Why change starts from within: Unleashing your inner potential

Can you guess a common tenet in people that are unhappy?

They blame external factors and other people for the slip-ups and negative events in their life.

Blaming others is a way of avoiding our responsibility and is referred to as the “self-serving bias.”

Blaming or getting angry at others only makes us more irritable and cranky. It makes us negative and lose faith in others. As Robert Anthony said, "When you blame others, you give up your power to change."

See, it's impossible to modify the events occurring in the world around you. You can't change the behavior of the people around you either. So the key is to gain control of the internal dialogue that you tell yourself. 

What are the principles that you live by in your everyday life? What are the hidden beliefs that guide your critical decisions?

The first step is to identify the stories that you tell yourself. You need to be willing to challenge your beliefs. It might be painful to make realisations around your life events.

But once you FEEL, you might just get that internal thrust to ​truly transform your life. Let's explore how you can bring that dormant potential in you to the surface.

Here's how you can analyse yourself...

​Like I briefly mentioned in the introduction, the first step is to cultivate awareness of yourself. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. But most of us continue living in delusion.

A certain set of people are afraid that accepting their weaknesses is equivalent to defeat. So they continue with their erratic behaviour patterns.

Let me tell you the story of Shane Duquette. He was a skinny guy and was always called out by his friends for his weakness. But instead of letting it affect him, he took it as a challenge. He started training hard and managed to put on more than 50 pounds. 

As his story started doing the rounds of internet forums, he built a profitable business out of his weakness.

Managing your weaknesses is dependent on you. You needn't fret over it.

​Similarly, another section of people suffer from constant doubt on their strengths. They have these occasional bursts when they feel all of their achievements are a fluke. And they are in reality a fraud.

If you're among this second kind, then you're suffering from impostor syndrome.

Shane Duquette mentions that even he suffered from this syndrome because the skinniness had become deeply rooted in his identity.​

There is a very simple way of changing your negative habits. Recognize one such habit and don’t do it for 66 days. It might sound tough, but it is like being in a de-addiction program. Take each day as it comes.

Why 66 days? It takes the brain 66 days to get accustomed to a new habit.

The University College London conducted a research study in the year 2009 to understand how much time it takes to form a habit. After examining 96 people over a period of three months, it was found that it takes 66 days for the brain to form a new habit.

Don’t view it as a long duration of 66 days

Every day, wake up and tell yourself “I won't do this today”. If you succeed in doing this for 66 days, your negative habit will go away.

Appreciate people around and be grateful

Look at the good things people are doing. Appreciation and gratitude go a long way in life. In truth, everybody is looking for some form of appreciation.

Thank your parents for bringing you up, appreciate your friends for being there, say thank you to the neighbor who helped you with something.Give a larger tip to the waiter who served you or get coffee for a hard-working colleague.Do something for someone who cannot give you anything in return.For example, a homeless person or an animal. Give them some food to eat or simply some water to drink. Not only will you feel great, but you will also feel “human”. And most of all, remember the following:

“Don’t be concerned about others not appreciating you. Be concerned about you not appreciating others.”

Research shows that being grateful actually improves physical well-being!

Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, professors in Department of Psychology, University of California carried out a research study on the effect of appreciation and gratitude on one’s physical and mental well-being. It was found that people who were grateful and appreciative exhibited immense physical and mental well-being.Quoting from the study “conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”

Appreciation isn’t limited to people alone. Go out and see the environment around you. Take in the fresh air, smell the flowers and listen to the chirping of the birds. Feel at one with nature. Do this for 10 minutes every day and see the difference it makes.

In fact there is a very good way to appreciate things around you. It is known as a “Three good things exercise”. Keep a journal and write down three good things that happened on that day. It could be something you saw or something which you did. A study carried out in 2005 by the University of Berkeley invited people to practice the “three good things exercise”. The participants reported feeling much better after doing it for just a week!

How to change your way of thinking

There is a reason why people do what they do. For example, a person who bullies you at work might be very insecure of himself or herself. Bullies don’t bully because they love to do so. They do so from a deep sense of feeling inadequate.

Similarly, if a person is always laughing hard, even at silly jokes, it means that they are very lonely. Once you understand why people do what they do, you will be at peace. You will learn to be more forgiving and to be more patient.

In a new study carried out by Florida Atlantic University and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, it was found that human behaviour is a direct result of the person and also of the situation he/she is in.

Another good thing is to stop being judgmental. This story will open your eyes.

Once a man got into a train in the New York Subway. He had two children with him. He sat down at a corner but his children kept standing. They started behaving strangely. Then they started crying very loudly. After hearing their loud crying for few minutes, some passengers asked the man to get down or to calm his children. He got up and on his way out he told them, “their mother just died, they just don’t know what to do”.

