A few months ago, I noticed a 50-year-old man at the gym lifting twice what I lift in every exercise. His energy and overall vibes inspired me. However, after a hectic few months and adjusting to new routines, it had been a month since I last saw him.
Last week, though, I determined he would become my workout partner. I was ready for faster-progress. As I well know, the best way to improve is to surround myself with people much better than me.
I wrote in my journal that he would become my workout partner. Before bed, I visualized it. Just upon waking up, I saw it in my mind. Within a few days, I saw him walking on the road. I pulled up beside him, rolled down my window, and asked him to jump in the car. Once he got in, I told him I've been inspired by his workouts and wanted to be his gym partner.
He was excited.
Our first workout was this morning and I bench pressed 20 lbs more than I've ever lifted, and squatted 50 lbs more than I've ever lifted. I can already see that in a few months, I'll be lifting somewhere near what my new friend is lifting.
As Napoleon Hill has stated, "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve."
You are only limited by the workings of your mind and your ability to intelligently structure conditions to make your goals happen.
Once you are ready and desire specific changes in your life, the process of reinvention will happen sooner and faster than you could ever imagine.
In this article, I will break-down the core principles involved in being, doing, and having your deepest desires, no matter how big or small.
The core principles you'll need to understand to unlock this process are as follows:
- Human beings are highly flexible and malleable. Put most simply, you can change. As will be shown, what keeps you stuck is your suppressed emotions, subconscious patterns, and environmental signals. Reshape these things and you are transformed. In other words, you have no inherited potential. You have no cap. You aren't fixed. You can be shaped and reshaped in both small and radical ways. If you're willing and open, you will watch yourself be, do, and have more than your current imagination could ever conjure up.
- Making definite decisions and forming definite plans are essential to achieving goals. Very few people know how to make definite decisions. Instead, most people have interests which turn into excuses. Said Michael Jordan, "Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again." Definite decision involves long-term commitment and what some call "hope" and others call "resolve" -- which is an intrinsic knowing that what you seek is a foregone conclusion. In other words, what you seek is also seeking you. Consequently, what you seek is already done. There's no questioning or wishing about it. It will happen, of this you have no doubt.
- According to Dr. Emmanuel Donchin, professor of Cognitive Psychophysiology at the University of South Florida, "An enormous portion of cognitive activity [decisions, emotions, actions, behavior] is non-conscious, figuratively speaking, it could be 99 percent." What has been said by the world's greatest minds for over a century is being confirmed by modern science. A person's life is shaped subconsciously. As Dr. Joseph Murphy put it, "What is impressed in the subconscious is expressed." Consequently, the only way to be, do, and have more than you currently have is to "retrain"your subconscious mind. When you have a strong enough why, you'll figure out how. Thus, if you really want something specific, you can activate your subconscious to make it so. Retraining your subconscious is best done immediately before and after you sleep.
- The fastest and most effective way to restructure your cognitive patterns is to have deep, emotional experiences. Most people are hostage to their emotions -- thus being controlled by their emotions rather than being in control of them. In the book, The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer provides the example of a man with a thorn in his arm. When anything touches the thorn, this man feels excruciating pain. Consequently, the man re-organizes every aspect of his life to protect the embedded thorn from being touched. Most people live their lives in similar fashion, but their "thorns" are emotional. Thus, most people build their entire lives around the parts of themselves they are unwilling to face. Such suppressed emotions are often exhibited in physical illness, back pain, unhealthy relationships, and working a job they hate. It is only by accepting that your problems are emotional that you can begin the process of moving beyond those emotions. Psychologists call this process and skill emotional regulation. When you are willing to healthily live with your emotions -- even the difficult and uncomfortable ones -- you are then liberated in the designing of both yourself and your entire life. As Tim Ferriss has said, "A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have."
- Willpower is garbage. It doesn't work. Your environment is more powerful than your internal resolve. Recent research by Angela Duckworth shows that "situational self-control" is a far more effective approach than previous notions of self-control. Put most simply, you are the product of your environment. This is true both biologically and psychologically. As developmental biologist, Dr. Bruce Lipton, has said, "Just like a single cell, the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals that propel life."Lipton's words describe the recent science of epigenetics, which shows that your genetic expression is primarily based on the signals from your environment, not from the DNA you were born with. Consequently, if you want to reshape your life, you will need to reshape your environment. When you learn how to change your environment, you are then empowered to become whoever you want to be.
Once you can internalize and master the principles just outlined, you can transform your dreams into reality, regardless of how foolish or audacious those dreams may seem to you or anyone else.
For the remainder of this article, I will detail how you can immediately begin to apply these principles to make your dreams real.
My experience at the gym this morning can and should be replicated daily.
Definite Decisions and Definite Plans
"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." -- John Assaraf
In the landmark book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill details the following process by which you can achieve any goal (in his example, he uses money):
- Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you want (or anything else specific you want).
