Self-improvement is a scary space. (That’s why I prefer behavioral change)
I started to explore more about self-improvement and personal development when I was 17. After reading many books about sales and marketing in the prior year, I found that financial accomplishment is only a small part of the equation of success.
After exploring some materials about self-improvement and personal development, I acknowledge that developing my mind and character is as important as making lots of money. A great character and strong mind are the core pillars to accomplish our tangible goals.
However, before I started to write for the Monday Digest, before I study real high performers in multiple fields, and before I get to discover this topic based on science and concrete evidence, self-improvement is a cloudy space (at least for me). And it’s easy for us to lose ourselves in the tales being told because as human, we used to hooked for the simple idea that we can gain a lot by putting in very little effort.
I wasn’t skeptical. I chose to believe in some of the very sketchy ideas. Until when I started this blog, I set myself a standard to deliver a message with solid backups and evidence. And that’s when I started to go deeper and debunk some of the myths and paradoxes.
Myth 1: The Law of Attraction
I was there, read the Secret for multiple times and re-read it again. Getting amazed by how easy it is to change my less desired circumstances and achieve all my goals. I’m a big believer in positive thinking and growth mindset, however, after years of banging my head on walls believing that the Law of Attraction is the bible of successful life transformation, I see it as an incomplete idea that being packaged solely for the financial gains of the authors and publishers.
In case you’re not familiar with the Law of Attraction, here are a few key ideas about it:
- You can achieve everything you ever dream to achieve.
- You should always dream big, 10x or even 100x bigger without limitation.
- All you need to do is to visualize, in order to achieve your goals.
Let’s debunk them one by one.
First, I think we all can achieve anything we want if only what we want is aligned with hard facts of how the world works. We can’t fly, regardless how hard we try. We can only make tools or extensions of ourselves to accomplish that.
Second, I’m not against dreaming big and thinking big, but there is a catch. Thinking big only works when we’re able to pull ourselves back to the reality, and then breaking the big dream down into tiny pieces to accomplish them in a progressive manner.
Finally, there are debates about if whether visualization works. It works, visualization helps us to achieve our goals, by not just visualizing of our goals. Researches found that if we only visualize our goals, we tend to trick our mind that we’ve already accomplished them. The best way to implement visualization is by visualizing ourselves overcoming the obstacles and slowly moving toward our goals. In short, visualize the process, not the results.
Truth: Positive thinking and growth mindset need to apply with practicality.
Myth 2: Quick and Instant Transformation
We all want immediate results. When we talk about losing weight, we want to see the six-pack abs the next day. When we started a new startup, we can’t wait to hit the $1M revenue mark. When we want to get something, we want it immediately.
That’s how many products, courses, and services approach marketing because that’s what we’re paying attention to. And there lie two problems (not one).
- We try to take shortcuts as much as possible and expecting to gain great results.
- We focus all of our energy on the end results and outcomes.
These two factors destroy almost every process regardless it’s about business, career, health, or relationship. Putting into the context of behavioral change, they drive our motivation and emotions up and down without any clear direction, at the same time, make us extremely busy without getting any step ahead.
To avoid yourself falling into these traps again, consciously reminding yourself about the importance of the process. Building system – proven routines and habits – and placing more focus on the execution and action instead of the final outcome.
After all, successful behavioral change is never about the end results, it’s about building and transforming what you do every single day that leads to your desired outcome.
Truth: Think progress, think repetition, think work.
Myth 3: Taking Massive Action
“To change your life, you have to take massive action, massive action, massive action, massive action, massive action!” Tony Robbins said this in one of his seminars that I went to.
(I remember this vividly because he walked toward the section I was in, and stood beside me when he said that.)
It makes perfect sense. To move from where we are today to the better place we want to be, we need to make some changes. And if the gap between those two places is huge, we need to make some big changes. So,
- Daniel went ahead to quit his job to start his freelancing business immediately.
- Jenny started to track every single item she eats and remove almost every item she loves from her diet.
- Samuel bought 24 books.
If you did any of those before, you should already know how it ends up. These examples are the perfect illustrations of how we get ourselves into troubles by implementing massive action (that comes with massive risks, except for buying 24 books).
Taking massive action is very similar to the craving for an instant transformation. We trick ourselves that we or our circumstances have changed by changing everything we do completely. But changing everything we do completely, immediately is risky. It breaks the fabrics that supporting our life, financially, physically, and of course mentally.
Implementing massive action leads to a huge level of fears and uncertainties, they will do more harm than good by stressing us out and interfering our decision-making. It gets nastier when these massive changes affect our relationship, health, or financial stability.
I’m not trying to go against Tony Robbins. In fact, I’m trying to clarify his point.
Massive action is not about implementing an instant lifestyle change, instead, it’s about implementing consistent, tiny, sustainable change that becomes a permanent lifestyle shift over the long run.
By taking small sustainable action to change your behavior, we are reducing the resistance and risk along the process. It makes the entire journey easier and the new behavior lasts.
Truth: Consistency is the key, and taking small action is the best way to ensure we make progress consistently.
Myth 4: Just Do It
A few years back before I started working out (I was overweight), I try to get some advice of a few friends of mine. “Just do it!” is exactly what they have told me. I get the same advice again when I’m planning to start a blog not long ago.
I don’t think my friends did anything wrong. “Just do it!” is a great general advice for almost everything everyone wanted to start. But how?
In fact, I made a mistake, because I was asking advice from people who never workout and who never run a blog. My friends who have never been there will never resonate with my pains and my struggles. They didn’t know what routine I should do, they had no idea about my schedule, and they never knew how to perform a squat with the right posture.
The best person to get advice and help from are the person who has been there, or at least invested a good amount of time and effort in the particular topic. Why? Because they understand the challenges you’re facing, they know what they’re talking, and they have proven techniques to solve it. In short, they will never tell you to “just do it” (unless you’re too lazy to take any action.)
Anyway, what if you don’t have an expert to reach out to? Here is how you can solve this, I even suggest you do this before you reach out to anyone.
Unpack the words “Just do it!”
Information is not a problem today when you have internet access (which you certainly do because you’re reading this). However, clarity and attention are scared. Breaking down “Just do it!” helps you to understand what you should do and how to do them, then break them down further to what you can do now and what you need to do now.
Example: “Just do it!” for weight loss
- Better diet > Less sugar and less sodium > Buy more vegetable (now)
- Exercise > Strength training > 10 push-ups a day (now)
- Sleep > Sleep before 11 pm and sleep for at least 8 hours (now)
Truth: Instead of “Just do it”, take action to gain clarity on steps you need to take from reliable sources.
The Missing Link between Desire and Result
I’m a big believer and practitioner in consuming less information so that we can make better decisions. But less information and incomplete information are two very different things. I wouldn’t say what mentioned by the so-called self-gurus are wrong, however, they are incomplete.
This is exactly what my blog and the Monday Digest set out to do: to provide pieces of information that help you in shaping the complete big picture. They are not necessary the answers to your questions, but I’m always here to make sure they aid you in finding the answers.
However, the missing link between our desire and our result is not only the information, the most important element here is action. All the articles, books, courses you consume are useless if you never put the techniques in use. This element directly shapes the other part of my work, which is to focus on performance and productivity.
The call to action here is simple – DO.