This story explains why being judgmental doesn’t help at all.​

Being judgmental without knowing anything is simply unkind. And it makes us unhappy.

Amy Cuddy is a professor at Harvard Business School and she studies why people are in the habit of judging others instantly. She, along with two other psychologists Peter Glick (Lawrence University) and Susan Fiske (Princeton University) recently learned that people judge others based on fixed criteria. The first one is whether the person has good intentions and the second one is whether he/she can actually act on those intentions.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them” - Mother Teresa
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How to forgive and forget

It may not always be easy to forgive people. For instance, it is very difficult to forgive a person who cheated on you. However, you have to look at it in a different way. That person is gone from your life today because of what he or she did. You are free from him or her.

You are not being cheated on anymore.

You can always forget about what happened and move on. Being in the past will only make you bitter and depressed. Being angry all the time because of what happened is only going to hurt you, and no one else.

According to a study conducted by Universitat Internacional de Catalunya and University of Munich, forgiveness has a direct impact on forgetting an incident!

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at others: you are the one who gets burned” - Buddha

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Tips to forgive and forget·

  • Admit to feelings of anger rather than admitting to feeling nothing at all. Then work on them to get them out of your system·
  • See if you can learn something from it.There are very high chances that you will.

Forgiveness isn’t a one-time thing. Practice it daily. Had a fight with your friend? Go ahead and call them up! Try to be the bigger person in situations like these.

Live clutter-free: Simplify your life

Life is actually very simple. It is we who complicate it. How do we make it complicated?

By over thinking!

Yes, over thinking is actually a thing.

For instance, you are on your way to work and you see somebody and wave at them. This somebody doesn’t wave back at you or even look at you. You start thinking that this person is avoiding you for no reason at all!Then you start wondering why!Then you start getting angry because you cannot find a valid reason!Then you start plotting ways to get back at the person for avoiding you!After wasting your whole day behind this, you meet the same person while leaving office. They are happy to see you and greet you. You ask them why they avoided you in the morning.Then they tell you that they didn’t even see you!

See? How over-thinking ruins our lives!

According to research conducted by Stanford University, overthinking actually kills our creativity.The results of the study showed that the participants who thought the least about what they were doing were more creative.

Tips to avoid over-thinking:

  • Take things as they are. See things as they are. Don’t start spinning elaborate tales in your mind as soon as something bad happens.
  • Clean up your desk. Clean up your room. Trash things you don’t need. Let go of that pair of jeans which doesn’t fit you anymore.In other words, make life simple!

Do not try to control everything

Everything happens for a reason. You may not see it immediately, but you will. And when you do, you will be a much happier person. We humans think we can control everything. However, can we really? Tomorrow, an earthquake might come and destroy everything we have. Sounds harsh, but it is entirely possible, right?

According to research done by Universidad de Spain, the Universidad de Deusto, Spain, and the University College London, control is an illusion. The following abstract confirms it.It was found that the illusion of control is so strong that human beings overestimate their power of controlling things which are beyond them. The results support the thinking that the more people think they can control a situation, the deeper is their illusion”.

Things which are in our control

  • Our breathing
  • Our talking
  • Our body language
  • Our Sleep
  • Our diet

Things which are not in our control

  • People and their actions
  • Natural Disasters
  • Situations
  • Environment

Do not try to control everything. Do not try to control people. Control is an illusion. We make it up to keep ourselves happy. Live your life happily. Make your existence count.

Conclusion

Being aware of our self is the key to everything. If you can think you can do something, you can actually do it. You should at least try. Giving up without trying will make you feel helpless.

Be aware that you can do it. That changes everything. You have the power to achieve everything you need.Notice how I said need and not want.Understand that there is a difference between “want” and “need”.We may not need everything we want, but we always need what we need.

So, do you have everything you need?



How to get (almost) whatever you want: 3 slow and painful steps

So, how many times is it that you have been told that you cannot get whatever you want in life?

Doesn’t matter.

You know why?

Because all of it was a well-framed lie. It was a lie constructed by people who failed and were too afraid to try again. It was a lie told to those who had that light in them which shone so bright that others could see it too.

It was also the lie which was told to people to keep them away from the journey of following their dreams in life because, well, those are not “real”.

Some said “follow your dreams” and others, “you will never get exactly what you want. So you might as well be content with what you have.”

Both these statements are true because you will never get what you want in life if you don’t work for it. Life is difficult.