- Determine exactly what you are willing to give in exchange for the money you desire.
- Establish a definite date you will have the money you desire.
- Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once whether you feel ready or not.
- Write out a clear and concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire. Include the time limit for its acquisition. State what you intend to give in return. And describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it. (this should be no more than 1-2 short paragraphs)
- Read your written statement aloud, 2x/daily, just before bed and just after rising.
Hill's process is one you should practice. Start small, as I did in finding a workout partner. Once you develop confidence in your ability to bring your mental creations into physical existence, you can then strive for much larger goals.
Eventually, you can get to the point where even enormous goals are generated abruptly, sometimes instantaneously.
According to one of the core theories of motivation (i.e., Expectancy Theory), motivation involves three components:
- The value you place on your goal (According to Hill, you must deeply desire what you seek).
- Your belief that specific behaviors will actually facilitate the outcomes you desire (According to Hill, you must know "the price" you're willing to pay to obtain your desire and have definite plans to bring it about).
- Your belief in your own ability to successfully execute the behaviors requisite to achieving your goals (According to Hill, your belief that you will obtain your desire becomes rock-solid once you get your subconscious on-board. As he said, "The subconscious mind will translate into its physical equivalent, by the most direct and practical method available.").
Retraining Your Subconscious Mind
"Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious." -- Thomas Edison
While awake, your conscious and subconscious mind are often at odds with each other. For example, you're trying to be positive, but your subconscious patterns simply won't let you.
Yet, while transitioning from being awake to being asleep, your brain waves move from the active Beta state into Alpha and then Theta before eventually dropping into Delta as we sleep. It is during the Theta window that your mind is most receptive to reshaping your subconscious patterns. Like sound frequencies, brain waves are measured in Hz, or cycles per second.
- Beta Waves: 13-30 Hz (awake and active -- you right now as your read this)
- Alpha Waves: 8-13 Hz (relaxed)
- Theta: 4-8 Hz (deep states of meditation, peak spiritual experiences, and higher states of consciousness)
- Delta: up to 4 Hz (sleeping)
Theta state is where brain activity slows almost to the point of sleep, but not quite. Theta brings heightened receptivity, flashes of dreamlike imagery, inspiration, and long-forgotten memories.
Theta state occurs directly in the threshold of your subconscious, and is associated with the deepest levels of meditation. Theta state is an optimal mental state where radical behavior modification can occur, such as overcoming drug or alcohol addiction. Moreover, Theta is where super-learning can occur.
As Dr. Joseph Murphy explains in, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, "You avoid conflict between your conscious and subconscious in the sleepy state. Imagine the fulfillment of your desire over and over again prior to sleep. Sleep in peace and wake in joy."
Hence, Napoleon Hill recommends you read your written statement just before and after sleep. Rather than reading a written statement, I personally prefer visualizing what I'm seeking and repeating it several times immediately before and after sleep.
Repetition is another solid method of making something unconscious (see automaticity).
Your written statement should be in present-tense, as though you already have you what seek. For example, "I am making over $100,000," or "I have an amazing relationship with my life and kids."
It's important to keep a note pad near your bed, as you will often get creative insights or other ah-ha's. If you don't record your insights, you're less likely to have them.
When you repetitiously state a desired goal, visualization is key because you want to have as emotional of an experience as possible. You need to feel what it would be like to have what you seek.
You can absolutely trust that by planting these subconscious seeds, thoughts will pop-up at you, often at random intervals. Just as you would by your bed, you need to record these thoughts throughout your day. Then, as Hill states, you need to act on them immediately.
If you brush-off insights, you'll get less and less of them. You'll demonstrate to your subconscious self that you are not interested, or not ready to make the changes you're priming your subconscious to create.
Emotional Regulation and Immediate Action
"You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays." -- Meredith Willson
We have all had ideas and dreams we never acted upon. When you begin entertaining big thoughts, and getting subconscious proddings as to what you should do, what is your response?
Here is where emotional regulation (regulation = management/control) comes in...
You have emotional thorns that will keep you imprisoned -- keep you stuck where you are -- unless you deal with them.
For example, if you begin priming yourself to do something huge, your knee-jerk reaction will be to dismiss your subconscious thoughts. This is fear. This is your desire to be safe. It's a survival mechanism. You'll then do all you can to sabotage yourself and convince yourself out of what you really want to do.
But what are you actually trying to protect yourself from?
It's not something out there. Your external world conforms itself to your inner reality. You're constrained by:
- How you perceive things
- How you feel about them
- The meanings you associate with them
All of these things you have the power to change. Again, modern science is in alignment with the words of the wise long ago. Said Marcus Aurelius in Meditations:
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
Generally, there are two strategies for regulating your emotions: behavioral or cognitive/mental.
Behaviorally, each of us have our own unique ways of dealing with difficult emotions -- i.e., coping mechanisms. Common behavioral coping mechanisms could be eating junk food, exercising, calling a friend, or something else to divert the mind through physical stimulation.
