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The Method — the series

Here is The Method on how to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — in series form.

I find the Model and Method the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. The Model tells you how we work. The Method shows you how to use The Model to lead yourself and others and create the lifestyle you want.

I recommend reading The Model Series first, then reading this series for how to use it.

Before anything else, the Method begins with you knowing your emotional system — the foundation of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. You only have to learn it once in your life. From then on you may refine it or refresh your memory, but you won’t have to re-learn that you have a consistent, reliable, and predictable emotional system.

So I call the step of knowing your emotional system step 0. You only do it once in your life, then when you do the Method, you start at step 1 for each application.

The Method, step 0: know your emotional system

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Today’s post will be brief. The Method’s zeroth step is to know your emotional system. I call it step zero instead of step one because you only have to do it once in your life. All the other steps you do once per transformation, so when you want to change something later, you start at step one.

Knowing your emotional system amounts to having a model for your emotional system. I prefer my Model, but yours may differ and work for you. As long as you don’t believe emotions just happen randomly and you can’t do anything about them. My post on the Model gives the overview of it. This familiar diagram summarizes it.

reward environment beliefs emotions behavior

The Model

Keep in mind that the Model above is a starting point. Because its purpose includes ease in communicating it I simplified it at the expense of some important detail. I also know everyone is unique, as are their goals, so partly I leave out details so people can customize their Model for themselves. Maybe your Model will be a pentagon or have more arrows between elements.

You can customize your model for yourself and your goals. I designed mine to illustrate, not dictate. The point is to have a model for your emotional system.

I’ve asked myself what elements, if any, are essential for any model to be effective. I’ve concluded the model has to be at least systematic, meaning consistent, reliable, and predictable, but you may find otherwise.

The Method, step 1: understand your current emotional cycles

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

The Method’s zeroth step was a once-per-lifetime step. Once you understand your emotional cycle once, you can remember it all your life.

Step 1 begins the preparation for each situation: to understand your current emotional cycle. That means understanding its elements — the relevant environments, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors — and your constraints — what you can and can’t change and what you will and won’t change.

Your situation

For the elements, I recommend writing them out. Below are three examples of the elements to situations in my life when ripe for applying the Method.

Example 1: Before running a marathon

Before I first considered training for a marathon, the following elements roughly described the elements of my relevant emotional cycles.

  • Environments: Gym, bars, in front of tv
  • Beliefs/Perceptions: It’s superhuman, you have to be a born runner
  • Emotions: Futility, anxiety
  • Behaviors: Making excuses, running short distances or not running

The cycle probably looks familiar to anyone not in the physical condition they want. Now I recognize a situation like this as ripe for transforming. I could easily change the belief that running a marathon was superhuman with the overwhelming evidence of how many people run it. The conflicted emotions imply I could improve my reward a lot.

A friend running the marathon before me ended up changing my belief. He and I had similar ages and body types. I tend to believe that barring some obvious impossibility, if someone can do something I can too.

Example 2: Becoming more entrepreneurial

The following elements describe my situation while in graduate school, before my friends approached me with the idea of starting a company.

  • Environments: Labs, campus, other graduate students, professors
  • Beliefs/Perceptions: Einstein, Newton, academia was special, money crass
  • Emotions: Curiosity, dedication
  • Behaviors: Debugging, publishing, experimenting

Without their suggestion, starting a company would have been difficult with a situation as above.

Example 3: Improving public speaking

Here is another situation probably familiar to many, ripe for transformation.

  • Environments: In audience, reading books
  • Beliefs/Perceptions: It’s scary, you have to be born with it
  • Emotions: Fear, anxiety, pressure
  • Behaviors: Watching, thinking, sweating, heart racing

Looking back now, I relate that fear and anxiety with other transformations that have enriched my life tremendously, which makes it feel more like anticipation.

You can write situations like these out for yourself to understand your life better. Soon I’ll show what do to with the information, but awareness alone helps.

Constraints

Next is the issue of what you can and can’t change and what you will and won’t change. The next step will be to conceive of how to change your situation so you need to know your limits.

If you see your boss as a problem but for some reason you can’t change your job, you have to factor that constraint in. Maybe you have religious constraints or family obligations you won’t change. You probably know your constraints, but clarifying them helps.

I wouldn’t worry about having too many constraints. Rarely will they prevent you from feeling reward. On the contrary, they tend to give us direction and focus.

