Well… not really….
This is really about creating the life you want by changing the way you “do” you.
There’s an understanding in Positive Psychology that says we can change “how I do me” by starting at one of the following three places.
- Change our thinking to change behaviour or emotional response.
- Change our behaviour to alter emotional response and thinking.
- Change our emotional response to alter thinking and behaviour.
By shifting any one of these “break-points” in the system, we create change for ourselves. It’s up to us to decide in what direction we want the change to flow. We aim towards a positive or negative direction depending on what we choose to pay attention to.
Change Your Thinking
The first way you can hack your Self is by changing your thinking. Research from the field of Positive Psychology has proven that we humans create more of whatever we focus on. This means that if you’re spending all your time examining why you hate your job, why your team sucks, or what is wrong in any of your relationships, you’ll create more of those negative experiences because you’re paying attention to them. When you shift your focus to what is working, what is going well, and what does feel great then you create more positive experiences.
Focussing on the positive has a beneficial effect on your physical and mental health. Data supports practices like daily gratitude journaling, filling a “Joy Jar” with your accomplishments and otherwise acknowledging positive aspects of your life, all having positive effects.
When we choose to focus on what is working, we see new options and new solutions that create more desirable outcomes. By identifying what is helping a situation we continue the trend toward success by taking more of those actions and literally seeing more opportunities.
Celebrating and acknowledging when things go well builds confidence and keeps us moving forward towards our goals while berating ourselves or complaining about what is not working moves us further away. The more we focus on what is effective and positive the more we create a growth mindset which shifts us out of beliefs and behaviours that undermine our success.
Focusing on what is working is not the same as “positive thinking.” What we’re talking about is taking action. Every step that moves you forward is a physical activity whether it’s writing a note, making a call, meeting with someone, et cetera… the key to creating more of what is working is to continually take physical action that creates change. Thinking about things doesn’t create change, nor does “deciding” or “trying” to do something. The only thing that achieves goals is by taking physical steps.
I can hear some of you arguing about the need for planning and preparation. Yes! We also need to plan and prepare. Both plans and preparations require physical actions, you’ve got to write lists of what needs to happen, and who is responsible for which parts. You’ll often have to contact people to make things happen. No goal was ever reached simply by thinking about it!
If your goal is to change something about how you do your life, start by writing out what you want to be doing. Don’t waste time writing about what is not working or what you don’t like. Write what you do want.
Whether you jot bullet points, write in prose, poetry, diagrams, sketches, or record voice memos and transcribe them, you’re getting the thoughts out of your head, in front of your eyes and that’ll allow you to see what action step you need to take next.
Beliefs are simply thoughts you have thunk so often you think they’re true.
The hardest aspect of changing how you do life is seeing where your thoughts have become rules you’re now following. (We can also call these beliefs). Until you look at the beliefs that drive your behaviour, you can’t change a thing. This is where some hard work and a coach can come in handy. Roll up your sleeves, be willing to get muddy and start pulling out anything that looks like an idea that you feel you have to adhere to. You’re searching for statements and ideas about the type of person you think you are or have to be. These can include statements like, “I’m shy.” “I’m not good at writing, or maths.” “I’d never be able to do… or to be….” Go slowly, be aware that these statements are like snakes in tall grass—they’re slippery to catch and they’ll twist and turn in your hands looking like truisms rather than the mere thoughts that they are.
The rules we make for ourselves are the beliefs we have about who we are, embedded into our hearts. We can change our beliefs by removing these thorny ideas and healing our hearts.
Hunt for your own ideas about your Self. “I’ve had a wonderful/terrible life so far.” “I would never/always do….” “I’m the kind of person who……” These are the kinds of beliefs or rules you’re working to uncover. These are what drive your behaviour. In order to change your life, you’ll need to examine these beliefs, rules and thoughts. Are they helping or hindering you?
Easy Steps to Uncover Hidden Beliefs:
- Set a timer for four minutes.
- Writing as fast as you can, finishing the following sentence fragment: “I am…”
- At the end of four minutes. Go back through your list and mark all the words or statements that help you be your best Self with a ▷ and all the ones that hinder you with a ◻︎.
Any that you mark with a ▷ are helping you towards your best self. You want to take a good look at these and find ways to apply them more often in your life. The ones you marked with a ◻︎ you can choose whether to let go of. By releasing ideas that hinder you, you heal the places in your heart that have been wounded. In choosing to let go of whatever doesn’t serve you any longer, you create space for yourself to expand into the person who does the types of things that people like you really want to achieve in life. Whether you want to create a wildly successful business, be more patient, be more excited about your job, et cetera… What you’re seeking is supported by growth and expansion, not by staying small and limited, stuck in old ideas or stale beliefs.
Change is uncomfortable! It has to be or it would not be Change with a capital “C”. If you do what you always did you’ll get what you have right now. As you shift your thinking and behaviour you’re likely to feel as though you’re pushing a block up a mountain. Don’t panic! The mountain and the block will get smaller. Be willing to stick it out in the uncomfortable spaces, soon enough they’ll be the new normal and you’ll wonder why you spent time doing it “the old way.”
Change Your Behavior
The second way to hack how you do you is to hack your behaviour. Changing behaviour is often the quickest way to see positive change and your desired outcome. To do this you’re going to lean heavily on your imagination because your imagination not only creates, it stores everything you’ve experienced the same way a painter stockpiles different tubes of paint. Imagination is what you tap when you open the drawer and pull out some new colours to paint with.
