The stories of our lives, far from being fixed narratives, are under constant revision. The slender threads of causality are rewoven and reinterpreted as we attempt to explain to ourselves and others how we became the people we are…
This is why in the initial stages of psychotherapy it is important to listen to the patient’s story uncritically. Contained in those memories are not just the events, but also the meaning they have for that particular person.
-- Gordon Livingston
How could someone as successful and brilliant as Buzz Aldrin experience such a negative shift?
“The transition from ‘astronaut preparing to accomplish the next big thing’ to ‘astronaut telling about the last big thing’ did not come easily to me. . . . What does a man do for an encore?”
Staring down at Earth, he lost his imagination. Nothing could top what he had just done. His future was over.
I will never outlive this, he thought.
He had peaked at thirty-nine years old.
Antetokounmpo grew up poor in Greece.
“I’m really happy about it, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “But I don’t ever want to hear about it again for the rest of my life. It’s a great accomplishment and great honor. But, you know, that’s in the past now.”
“No, I think it’s gotten too much. Usually, when you share that, you tend to relax. If I keep thinking, ‘I’m the MVP of this league,’ then what’s going to happen? I’m just going to relax. And I do not want to do that. I’m proud of it. But let’s go for the next goal.”
Antetokounmpo is defined by his goals, not his previous accomplishments or failures. He’s defined by what he’s going to do next. He’s chasing his future self, and that’s why he’s continually successful.
when your “status” becomes more important than your “growth,” you usually stop growing.
However, when growth is your genuine motive, then you usually end up getting lots of status.
“Always make your future bigger than your past.”
Once you obtain that status—such as a particular job title, income level, or relationship—your motivation shifts from approach-oriented to avoid-oriented. Rather than approaching a new and expansive future self, your primary concern becomes to maintain or protect your current status or identity by avoiding failure.
Without a future self that has outgrown and outdone your current self, life starts to lose its meaning.
“I firmly believe you should never spend any of your time being the ‘former’ anything.”
Whether you were an astronaut or a drug addict, you should never be the former anything.
you should never get stuck in the past, nor let your past define you.
Your authentic self is your future self. Who you aspire to be.
Aldrin, someone whose goals and imagination pushed him to the moon, went totally blank on his future self.
Giannis Antetokounmpo took the opposite path. Within weeks of being named MVP, he emotionally detached from the status and put his focus on the next goal.
His vision of himself remains in the future, not the past.
He continues living, rather than existing.
Creating “Meaning” Through Stories
- First, we define the cause of the event or experience. (“What just happened?”)
- Second, we link that cause with our own identity. (“What does this experience say about me?”)
- Finally, we link that cause and our identity with the bigger picture of how the world and universe work. (“What does this experience and who I am say about the world?”)
Our personality, in large part, is based on the meaning we’ve placed on former experiences.
Creating meaning is something we do instinctively.
Meaning-making can, if you’re not intentional, lead to a fixed mindset.
I’m a bad person.
I’m an introvert.
I’m never going to live my dreams.
I’m not good with people.
I don’t like people like her.
Trauma, for instance, isn’t the event itself but a meaning you take or create from it.
what made it traumatic was in your interpretation.
Think about it for a second: Why do you define yourself the way you do? Why are you the way you are? Why do you like or dislike certain things? Why are your pursuing what you’re pursuing?
It all comes down to the meaning you’ve shaped of your former experiences, as well as the identity you’ve formed as a result.
we usually shape meaning first about ourselves, and then use our self-image as the lens through which we view the world.
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are.”
If you have a negative view of yourself, then you probably have a negative view of the world.
The world is viewed through the lens of your identity.
Your view of the world says more about you than it does about the world. Your view of the past says more about you than it does about the past.
Consequently, you should formulate meaning based on your desired future self. This requires being intentional about your interpretation of your experiences, even your hard ones.
How would my future self respond to this experience?
What would they think about it?
What would they do about it?
How could they turn this to their benefit?
This is happening for me, not to me.
Examples of identity-forming thoughts:
I don’t like being with my parents.
I’m not a good brother.
I don’t like going on walks with Mom.
I’m not going to do stuff like this anymore.
My baby sisters are too fragile and not fun.
Going on walks is dangerous.
The world is dangerous.
Life is horrible.
Dad always ruins things.
Without the skill of emotional regulation, which takes time and practice, and without the help of an empathetic witness to help him proactively and healthily frame his experiences, despite his initial reaction, he may reactively and negatively create meaning from this experience.
Human beings are fundamentally meaning-making machines.
We create meaning even in the smallest and most mundane of experiences, which have an impact on our identity and worldview.
Ex: I had to go to the bathroom really bad.
This is ridiculous.
Why is this happening to me?
Then I began to notice my thinking and became intentional about it, which is a key technique of what psychologists call emotional regulation.
As you become more intentional about your life, you start to see small moments like this as “practice,” or “reps,” for being who you want to be.
If you can’t handle the small moments when the stakes are low, you won’t show up effectively in the big ones.
Life is practice.
Most thoughts are governed by emotions, particularly in emotionally heated situations. Those thoughts are reactive and unintentional.
Instead, your thoughts, or, more specifically, your goals, should govern your emotions, even when the initial emotions triggered by the experience are difficult.
The better you get at emotional regulation in both small and big experiences, the more psychologically flexible you become.
As you become more psychologically flexible, your emotions and experiences stop defining you in a reactive way.
You’re enabled to move forward in a goal-directed and value-centered way, holding your initial emotions and thoughts loosely and becoming better at directing your emotions and thoughts.