One way inspirational figures inspire us is by doing things we wouldn’t think we could with less than we have. Frederick Douglass taught himself and others reading, writing, and rhetoric while constrained significantly as a slave. Victor Frankl found meaning and purpose while in Auschwitz. Abraham Lincoln became President though born with no material advantages. Mohandas Gandhi led a nation without using violence.

Such people teach us what we are capable of, often not despite their constraints but by using them.

For the time being our goals are not yet to liberate a nation, but to learn how to lead and manage ourselves and others.

This exercise summarizes the above and has you perform step 1.

Next: the key part of steps 0 and 1: awareness

The Method: steps 0 and 1, awareness

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

The Method’s first two steps — knowing your emotional system and understanding your current emotional cycles — involve little action. They cover awareness.

The appeal to act on a situation you want to change quickly and decisively can tempt you. I advise against it, whether you are leading yourself or others.

Acting without awareness can point you in counterproductive directions. It can spur you to ever more action to make up for the initial wrong direction until you finally stop and reset yourself. I call acting that way reactive. Besides wasting your time, holding you back from your potential, and possibly worsening your life, reactive behavior puts you at the whim of others’ control. That’s why advertisers and politicians try to get you to act quickly.

Besides, building awareness takes little time and often no other resources.

Moreover, building awareness can reveal new solutions you may not have thought of otherwise. Pausing to do so will help all the more.

This post is short because everyone knows the value of awareness, so I don’t have to convince you of it. It’s here more so that when you’re acting purely reactively from having skipped these steps you’ll remember to step back and start from the beginning.

The Method, step 2: conceive of new emotions

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Step 2, the Method’s first active step, is to pick your direction, the key word being your. You will transform yourself based on your emotions, based on your wiring, meaning based on your values, meaning, and purpose. Not anyone else’s. You already clarified your boundaries in step 1 so you won’t do anything you consider wrong.

I recommend not going to steps 3 or 4 first, as much as picking emotions may seem to have less action than later steps. Your emotions are what create value, not your behavior, possessions, environment, and so on. If you get your emotions effectively, you’ll feel reward from creating them, which will keep you going. You’ll enjoy life.

If you don’t choose your emotions effectively, you won’t enjoy or feel reward and you’ll have to push yourself through emotional conflict until you give up or get lucky and stumble onto something rewarding. You’ll struggle.

The beauty of this step is that because of it, the more you transform your life, the more you make it consistent with what you consider important — your emotions, values, meaning, and purpose. Therefore the more you will live the life you want, free of external constraints other people impose on you.

Your next step will be to think of ways to create these emotions through changing the other three parts of your emotional cycle, so choose ones you’ll like to experience.

Here are new emotions that would fit with the three examples from step 1.

Running a marathon

New emotions: Excitement, dedication, discipline

Becoming more entrepreneurial

New emotions: Excitement, leadership, accountability

Improving Public Speaking

New emotions: Excitement, fun, nothing to lose

How do you choose what new emotions to adopt?

Besides choosing ones consistent with your wiring, the Method is based in taking responsibility and creating circumstances for oneself. One of the most effective ways to create situations and emotions you want is to use the principle “Don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can.” Blaming the world might make me feel better in the short-term, but blaming others (or “the world” or “the universe”) leads me to believe I don’t have the power to improve my situation so I don’t.

Another effective way to find new emotions is to find role models who do what you do and feel better about it than you. If you don’t love your job, find someone who loves their job and ask how they perceive it. If you want to get more fit, find someone who got fit from where you are now. You get the ides.

The Method, step 3: conceive of new environments, beliefs, and behaviors

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Now, with direction and boundaries set from steps 0, 1, and 2, we plan what we will do.

Step 3 is to think of new environments, beliefs, and behaviors

  • that will create the emotions you thought of in the last step
  • consistent with your constraints from step 1
  • consistent with each other (so you’ll create reward)

You can voluntarily choose and create your environments, beliefs, and behaviors. The challenge at this stage, before acting, is to find ones consistent with your wiring, constraints, and each other. This stage can take time at first, but gets easier and faster with practice, eventually becoming automatic.

You may have to iterate a few times to make sure you make everything consistent. In my seminars I have attendees do this step interactively with each other to see how it takes iteration and negotiation, though normally just with yourself. Iterating may take time, but it ensures that you’re transforming comprehensively, which ensures that the Method will succeed at least as well as any non-Method alternative.

