your team, right now, to help you get where you want to go?
How much accountability and vulnerability do you currently have?
“The bigger the dream, the more important the team.”
Becoming an Empathetic Witness to Those Around You
“When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble and you will be right more than half the time.”
Being an empathetic witness is about being interested, not interesting.
“Can you explain more for me?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Why was that part so important?”
“Have you given up on the idea of a better future?”
“What positives have come from this?”
“How will your future be different because of this?”
“What can you do now to move forward?”
“How can I help?”
Trauma shatters imagination. Trust and confidence are the foundation of imagination and the possibility for change.
Are any of your relationships stuck in the past?
Have former experiences created a fixed mindset in any of your relationships?
Who are three people you could be an empathetic witness to, right now?
Trauma is at the core of who we are as people. If we transform it, we can become unstoppable in what we’re trying to accomplish.
Writing down and organizing your thoughts and emotions in your journal is essential and powerful. You can get your thoughts and feelings out of mind and onto paper. By facing your emotions and negative experiences, you change them.
Still, you need an outsider’s perspective to help you reframe your experience. As the saying goes, “You can’t read the label from inside the jar.”
Also, openly and honestly describe your future self, your true desires. Be open to share about the potentially “lesser goals” you’ve been pursuing or living as a by-product of your trauma.