The first step of emotional regulation is identifying and labeling your emotions as you’re experiencing them (the more descriptive the better). You can’t manage something you’re not aware of.
The second step of emotional regulation is understanding the difference between primary emotions and secondary emotions.
Primary emotions are your initial reactions to external events. You shouldn’t judge them. They are natural reactions to things around us. For example, being sad when a loved one dies, or being frustrated in traffic, are natural initial responses.
A secondary emotion is when you feel something about the feeling itself. For example, you may feel anger about being hurt, or shame about your anxiety.
Secondary emotions increase the intensity of your reactions and can push you into destructive behaviors. Hence, part of becoming psychologically flexible is holding your initial reaction loosely—not taking it too seriously or overly identifying with it, but acknowledging it, labeling it, and then deciding how you want to interpret and feel about the experience.
The third step of emotional regulation is letting go of negative emotions. Accepting and acknowledging that you’re feeling negative is key to letting the feeling go, rather than pretending you’re not feeling it.
You then want to step back from the emotion and consider the consequences of acting on it.
Usually, the consequences aren’t in line with the values and goals of your future self.
People often make stupid decisions because they act based on their emotions in the moment, rather than on the consequences that will come after.
eating cookies while stressed may initially feel good but will ultimately create negative consequences.
It is the consequences you want to think about, because they will determine your feelings in the long term. The consequences are what create your future self.
The better you get at expressing emotions, the better you’ll handle them and positively respond to them.
Kaleb needed an empathetic witness. The last thing he needed in this moment of emotion was a lecture.
We understand the meaning of our experiences through stories. We understand our identity through stories.
The more intentional you get about your life, the more you become the author of the story.
“Is one a crusader or ruthless invader? It’s all in which label is able to persist.”
How much of your current narrative is based on primary emotions, your initial reaction to various events or experiences?
What is the meaning you continue to give to previous events that no longer serve the story you wish to tell about yourself?
What is the story of “you”?
Who are you?
Why are you the person you are?
Your Past Is Fiction: It’s Your Story—Get Creative!
He said, “No, thanks. Don’t smoke. Never have, never will.”
That event occurred over forty years ago. Ken has never smoked a cigarette since.
Ken changed his narrative. He changed his past, and that allowed him to have a new identity in his new environment.
“I think there was some wisdom in my subconscious that helped me come up with the idea, because I knew a lot of habits and addiction are a response to peer pressure and environment. I wanted to be a nonsmoker in that environment.”
The Gap and the Gain: Reframing Your Narrative
the past, present, and future are not separate and linear but holistic and co-occurring. Your past, present, and future are all happening right now—at least in your mind.
The stories we hold of ourselves are continually evolving and changing based on the experiences we are having. The “facts” about your past don’t necessarily change, but the story you tell yourself about those facts absolutely can and does.
A fundamental aspect of “reframing” your narrative of the past is shifting what was formerly defined as a negative experience into a positive one.
“Positive” and “negative” aren’t facts, but meanings.
The meaning you place on past events determines who you are and what your future is.
Changing how you view your past is essential to upgrading your identity and future.
Changing your story: A new future creates a new past.
Reframing technique: “the gap and the gain.”
living in “the gap” occurs when you focus on what’s missing.
you can’t enjoy or comprehend the benefits in your life.
you might live in a great house, but all you might see is what’s wrong with your house.
Instead of constantly measuring yourself against your ideal, do it against where you formerly were.
The story you tell yourself and others is about your future self—your ideal. But when it comes to short-term measuring of progress, you want to look back on where you were before.
The purpose of measuring the gain regularly is to see the progress you’re making. By seeing progress, you feel movement and momentum. This increases your confidence and sense of morale to continue pursuing a future self beyond anything you’ve been before.
it refocuses your “selective attention.”
We see the world through a subjective lens. That lens is trained based on what we choose to focus on.
When you begin focusing on the gains, you train yourself to see progress and momentum.
these positive emotions and the confidence that comes with them will inspire you to continue pursuing bigger and more challenging goals. Confidence is the foundation of imagination, and it comes from seeing progress.
it is incredibly powerful to shift what once was a “gap” narrative to a “gain” one.
You are the one who assigns meaning to your experiences. You’re the one formulating the story.
Re-remembering the past is about filtering your past through the lens of your chosen identity—your future self.
How would a more evolved version of you view these events? How have these events enabled you to become who you are today?
Everything in your past has happened—or more accurately, is happening—for you, not to you.
Russell Wayne, after being constantly rejected: “I am now going upstairs to invent the story of my life.”
He then won the Pultitzer prize for his autobiography "Growing up".
This “reinvented” version of his own story was no less true than the original version—he simply found a more compelling and useful way to tell that story.
My story used to be about how my father had failed me and my brothers.
Over the past ten years, I’ve watched my dad change his life in absolutely incredible ways, get himself under control, and become one of my best friends. He is one of my absolute heroes. What he’s been able to overcome is truly mind-blowing.
So now my narrative about the whole experience is “awe” for what my father went through and for who he became as a result.
STEP ONE: SHIFT PAST MEANINGS FROM “GAP” TO “GAIN”
Over the past ten years, what significant “wins” or “growth” have you experienced?
How have you, as a person, changed?
What negative things have you let go of?
How have your views of yourself and life changed over the past few years?
What are one to three accomplishments or signs of progress you’ve had in the past ninety days?
By focusing on the progress, you allow yourself to focus on change and growth.
If you do this consistently, you will train your brain and selective attention to only see growth. You’ll train your identity to be positive.