But you can get (almost) everything you want by following the 3 steps I lay down for you in the article. There's also a caveat that I talk about towards the end of article.

Here goes step #1:

1. Make a plan to change your behavior

For whatever you want in life, you need to make a plan for moving forward and achieving it. I've already shown you in detail how you can create a personal plan for massive change.

The key though is execution. Trust the process and stay grounded. Even under uncertainty, stay patient. 

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social psychology, for an average person to acquire a new habit, it takes 2 months of time, or more (66 days to be exact).

If you are a late sleeper waking up early can feel a real uphill battle. So how about taking it gradually by getting up 10-15 minutes earlier than your usual wake up time? Maybe you can try sleeping in earlier. And say no to digital gadgets an hour before you arrive in bed.

All of the above "generic tips" will work. You've to just find out what works for you and focus on execution. 

According to researchers Neal and Wood, there are three ways you can change your “bad” habits or those which you want to get rid of:

  1. Remove the cues from your life which lead to habit-breaking behaviors. Like, keep junk food in inaccessible places so that you don't see them everyday (if you're trying to eat healthy food).

  2. Eat, sleep, love, repeat. Neal and Wood et al. believe that the key to habit-making is to repeat.

  3. Fit in cues into your life which leads to the behavior. For example, having a cup of herbal tea after lunch where having the meal would be the cue to having tea.

If you fail in implementing your plan (most people do), then don't fret. Analyze what went wrong and see if re-attempting the same plan makes sense. Else, try to set lower behavior changing parameters the next time and retry a different strategy.

2. Take responsibility and keep doing THIS...

It's easy and convenient to shift blame on external factors.

Late for a meeting? Blame traffic. Forgot about the assignment? Blame electricity.

But if you're serious about achieving success, you've to take responsibility for your behavioral slip-ups and all your actions.

You shouldn't blame others when it doesn't work out. You shouldn't blame your fate either.

So what should you do when your plans fail?

You've to bypass the emotional clout. Understand your emotions as they will drive your everyday decisions and thereby govern your progress towards your goals. 

John and Gross researched on how changing the way we look at emotion-provoking incidents in our lives can change our outlook. They found that by only changing our perspectives we can change our attitudes too.

See, you can either make a mess of your life. Else, create a wonderful life with the time you have and the opportunities you get.

The chain of the blame game will keep growing until you cut it. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos has inculcated a culture to "disagree and commit." In a team environment, often all the people aren't on the same page.

As an exemplary leader, it's your duty to disagree and question decisions. But once you commit, you do so wholly.

Similar should be the case with your life decisions. You need not wait to have 100% necessary information before you make a critical life decision. Make a decision at about 70% (like Amazon does) and aggressively move forward with that commitment.

Remember HUSTLE is all you got to do.​ Because that's the sole aspect in your control in the equation of success.

3. Have faith in yourself

It's cliched. And even may sound preachy. But to reach your goals, you've to believe in yourself. You'll receive criticism. Hate. Unknown aspects will spring up in your path.

You can't control the external events. But don't fall for the distractions and negativity around you. Deep down in your heart, you've to believe that you deserve everything that you work for.

No! You're not a fraud.​

Suppose, you wish to lose some pounds. Now, don't get all ambitious and set a hefty target. You don't need a few days or weeks. Set up small objectives and give yourself a pat on your back for achieving them.

Your efforts might fail to achieve desirous results. And your friends might turn their back on you. Now is your real test of character. So don't fall back. Take inspiration from J.K. Rowling. She tasted success only after failed relationships and experiencing grief in her life.

So how can you develop mental resilience to accept failures?

Ellis, Carette et al. found through an extended study that not only are our failures a way to educate ourselves, but our successes are good teachers too. Pointing towards a “systematic” way of learning, they concluded:

  1. Self-explanation (reflecting on our acts and finding why we succeeded or failed)

  2. Data verification (checking and analyzing the other probable ways to have approached the situation)

  3. And feedback (concluding whether the end product was failure or a win, and planning ahead)

Caveat: Prioritize

You cannot dream of achieving it all. Atleast not together. So you've to let go of the activities that deviate you from your main goal (path). Take help from Mr. Pareto when you're facing issues with time management and prioritizing.

The principle will help you find the high-value tasks that deserve your attention.

Remember, it's not about sequentially ticking off your to-do lists. Don't let routine take over and the motions of the day run you.

Conclusion

It's slow. Painful. And challenging. But if you're persistent, dedicated and determined, you can achieve almost whatever you set your eyes on. Just stay patient and keep hustling.

​Did you find the 3 steps useful? What is your number one takeaway from reading the article? Let me know in the comments below.