Cognitively, or mentally, the two most common approaches to dealing with emotions are:
- Directing or redirecting your attention
- Changing the meaning of your emotions or the cause of your emotions (for example: research has found that people who reframe fear as excitement perform far better).
Although distracting yourself -- mentally or physically -- is perhaps the most common strategy, it also delays the inevitable.
Are you serious about living your dreams or not?
If so, you can't keep distracting yourself. The emotions that creep-up when you begin entertaining your dreams reflect your internal thorns being touched.
Don't build your life around your thorns. Pull them out and build the life you want. You must live with those emotions. Living your dreams sometimes hurts terribly. But, in the words of Viktor Frankl, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."
Thankfully, the emerging field of Second Wave of Positive Psychology recognizes the avoidance of negative, difficult, and painful emotions does not lead to the best outcomes. Life isn't meant to always be peachy. Experiencing the full range of human emotions is essential to thriving. Often, it is the hardest emotions that lead to the greatest growth and progress. I can personally attest to that.
The three most effective emotional regulation techniques I've discovered are:
- Acting immediately -- what you will find, in almost every case, is that it's not as bad as you imagined. Research has found that fearful anticipation is a worse experience than the thing itself. Once you actually get moving, it's fine.
- Think only good things about everyone. Research clearly demonstrates that forgiveness improves not only your emotional health, but also your physical health. Holding on to any negative thoughts or feelings about anyone hurts you more than anyone else. Such is perhaps the most severe emotional block of all. Conversely, thinking and wishing positive outcomes -- even for those with whom you disagree -- is emotionally liberating.
- Journaling -- research confirms that journaling is good for mental/emotional health. When you are in an intensely emotional mood, journaling can help you more fully experience and understand those emotions. After you've vented on the pages of your journal, you'll quickly find a release. Objectivity will return and you'll be able to move forward.
Reshaping Your Environment
Most people underestimate the power of their environment while overestimating the power and influence of themselves. As Lee Ross and Richard Nisbett, in their book, The Person and the Situation, explain:
"People are active, dynamic, and interesting; these are the stimulus properties that direct attention. The situation, in contrast, is normally relatively static and often known only hazily. What you attend to is what you attribute to."
Most people fail to retrain their subconscious mind because the signals in their environment continually reinforce unhealthy patterns.
However, when you're in certain environments, completely new ideas and emotions are available to you. For example, when working out this morning with my new friend, I had way more motivation and excitement toward my workout.
In psychology, there is a phenomena known as the Pygmalion Effect, which shows that the expectations of those around you, in large measure, determine how well you perform. This is especially true of friends and leaders. Put simply, you rise or fall to the expectations of those around you. Hence, Jim Rohn has said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with."
Reshaping your environment is essential to achieving your dreams for several reasons:
- If you don't shape your environment to facilitate your goals, it demonstrates that you aren't truly committed to your goals. True commitment is both private and public.
- If you don't shape your environment to facilitate your goals, your willpower will become exhausted and die -- a phenomena known as decision fatigue. The environment always wins. No matter how much internal resolve you have, if you remain in a goal-conflicting environment, you will eventually adapt to that environment.
- Your environment determines your biological and psychological state. Positive environments activate healthy physical and mental outcomes. In certain conditions, for example, it's much easier to experience a flow-state where you can work with complete focus.
Eventually, you can become efficient at orienting your entire life toward making the attainment of your aims organic and automatic. This is the essence of what Eben Pegen calls, Inevitability Thinking, which is, "Thinking and acting as if what you are doing is a forgone conclusion because you set up the conditions for it to happen."
Every single day of your life can be "set up" to win.
For example, I had my wife drop-me-off at a public library so I could write this article. Since I have no car and am miles from anything, writing isn't hard. There's nothing else to do. Had I stayed home, I'd probably be a distracted mess.
It's all in the set up.
When you commit to an enormous goal that far exceeds your current capability, willpower won't solve your problem. Rather, you'll need a new environment that organically generates your goals -- a context that forces you to become more than you currently are. Once you design the right conditions, your desired behavior naturally follows.
As I broke through previous mental and emotional barriers in my workout this morning, other barriers in my life crumbled as well. As a person, you are a holistic system. When you change a part, you change the whole. When you improve in one area, you improve in all areas.
After having watched myself stretch and grow physically, I was in a mental and emotional place to stretch in other areas. When I got home, I was more present with my wife and kids. More loving. More engaged. I put myself out there more. I allowed myself to be more vulnerable by caring more.
You can live your dreams. Yes, you.
You can get to the point where you are consistently achieving bigger and more meaningful goals. Where you expect great things to happen because the environment within and around you is pulling you forward with greater and greater momentum.
Don't live small.
There is no cap to your potential. Your identity is fluid. You get to choose.