STEP TWO: THINK ABOUT ONE TO THREE NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES FROM YOUR PAST
think about one to three key experiences you feel have negatively impacted your life. Write those experiences down in your journal.
STEP THREE: LIST ALL OF THE BENEFITS OR “GAINS” FROM THOSE ONE TO THREE EXPERIENCES
all of the benefits, opportunities, or lessons that have come from those one to three experiences. How have those experiences happened for you, instead of to you?
STEP FOUR: HAVE A CONVERSATION BETWEEN YOUR FUTURE SELF AND YOUR FORMER SELF
You carry your former self around with you wherever you go, just as you carry your future self with you wherever you go.
However, you’re probably carrying around a bruised and broken version of your former self, which is greatly limiting your current and future selves.
You’re going to let go of the pain you’ve been carrying.
Your former self will now be totally healed.
Measuring the gains of your experiences is one way.
Another powerful technique is having a conversation between your future and former selves.
First, imagine your ideal future self. They are incredibly compassionate, wise, and understanding. They’ve been through a lot and have created the freedom and capacity you want in your life.
How does your future self see your former self?
What would your future self say to your former self?
What experiences would they have, if they were to spend an afternoon together?
What would your former self think of your future self?
How would your former self feel when they heard the loving counsel of your future self?
Who would your former self be after that conversation, once compassionately given permission to let go and move on?
STEP FIVE: CHANGE THE IDENTITY NARRATIVE OF YOUR FORMER SELF
You’re no longer the victim of what happened. Instead, you’re the shaper of the meaning of your own experience.
Every time you go back to your past, you change it.
The past is just raw material to work with. It’s entirely malleable and flexible. You get to take the pieces and choose which ones to discard and how you’re going to frame them.
Memory is like the telephone game—the more times you tell or imagine the story, the more that story will change.
Who is the past version of you that you’re now carrying with you?
What is different about your former self now that they’ve been healed and transformed?
How do you feel about your former self?
When asked about the past, what is the new story you will tell?
intentionally visit your memories when you’re safe, happy, lighthearted.
In physics, a concept known as the observer effect shows that the mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon.
By looking at your past, you will change your past.
Every time you look at yourself in the mirror, you will change.
Kamal Ravikant: every time he looked in the mirror would tell himself, “I love you.”
he slowly went from depressed and suicidal to purely loving himself.
How you choose to remember your past is what determines your past far more than what actually happened.
What is your story?
What are the pivotal experiences from your past?
What are the gains you’ve had from those experiences?
Who was your former self?
How do you feel about your former self?
Who are you now?
Who is your future self?
Your Future Is Fiction: What’s It Gonna Be?!
What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we begin from.
-- T. S. Eliot
What will my future be like if I continue to struggle with my weight? At age seventy, what will I be like?
unhealthy and unable to do the things he loved, like go on long hikes or travel the world.
all sorts of debilitating diseases.
This vision of his future, and the painful emotions it conjured, was a tipping point for Nate.
He determined that a single decision he could make, which would make the biggest impact on his health, would be to entirely eliminate refined sugar from his diet for the rest of his life.
In psychology, “decision fatigue” is one way in which our willpower gets exhausted, using up our mental resources to weigh the pros and cons of every decision as we encounter them.
Decision fatigue can be avoided by making a committed choice. For instance, because Nate decided he was going to be sugar-free for life, he no longer had to decide in various situations whether or not he was going to eat sugar. The decision had already been made, and thus decision fatigue—weighing the options and potential outcomes—was no longer a problem.
By not making a clear decision for yourself beforehand, you’ve deferred the decision-making process to some future moment when you’re forced to decide.
You need to know what you’ll do in a given situation. The decision needs to be made before you get there, otherwise you become inconsistent.
Michael Jordan: “Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.”
“It’s easier to hold to your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold to them 98 percent of the time.”
This lack of decision leads to identity confusion and a lack of success. Becoming 100 percent committed to what you want is how you succeed.
You can and should do this for yourself. Think about one thing in your life that you aren’t entirely aligned with. What would your future be like without that thing in your life?
It’s not that the “thing”—whether it is sugar, video games, or any other “vice” or distraction—is inherently “bad” but rather that your future self is different without it.
Decisions shape your future.
Your future shapes your identity.
Your identity shapes your choices and ultimately your personality.
“No, thanks. I’m sugar-free.”
In the six months that followed, Nate lost over fifty pounds and his confidence and vision for his future exploded.
STEP ONE: HONESTLY EXAMINE THE FUTURE YOU’VE CONSIGNED YOURSELF TO
take some time to honestly think about the future you’ve currently consigned yourself to have.
What is the current future you’ve consigned yourself to?
How do you feel about that future?
Is it what you actually want?
Do you see yourself achieving the goals you have always dreamt of achieving?
If you are not completely excited about the future you honestly see unfolding before you, then there’s a problem. That limited future self is also limiting who you are now.
Your future and your goals are what frame your identity.
with a limited future self, your current identity and behaviors are also going to be less than what they could be.
“The bigger your future the better your present.”
In order to upgrade your identity, actions, and behavior, you need a new future self. You need something you deeply resonate with and are excited about. Something extremely purposeful that you can shape your current identity around.
STEP TWO: WRITE YOUR OWN BIOGRAPHY
You need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You need to develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. If you think you’re unable to work for the best company in its sphere, make that your aim. If you think you’re unable to be on the cover of Time magazine, make it your business to be there. Make your vision of where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible.
-- Paul Arden
As if you were recounting the life of someone who was no longer alive.
What was your story?
What were the significant events that happened?
How will you be remembered?
How did you live your life?