Choosing environments, beliefs, and behaviors to create the emotions you want leads you to live according to your values, nobody else’s. It makes you resilient to feeling bad and to some extent to other people’s influence.

Choosing your environment, beliefs, and behavior consistent with each other means you will feel reward once the emotions become consistent with them. That means whatever happens in your life, no matter what emotions you feel related to whatever situation, when you start transforming that part of your life, you will feel reward. To do so is completely under your control and costs nothing. In other words, using the Method can lead to a rewarding lifestyle no matter what.

As you transform more parts of your life, more of it will bring you reward. Imagine that – a life rewarding in as many ways as you make it, in whatever combination of characteristics you want – long-term reward or short, rich and complex or simple, intense or subtle, or painful or pleasurable.

Here are a few examples of sets of environments, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors you might prefer regarding the example situations I mentioned in the Method, step 2.

The art of choosing the best set of environment, belief, and behavior for yourself and your situation comes with practice but can challenge you at first. How do you know they’ll be consistent? How do you know they’ll create the emotion you want. At first getting a good combination may be challenging. I’ll give guidelines for choosing in a later post.

Becoming More Entrepreneurial

I chose to create the following new emotions for this transformation: excitement, leadership, and accountability. What environments, beliefs, and behavior would create them?

New environments: Business school, VC offices, garage

New beliefs: You have to help people to make money, competition helps

New behaviors: Write business plan, present to VCs, hire people

I think you can see how much more this emotional cycle would motivate me to start a company than the old one.

Improving Public Speaking

I chose to create the following new emotions for this transformation: Excitement, fun, and having nothing to lose. What environments, beliefs, and behavior would create them?

 New environments: On stage, in front of crowd

 New beliefs: Speakers have high status, messing up is fun

 New behaviors: Speak, practice on camera, in mirror, prepare

 A cycle much more motivational for improving public speaking than before.

Running a marathon

I chose to create the following new emotions for this transformation: excitement, dedication, and discipline. What environments, beliefs, and behavior would create them?

 New environments: Central Park, with other runners, good shoes

 New beliefs: It’s a matter of training, less able people have done it

 New behaviors: Distance running, eating well, reading about running

 I hope you can see adopting new emotional cycles leads you to new directions, independent of where you started.

This exercise summarizes the above and has you do step 3 by yourself. This exercise has you do it with others.

The Method, step 4: Implement the environments, beliefs, and behaviors

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Now, with direction, boundaries, and goals set from steps 0, 1, 2, and 3 it’s time to act.

You can do the earlier steps quickly — with practice maybe a few minutes. You may even come to do them automatically without conscious effort. Step 4 can also happen quickly, as in my example below, but may take years.

Create and implement the cycles you planned in step 3

Step 4 is to implement the environments, beliefs, and behaviors you planned in step 3 to create the emotions you envisioned in step 2.

This step may not be easy, though if you did the previous steps, it will be rewarding. Changing environments may mean moving, changing jobs, changing whom you spend time with, and so on. Changing beliefs means starting to believe things you didn’t before to crowd out old beliefs. Though many people initially find changing beliefs challenging, it gets easier with practice. Changing behaviors may start with using willpower, but will eventually lead to new behaviors that seem natural. You may act and communicate differently, wear different clothes, and so on.

Since transformations rarely happen monotonically, it helps to prepare for challenging periods. One method I like is to overindulge in reward. When something in the new way of doing things makes you feel good, make sure to enjoy it fully. Tell people about it. If you hit a milestone, accomplish a target, get recognized for an achievement, or whatever, relishing and finding extra reward in the achievement will help motivate you in the moment and sustain you for difficult periods that may follow.

Likewise, it helps to downplay conflict. Transformations almost inevitably involve conflict as you test new environments, beliefs, and behaviors but you haven’t yet gotten rid of the old ones. You don’t know which will stick and which will leave. You only know that eventually a rewarding set of new ones will settle in to create lasting reward.

Perhaps the most effective way to motivate yourself through step 4 is to create accountability for yourself. Ask people to check in on you. Create a public blog. Create public deadlines. Most people get done what they’re accountable for. Since other people — often friends and family we’d want to help the most — are often our greatest sources of inertia, enlisting their help to hold us accountable involves them in the process and makes them sources of motivation.

This step is simple in principle — you just do what you came up with in step 3 — but can be hard and take a long time in practice. It helps to remember that however long it takes and hard it feels, it’s just one step and you know how it ends — making your lifestyle more rewarding and consistent with your values.