Start by imagining your desired outcome or goal. (And nope… this is not about the power of positive thinking)! Maybe you want to be less anxious, or more patient. Maybe you want to be more successful or less shy. No matter what you desire, the first step is to clarify it for yourself. Write the change you desire in one clear sentence.
Now that’s done, bring to mind someone who embodies that quality, we’ll call that person your Guide. It can be someone you know personally or a public or fictional figure. Imagine you’re standing in front of your guide observing them. Notice how they stand, how they talk, how they walk. Practice emulating all the physical characteristics you notice. How does your Guide smile, or laugh? What gestures do they make? How do they dress? Let yourself get really granular in your observations. Make some notes and move on to asking them a few key questions.
Reminder! This can feel weird the first couple of times you do it. That’s okay! You’re breaking boundaries here and tossing old habits and thoughts out the window! Remember, it’s going to feel weird if you’re doing something new. Keep doing anything and pretty soon it’ll stop feeling weird and just be how you do things.
Imagine standing in front of your Guide and ask them some questions out loud. (Yes, I said out loud)! You can ask for advice or ideas about how they do what they do. For example, if you’re wanting to shift from being shy to being outgoing you might ask, “What do you know about yourself that helps you feel confident?” or “What do you do first thing in the morning?” You could ask what advice they have for you or ask “What can you tell me about being confident and outgoing?” Trust whatever answers your imagination tosses back to you. The answers might come as words or as images. They might arise in you as emotions. However, they show up, make some notes and then use the information to create some action steps.
Your imagination is part of your sensory system and creates a mental catalogue of everything you’ve experienced. When you tap your imagination for answers it retrieves all the information related to your query and pulls it together in a form you can access. What you get when you ask a question is all the information you have ever observed. To paraphrase marketing guru Seth Godin, “People like us do things like this.” We can use our very human habit of cataloguing everything around us to teach ourselves new ways of being and doing. Because we can imagine acting “as if”, we can teach ourselves how to be different in the world.
Now that you have some advice from your Guide, create a list of actions that’ll help move you into doing you in a new way. Turn your list into physical actions you commit to. Take it slowly and work on one action at a time. The key to success is repetition, repetition, repetition. Repeat the action until it feels totally natural and you no longer have to think about doing it, then move on to the next one.
As you complete each action check it off and find a way to celebrate your ongoing transformation. You might add them as “wins” to your Joy Jar or daily gratitude record. This type of behavioural shift can feel slow at times. Acknowledging each step of change as you go will keep you motivated.
Quick Actions to Boost Positivity:
- Keep a daily gratitude record.
Each day record at least one thing you’re grateful for. Who was involved, what occurred, what did you do, what emotions did you feel, and how did your body feel?
- Start a Joy Jar.
You’ll need a large jar or bowl and some slips of paper. Each day write at least one thing that made you laugh, smile or was an accomplishment. They can be big or small, simple or complex. Place each note in the jar. At the end of the week pull out a few notes and let yourself drink in all the positivity. You can put them back in the jar and continually feed your Jar-o-joy.
- Happiness Playlist.
Create a playlist of songs that make yah wanna shout with joy. Every day choose a song, take a break, dance around, sing at the top of your lungs and let yourself delight in the happy goodness.
- Be Neighborly.
Research shows that when we do nice things for others we feel happier and healthier. Being neighbourly, doing something nice for someone, no matter how small the act, boosts our immune system and fills our internal “happiness bucket.” So aim to do one nice thing for someone as often as you can.
- Get outside.
Whether you take a five-minute sunbath standing outside your job, or a longer stroll down the street, in a park or on a trail somewhere—being outside in sunlight will boost your happiness and physical health by a measurable amount. Walking or moving will double the effect so go ahead and throw in a little outdoor dance for yourself in between projects or tasks.
Change Your Emotions
This really should be called, “Change Your Responses” because what we’re really changing is the response we have when emotions arise. From a purely biological standpoint, emotions are chemistry. A particular mix of chemicals will create a physiologic experience that we name as a particular emotion. The action we take next is the response to the chemical soup coursing through our bodies.
While we don’t have much conscious control over the chemical mix we have 100% control over our own response. We can cry or yell, laugh, giggle, smack something or go curl up in bed. We can choose any number of possible responses to an emotion and then choose the next actions we take.
“It is our compulsive reaction to the situations in which we are placed that causes stress.”
~Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy
We are always responding, all the time to everything that is happening around us whether we think it directly affects us or not. We can’t help but respond. For example, we can’t choose to breathe the air or have our hearts beat in response to living. We can choose our reactions and the actions we take. Each of those choices directly affects how we think and behave.
When we notice and name our emotions, we increase our awareness of our reactions. Now we have more control over what happens next. We have more choices. We can choose to heat things up or calm things down based on the action we take next. By creating a pause between response and action, we effectively increase our ability to think more clearly about the outcome we desire and how to move towards and not away from it.
4-Steps to Happier Outcomes
- When an emotion arises, notice it and exhale 3 times. Remember that old tune.. “Three, that’s the magic number…” Don’t do anything except breathe. You’re giving yourself time to notice which emotion or emotions arise, what reaction you had and you’re creating space before you take any action.
- When you feel your body calming, ask yourself what outcome do you desire in the situation?
- Next ask yourself, “What physical action will move me closer to that desired outcome?”
- Take that action. Repeat steps 3-4 until the outcome is reached.