What did you accomplish?
when you were born up until the present. Then, write from the present through the rest of your life. Every year or so, do this exercise again. You’ll notice that your past and future narrations will change.
the more you do this exercise, the more intentional and creative you’ll be in narrating your story.
You’ll become increasingly better at creating and living out the story of your imagination. Because you’ll be living with greater intention, you’ll be having peak experiences more regularly. These peak experiences will alter your perspective and increase your confidence, enabling you to have a more flexible identity. The more flexible you become, the less rigid you’ll be about your past and who you think you are. You’ll be able to imagine a future self and quickly embody that self.
STEP THREE: IMAGINE YOUR FUTURE SELF THREE YEARS OUT
Who do you want to be three years from now? Get specific.
How much money are you making?
Who are your friends?
What does your typical day look like?
What types of clothes do you wear?
What does your hair look like?
What type of work are you doing?
What does your environment look like?
If you haven’t done a lot of future-casting, then you might just start with ninety days from now.
Who do you want to be in ninety days?
What do you want to have accomplished by then?
How do you want to be different?
What changes do you want to make in your environment?
it’s far more powerful to write or type them into a “vision” or “future self” statement.
Examples of pictures could include:
Pictures with you and your family that you love
Pictures of people who are physically fit in the way you want to be
Pictures of environments you want to have, such as a beautiful home
Pictures of spiritual figures, such as Christ or Buddha, whom you want to emulate
Pictures of experiences you plan to have, such as a marathon or a trip to a foreign country.
STEP FOUR: TELL EVERYONE YOUR NEW STORY . . . YOUR FUTURE SELF
Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be.
-- Robert Brault
Your story is based on your future self. That’s the story you tell people from now on when they ask who you are.
Hamilton didn't have an amazing past, he wasn’t rich. But he had dreams.
His narrative was based on what he would do.
If you’re a company, you want everyone on your team to know your vision.
You also want all of your clients and prospects to know your vision.
having a three- to five-page printed document of your future self will help you more fully see and believe it.
you want to share your Vivid Vision document with everyone you know. As you share your vision and goals with those in your life, they will start to hold you more accountable.
Your vision needs to be something that is way above your current reality. It needs to inspire and excite you. It needs to give you motivation and hope. It needs to be something that will stretch and change you. It needs to be big enough that when you look back, you’ll be shocked by where and who you currently are.
The vision should focus on your one major goal, which if you achieve will make your future self and everything else you want in your life possible.
Now that you’ve reframed your past and imagined your ideal future, it’s time to get busy.
It’s time to act.
In order to solidify your new identity, you need to begin acting in alignment with that new identity, rather than acting in alignment with your former self.
Psychologists have a term for this—self-signaling, which means that our actions signal back to us who we are. We judge and measure ourselves by our actions. If you change your behavior, your identity will begin to follow suit.
As you begin acting as your future self, you will eventually become that future self. Your personality will adapt itself to your goals, and you’ll have the characteristics, attributes, and circumstances you want.
In order to do so, you must make your future self the new standard for your daily behavior. You must say no to current-self opportunities and options and forgo them for future-self ones.
Your future self is the new standard.
Prefer being rejected at your new standard than being accepted at your old one.
CHAPTER 5 - Enhance Your Subconscious
The unconscious is the repository of all of our feelings, regardless of their social or personal acceptability. To know about the unconscious is extremely important, for what goes on down there may be responsible for those personality characteristics that drive us to behave as we do.
-- Dr. John E. Sarno
The doctor told her she’d never be able to run again. This was incredibly devastating, given that Jane led an active lifestyle and had run a marathon just a few months earlier. Although it was a bitter pill to swallow, she took the doctor’s words as gospel and resigned herself to never running again.
After 15 years, the pain came back out of nowhere.
The doctor said it was part of the natural process of aging.
"I guess I’m just getting older"
“No. Seriously. How does your husband being unemployed make you feel?”
“It makes me feel upset.”
“To be completely honest with you, it really pisses me off.”
“Your pain has absolutely nothing to do with your waterskiing injury. Your pain is stemming from the emotions you have toward your husband. You need to find a way to express your emotions.”
Go read "The Great Pain Deception".
her pain was gone because of “knowledge therapy,” which made her aware of the true cause of her pain and problems
If you’re working out and you start to feel the pain, just keep exercising. Push through as though the pain wasn’t happening.
In addition to stopping all of the physical treatments, you need to start expressing your emotions.
- She immediately stopped all of the physical therapies she was doing, which she was spending tens of thousands of dollars on.
- She also started what she calls her “Rage Journal,” where she expresses all of her frustration and anger.
- She started talking to her husband about how she was feeling.
- She also started running again.
Jane’s entire life changed.
Your Memories Are Physical, and Your Body Is Emotional
Your physical body is the evidence of your past—the embodied memory of everything that has come before.
"The Body Keeps the Score."
The experiences in our lives become our biology. Those experiences are memories stored in specific areas of our body.
“A cell is a machine for turning experience into biology.”
The glue that holds our body, memories, and identity together is our emotions.
Like memory, we tend to think of emotions as abstract, residing only in our minds. They are not. Emotions are physical.
Emotions and memories have physical markers in your body.
the information relayed throughout the brain and body are emotional in nature. That information—the emotional content—then becomes the body.
The experiences we have transform not only our perspectives and identity but become our very biology.
The reason we subconsciously engage in repetitious behaviors is because our body has become addicted to the emotions that our behaviors create.
Addiction isn’t merely a mental disorder. It is physical. In order to change your addiction, you literally need to change your biology. You need a future self with a new identity, a new story, new environment, and new body.
What chemicals are you addicted to?
What emotions does your body thrive on and continuously reproduce?
Many people are addicted to the chemical cortisol, which is stress. If they aren’t feeling stressed, they get uneasy and do things to create more stress in their lives.
“Each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.”
When you begin making improvements in your life, you’re going to subconsciously try to get back to where you feel comfortable. This is emotional.
If you’re not used to feeling amazing all the time, then when you start allowing yourself to feel good, your subconscious will grow uneasy.
It wants negative emotions because negative chemicals are what literally make up your body.
I noticed myself trying to subconsciously sabotage everything amazing in my life. I got addicted to caffeine, travel, and confusion. I couldn’t get myself to write. I wasted huge amounts of time watching YouTube videos. I had a hard time getting motivated.
As I watched myself beginning to struggle, I could see what was happening. Once I noticed that I was damaging myself, I realized that I needed to seek help. I started by expressing to my wife and others that I was on a downward spiral. We began therapy, set new goals, and made important adjustments to our family and routines.
I re-created my future self. I got my vision going again. Without a clear vision pulling us forward, life becomes about how much willpower you are able to summon every day. What I needed was a goal to direct my identity and behavior. I needed a target.
I used my future self as the filter for setting firmer boundaries in my life. This involved having hard conversations with people I deeply cared about, telling them I needed to readjust our relationship and put my priorities—like my faith, family, and health—back at the forefront.
If you don’t change your subconscious, then altering your personality will be difficult. If you change your subconscious, then altering your personality happens automatically.
To make powerful change in our lives, we need to change at the subconscious level. Otherwise, the change will not be permanent.
You could try to force yourself to be positive, for example, but if your subconscious, or physical body, is habituated to negative emotional states, it will default to behaviors that reproduce those emotions.
Your body seeks homeostasis by leading you to behaviors and experiences that reproduce the emotional climate it is used to.
You are an emotional being. Your physical body is your “subconscious mind,”
You have to shift the emotional framework that makes you who you are.
Jane had become accustomed to anger and rage. Those were the emotions she became addicted to. Her life became a pattern to re-create those emotions, even if consciously she was doing her best to be positive. As a result, those emotions became her biology.
"Symptoms are messages from the inner self wanting to be heard, but ego takes center stage, and hides the truth within the shadows of the unconscious mind: which is the body."
When you change your subconscious, your personality will change as well. Your personality is merely a by-product or reflection of where you are emotionally. If you maintain suppressed emotions, you’ll develop a personality to either cope with or avoid them.
You engage in behaviors and situations to produce emotions that numb the pain you’re suppressing.
Why have you become who you are?
Are you the person you’ve become out of choice, or out of reaction to your life’s experiences?
What would happen if you became the person you really wanted to be?
What would happen if you allowed yourself to feel good more often?
What would happen if you stopped avoiding your pain?
The best of all medicines are rest and fasting.
-- Benjamin Franklin
Fasting from food for eighteen-plus hours is one of the most powerful ways to enhance your subconscious.
Given that your physical body is your subconscious, when you purposefully deprive yourself from food, you are literally resetting the body, allowing it to rest and recover rather than digest.
It also improves focus, learning, memory, and ability to comprehend information.
Fasting is a form of physical and emotional practice that enables you to connect to your deeper side.
Personally, I’ve been practicing fasting consistently for nearly fifteen years. Generally, I’ll fast from all foods and liquids for twenty-four hours once or twice per month. Or anytime I feel so inspired.
While in a fasted state, you can have greater clarity and intuitive connection. You can visualize and decide who you want to be. If you’re trying to make any major or important decisions, consider fasting to get clarity about that decision.
From a more spiritual perspective, fasting and prayer go hand in hand. They are powerful at helping you get clear on what you’re trying to do, in addition to moving past what has been keeping you stuck.
fasting from technology, particularly the internet, for twenty-four-hour periods of time or more is also incredibly powerful for connecting with yourself and getting clarity.
Once per week, you could take a break from food and the internet. If you did this, you’d be shocked at the clarity and confidence you’d get.
Had I not given myself the space from food and the internet, I wouldn’t have gotten that clarity.
Give Money Away: Make Regular Charitable Donations
You have to feel that you deserve good things or else your subconscious might very well sabotage all your best efforts. If you don’t truly feel that you deserve great financial success, then you are battling an almost insurmountable obstacle: your subconscious.
Giving regular gifts from your income to charity is one excellent way of once and for all, persuading your subconscious that you deserve what lies ahead. In this way, it will not only end its sabotage, it will begin actively to assist in your quest.
-- Rabbi Daniel Lapin
charitable giving is linked with feelings of happiness.
It sends a powerful signal to yourself that you are the type of person who gives to others.
George Cannon decided to pay 10 percent of what he intended to earn in his future.
‘Oh bishop, I’m not paying tithing on what I make. I’m paying tithing on what I want to make.’
He didn’t see tithing as a cost, but an investment in his future self and his relationship with God.
He was seeing, and acting as, his future self, not his present or former self. He was operating from his future circumstances—as though they were already real—rather than operating from his current circumstances.
I decided to pay one of the bills, which was a few hundred bucks. To her, this meant she could get back to her schooling a year before she anticipated.
Tears came to her eyes. She was in disbelief. The impact my gift had on her was surprising to me. It humbled me and made me want to increase my financial situation so I could help more people. Thus, this experience expanded my subconscious and my future self.
The more you give, the greater will become your capacity to give.
"There is an ocean of abundance and one can tap into it with a teaspoon, a bucket, or a tractor trailer. The ocean doesn’t care."
In order to become your future self, you must transform yourself at the core and subconscious level.
Wishful thinking and rare moments of visualization are not enough. You must engage in behaviors and have peak experiences that shift your identity and create a new sense of “normal” for you. Fasting and charitable giving are just two of many subconscious-enhancing behaviors.
Rather than being defined by your former behaviors, you can and should be defined by your future behaviors. Rather than being defined by experiences from your past, you can and should be defined by the peak experiences you’ll create in the future—those experiences that will transform you from who you are into who you plan to be.
CHAPTER 6 - Redesign Your Environment
If I changed the environmental situation, the fate of the cells would be altered. I would start off with my same muscle precursors but in an altered environment they would actually start to form bone cells.
The results of these experiments were very exciting because while every one of the cells was genetically identical, the fate of the cells was controlled by the environment in which I placed them.
-- Bruce Lipton
Langer and her students gave them “an opportunity to see themselves differently,” which impacted them biologically.
Context Shapes Roles: Roles Shape Identity and Biology
How you treat other people influences how they see themselves. How people see themselves influences their mindset and emotions, yes. But it also impacts their biology.
“The way you see [a child] is the way you treat them and the way you treat them is [who] they [will] become.”
As human beings, we generally default to the roles of our social environment. It takes extreme intentionality and decisiveness not to default to an expected social or cultural role.
Putting yourself in new environments, around new people, and taking on new roles is one of the quickest ways to change your personality, for better or worse. Fully take on the roles you assume, and you’ll change from the outside in.
Your personality is largely based on the roles you play and the situations in which you find yourself.
When you put on a different mask or play a different character.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.”
As a person ages, they tend to stop engaging in new situations, experiences, and environments.
people’s personalities become increasingly consistent because they stop putting themselves into new contexts.
William James believed that a person’s personality basically became fully formed and fixed by age thirty, because thereafter a person’s life often becomes highly routine and predictable.
It’s not that your personality itself becomes stable but rather that your routine environments and social roles lock you into habitual patterns.
it’s the situation and not the person that determines how the person consistently shows up. “People are predictable, that’s true. . . . But they’re predictable because we see them in situations where their behavior is constrained by that situation and the roles they’re occupying and the relationships they have with us.”
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
When was the last time you did something unpredictable?
When was the last time you put yourself in a new situation or a new role?
Are there clothes in your closet that have been there for over five years?
They stop experiencing new emotions.
People become old far too fast.
The more psychologically rigid a person is, the more they see themselves as and even attempt to be the same person in every situation they are in.
Westerners tend to view the world from what is called an “atomistic” viewpoint, which assumes that something (or someone) can be understood regardless of context.
From a relational worldview, nothing can be understood outside of its context. In fact, it is the context or “relationship between” that determines the meaning of the thing.
If you were to lose a person you love, you wouldn’t just lose that person but also the person you were when with them.
All loss includes a loss of yourself. And conversely, meeting new people or entering new relationships leads to the creation of a new self.
Undeniably, your personality is shaped by what surrounds you. Culture is often ignored because it seems invisible, but it shapes identity, behavior, relationships, and personality.
peer and social groups influence:
Choice of university and degree
How productive you are at work
Whether or not you cheat in school and other life domains
Whether you’re likely to do extracurricular activities and go above and beyond the call of duty
Whether you engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, doing harmful drugs, and using alcohol
Your likelihood of engaging in criminal behaviors
The financial decisions you make and how well you ultimately do financially
Your chances of becoming an entrepreneur
Your social and peer groups shape your identity, how you see yourself, and who you become.
You engage in behaviors that match the culture of your group. You come to develop a role and identity within your peer groups. Your peer groups shape the choices you make, the goals you set, and how well you do in life.
She was stunned. It became extremely obvious to both of us that my present and former selves were two very different people, but that the former could return quickly if the role and context facilitated it. I let her know I was committed to my future, not my past.
"But if they were interviewed by two different interviewers then their responses were often completely unrelated to each other."
You see yourself differently and act differently based on what surrounds you.
Until you become intentional and serious about your context, you will never be able to become who you want to be.
Although it is common for people to be the mere products of their environment, you must learn to make your environment match your desired outcomes.
Collectors yearned to buy the painting. But Whistler refused to sell his finest work. Instead, he kept it near him at all times as a continuous reminder of what was possible for him.
"Whenever I feel that my hand has lost its cunning, whenever I doubt my ability, I look at the little picture of the spray of roses and say to myself, “Whistler, you painted that. Your hand drew it. Your imagination conceived the colors. Your skill put the roses on the canvas.” I know that what I have done I can do again."
That piece of art sitting near his work desk served as a continuous reminder of the type of work he wanted to do. It inspired him to see himself from a different perspective. It lifted his spirits when he was depressed or frustrated.
you need to be strategic about what you remember. You need an environment that continuously calls to mind your future self.
We can forget what we truly want in our lives. Life gets busy and sometimes the routine of keeping up with the bills can take over.
“You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”
Tim Ferriss keeps a copy of the book The Magic of Thinking Big facing outward on his bookshelf.
the book now serves as a trigger for thinking and “playing” bigger for him.
All he has to do is see the cover and he experiences an immediate shift in mindset, emotion, and identity.
A Culture Wall is a collection of twelve or more of your most important beliefs or aspirations that are then illustrated as individual artworks installed on a wall in a grid format. Culture Walls are immersive symbols that become a “shrine of ideas.”
My Culture Wall, which I had installed in my home, displays many of my highest ideals, which I want not only myself but also my children to be continuously reminded of.
“Do what is right, let the consequences follow.”
“Better prolific than perfect.”
“You make or break your life before eight a.m.”
“100 percent is easier than 98 percent.”
“Expect everything and attach to nothing.”
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
“Assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled.”
“You can’t be free without uncertainty.”
“What got you here won’t get you there.”
“Never be the former anything.”
“Embrace your future to change your past.”
“Gratitude changes things.”
“Good timber does not grow with ease.”
“Nothing happens until after the boats are burned.”
Your environment should be full of strategic reminders of who you want to be, helping you to become your desired future self.
This is opposite of how most environments are designed.
nstead, you want to create triggers that click you into your future, not your former, self.
Goals don’t become realities without constant reminders. This is why people write down their goals every single day. They need to remember where they’re going, just like an airplane needs to constantly update its trajectory as it gets pushed off course.
What transformational triggers can you install into your environment?
Where would you put those strategic reminders?
You could fill your entire environment with reminders of your highest aspirations and goals. And you should.
Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.
-- Zig Ziglar
Most of the internet is low-level distraction,
Most movies are useless,
Most people aren’t aligned with your future self.
This increase of choices may seem like a good thing, but for most people it is not.
A lot of the choices you encounter on a daily basis are endless rabbit holes to nowhere.
Instead of keeping the door open to more choices, you need the discernment and confidence to close most doors so you’re entirely unaware of them.
Does this add to or take away from my future self?
It’s too costly for your mind to be focused on the wrong things, once you become serious about success and change.
We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction.
However, choice overload makes you question the decisions you make before you even make them.
Choice overload leaves you in a perpetual state of FOMO—the fear of missing out—always looking over your shoulder and questioning the decisions you’ve made.
This puts you in a constant state of stress, always feeling like you’re falling short, always questioning the decisions you’ve made, always wondering what could have been.
the best decision-makers in the world purposefully avoid almost all of the options available.
“I’m pretty oblivious to a lot of things intentionally. I don’t want to be influenced that much.”
-- Jason Fried
t takes confidence and boldness to say, “I’m going with this decision. This is what I’m committed to. This is what I’m serious about. Consequently, I’m closing the door on everything else right now. I need to focus. I can’t be distracted by everyone else’s noise and agendas.”
you must create an environment that shields you from most of the world.
It’s about knowing what you want and knowing that, as a person, you can be easily swayed or derailed.
You live your priorities and values and dreams.
Godin is selectively ignorant to what the trolls say, and he’s better off as a result. He doesn’t need that crap coming into his psyche, confusing his identity and purpose.
It’s not the avoidance of getting feedback. It’s simply the intelligence of knowing that with certain things and people, the juice will never be worth the squeeze. It’s knowing what to avoid.
He gets feedback that will ultimately move him forward, not feedback intended to destroy him.
Diamandis doesn't watch news on TV, but as a futurist he gets his information from valued sources. He has designed an environment where only the best information gets to him.
When you change your inputs, all of these change.
If you see a plate of cookies on the counter, you’re no longer ignorant of them. If you haven’t made the decision beforehand, the situation will beat you.
If, on the other hand, you simply keep cookies out of your environment, then you won’t have to deal with decision fatigue and willpower depletion.
It's about ignoring or shielding yourself from what you already know is a distraction or an enemy to your future self.
First you need to know what you want.
You need to know what you stand for. You need to have rules and systems that stop you from finding yourself in a mire of filth or the daze of endless opportunity.
You need to make one decision that makes a million other decisions either easier, automatic, or irrelevant.
This is how you shield yourself from the onslaught of inputs and agendas seeking your time and attention.
Rather than relying on willpower, how could you become ignorant of these things?
In what areas of your life do you need to apply strategic ignorance?
What simple decisions could you make right now that would eliminate decision fatigue from your life?
What are you currently aware of or overly informed about that you shouldn’t be? (Think distractions—for me, sports analysis or the latest updates of various celebrities.)
What distractions or unwanted temptations remain in your world that need to be removed?
The ability of the average man could be doubled if it were demanded. If the situation demanded.
-- Will Durant
She graduated college with a degree in math but wasn’t sure if that’s what she wanted to do. Her mom had taught her to give her heart and soul to whatever she did, so she decided to give her soul to baking and making pastries.
one day Chang told her that she had three hours to create something. And whatever she created was going to be served that night.
He was serious. In his own words, “I had to push her off of a cliff. She wouldn’t do it herself.”
Tosi spent the next three hours creating a brilliant strawberry shortcake. The guests in the restaurant were surprised not only to have a dessert but something truly unique and fabulous.
A forcing function is any situational element that forces you to take action and produce a result. Forcing functions put you in a situation where the only option is the desired option.
a situation that suits your future self, forcing you to show up as that person here and now.
to ensures that you’re constantly moving in a desired direction, often against your own resistance.
work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
You give yourself a date and you are forced to come up with something by that deadline.
The situations of your life should be designed and engineered such that you are completely absorbed in what you’re doing. You want to be required to produce your absolute best work, because if you don’t, the consequences will be costly.
Are you serious about making the changes you want?
Are you willing to put forcing functions into play?
By investing money into something, you become more committed.
You commit to what you’re invested in.
How can you embed more forcing functions into your life to ensure you become the person you want to be?
What situations could you create that would produce powerful results?
If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.
-- Marshall Goldsmith
Environment is among the most powerful and important personality levers. If you’re serious about changing yourself and your life, you must change your environment.
You are the product of your culture and context. You’re the product of the information and inputs you consume. Everything that comes in—the food, information, people, experiences—shapes you.
The first step is becoming mindful of your context and how it is having an impact on who you are.
The next step is becoming strategic with your environment and situation.
Instead of having your environment and circumstances reflect your identity, you want to design your environment to reflect your future identity.
You want your environment to be like a current pulling you forward, not holding you back.
When you change your environment, over time, everything about you will change. You’ll begin having new experiences. You’ll have new thoughts and emotions. You’ll be around new people. You’ll be engaging in new behaviors.
Your identity and personality will change.
You can choose the kind of personality you are going to have.
It is not something you are stuck with. It is not something you have to have, even if you have never elected anything to the contrary.
-- Dr. Wayne Dyer
CONCLUSION - Embrace Your Future to Change Your Past
Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you.
-- Byron Katie
How could you let this happen?
Her husband blamed her for the death of their son and left her one month later. Melissa’s whole world corroded. Her identity was shocked. She no longer felt like a good mother. She hated herself.
She felt like she had lost everything—her son, her husband, herself.
She was below rock bottom.
She felt that killing herself was the best thing she could do for Devin, so that he wouldn’t have to watch his shell of a mother decay into nothing.
After reading this letter, Melissa broke down. She grabbed her picture of Drew, held it to her chest, and sobbed for hours. She let all of her bottled-up pain and emotions fully out.
This letter gave her hope. It was the turning point in her life, at the exact moment when she needed it. Theresa was her empathetic witness. She felt heard and seen.
Instead of the goodbye note she was planning to write to Devin, Melissa wrote an apology letter and a promise to her son. She apologized for falling asleep that morning when Drew died. She apologized that Devin would grow up without a brother. She also apologized for how she had been acting in the months since Drew’s death, and how sad she had been.
She made Devin a promise that she would be the best mom she could be for him. She promised him that life would be good.
Ten years later, when Devin was thirteen years old and in Melissa’s eyes ready to read it, she gave him the letter on Christmas Day. Even though she’d held on to the letter for ten years, she had been true to the promises she wrote. Theresa’s letter had changed and saved Melissa’s life. She had her ups and downs, but she had hope and purpose to move forward in her life.
The pain was almost too much to bear. She was heartbroken and shattered. She remembered trying to reach her husband that entire morning. Devin had been sick and Joey wasn’t answering her phone calls.
It turned out that Joey had been cheating on Melissa for over twelve years. In his own guilt and shame, he had made her life a living hell. He had blamed her for the death of Drew. He had made her feel like less than dirt.
Near the end of the trial, her attorney told her, “Sweetheart, I’ve been in law for forty years. I don’t know anyone with a story like yours. You should write a book about it.”
She began to see her past differently. For most of her life, she had felt like a victim. She had felt like she was cursed by God. But while reading those old journals and reflecting on her experiences, she saw her previous experiences differently. Rather than curses, she saw compliments.
“God really trusts you,” she thought to herself. “Everything I’ve gone through is a gigantic compliment from God not only for what I can handle, but for what he wants me to do.”
That’s a profound and fundamental shift that all people, including you, need to make if you’re serious about extreme transformation: Your past isn’t happening to you. Your past is happening for you.
Everything in your life has happened for you.
You’re the beneficiary.
You’ve gained much.
You’ve learned much.
And as a result of all the pain and challenges you’ve gone through, you have a powerful purpose.
In 2014 she started writing her book, which was published in 2016. She’s an entirely different person than she was on the morning she woke up in a silent home.
In her own words, “I’m purpose-driven now. I want to dedicate my entire life to helping other people who don’t feel heard.”
Melissa’s purpose is what drives her, not her “personality.” Her purpose drives her to do things far outside her comfort zone. Her purpose transforms her and her personality.
Over the years, she’s tried to contact Theresa, her empathetic witness. She’s made public statements on social media trying to get in contact, but to no avail. Regardless, that letter gave her hope and changed her life.
Melissa’s entire purpose now is to give hope to those who have lost it. She wants to share her story, to provide people the space to connect with their own inner voice. Her book and her story is her own “letter” to the world, because it was a letter that saved her life.
Before all of these transformational experiences, she would just pass by people who were struggling. She was too busy dealing with her own mess to pay attention to other people. But now she’s in a place where she has the desire to help others.
she said that she has nothing but extreme gratitude. She feels that everything has happened for a reason. Although she’s been through hell, she feels it was all worth it because now she has amazing experiences every day.
for her, none of this would have been possible without the experiences she’s had.
She loves her past.
She loves her life.
Now It’s Your Turn
You’ve made it this far. The question is, what are you going to do now? Are you going to be consistent with your former or your future self?
Are you going to activate the four levers of your personality and make radical and desired change?
Are you going to continually expand yourself—imagining and becoming a new future self again and again?
We’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve discussed trauma, story, subconscious, and environment, and how all of these forces can keep you trapped in unhealthy and repetitious cycles.
We’ve also discussed the cultural and pervasive myths of personality, which if you embrace them will lead to a life of mediocrity and “average.”
You are now equipped to increase your imagination, motivation, faith, and courage. You are equipped to embrace your future and change your past.
Throughout this book, you’ve been asked dozens of questions. Go back through those questions and answer them in your journal. Use your journal every single day to imagine, design, strategize, and conspire to create and live your wildest dreams.
Personality isn’t permanent, it is a choice.
Your personality can change in dramatic ways. The life of your dreams can eventually become something you take for granted—your new normal. Once you arrive at your wildest and most imaginative future self, take the confidence and faith you gain and do it again, but this time bigger and better.
Life is a classroom. You’re here to grow. You’re here to live by faith and design. You’re here. You’re here to choose.
The choice is yours.
Who will you be?