Some transformations happen fast and simple

Sometimes this step is quick and simple. I had an inspiring transformation that showed me how quickly and dramatically I could change. Like all too many guys, I grew up dressing to blend in. As I learned to become more outgoing, self-aware, and expressive, and had more stylish friends I decided to try dressing to express myself more, which meant wearing clothes that called more attention to me.

Those of you who never had to change styles or never chose to may not know the challenge of wearing more dramatic clothing for the first time after thirty-odd years of not doing so. It was scary. I didn’t know how to handle the pressure.

But something amazing happened one time wearing something particularly dramatic. I realized that walking down a New York City street, you could easily have a hundred unique human interactions involving people seeing you. Just walking down the street gave me as many interactions in fifteen minutes as in a year of, say, meeting venture capitalists to invest in my business. I interacted with hundreds of people, all judging me, at least in my mind, and no problems resulting. I learned I could dress more stylishly. My beliefs changed.

In other words, I got well on the way to completing a major transformation in less than an hour. For that matter, that transformation taught me something as meaningful and liberating as things that took me years to figure out — that people are generally too busy with their own thoughts (often judging themselves) to judge others. I was busy thinking about myself, wondering what they’d think of me. They were thinking of themselves, probably not knowing or caring about me. A very liberating realization.

That transformation also told me never to expect a transformation to be long or hard, no matter how deep or challenging it might seem before starting it. It helped me learn that I can in moments change beliefs I’ve held deeply and never challenged my whole life.

Examples

Becoming More Entrepreneurial

In the first example from step 3, if you want to become more entrepreneurial, you might implement steps like the following.

New environments: Business school, VC offices, garage

New beliefs: You have to help people to make money, competition helps

New behaviors: Write business plan, present to VCs, hire people

If you came from a background like mine you might take classes in business school, meet venture capitalists in their offices, and experiment in your garage. You might get yourself to belief that to make money you have to help people (well, I had to believe that; not everybody does) and that competition is healthy. You might write a business plan for your company, present it to venture capitalists, and find a team to hire.

Improving Public Speaking

If you wanted to improve you public speaking skills and had picked new environments, beliefs, and behaviors like these

 New environments: On stage, in front of crowd

 New beliefs: Speakers have high status, messing up is fun

 New behaviors: Speak, practice on camera, in mirror, prepare

you’d put them into practice. You’d find ways to get on stages in front of crowds. You’d believe that speaking gave you status and find fun in messing up. You might speak publicly as often as you could, get a camera and practice in front of it or just in the mirror. You’d prepare more for speaking engagements.

Running a marathon

If you wanted to run a marathon and chose the following environments, beliefs, and behaviors

 New environments: Central Park, with other runners, good shoes

 New beliefs: It’s a matter of training, less able people have done it

 New behaviors: Distance running, eating well, reading about running

you’d spend more time running in Central Park, you’d make friends or spend time with more runners, and you’d get great shoes to run in. You’d believe running a marathon wasn’t about what muscles you were born with but how you trained and that however hard training felt, if others did it you could too. You’d run more distance, eat appropriately, and read about runners and their techniques.

The Method: implementation overview

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

We’ve covered the preparation stages of transforming a part of your life to bring more reward by choosing environments, beliefs, and behaviors based on your interests. Of course your life changes all the time whether you intentionally cause those changes or not. Using the Method, based on the Model, lets you do it systematically, intentionally, and makes you more likely to succeed than alternatives.

Now let’s look at how the transformation evolves in your life over the next few posts.

Unplanned life changes can start and unfold unpredictably. Planned structured ones like intentional transformations following the Method can unfold unpredictably too, but tend to follow a more structured route.

I tend to think of the route when I transform a part of my life following three stages. You don’t have to look at the change as going through stages. Or you could think of different stages. I think of three stages. I’ll give each its own post.

  1. Transition – starting the transformation, before you’ve changed much
  2. Support – after you changed a few things
  3. Regular life – after completing the transformation

And here is an illustration of these steps.

In general, transformations take on the characteristics of the emotions in the cycle you’re working on. Changing long-term cycles usually takes longer. Changing intense cycles can require intense effort. Changing subtle cycles may require subtle changes.

I never want to imply that transformations must take time or effort. Of course, done through the Method they will always be rewarding, but long-term changes can happen in an instant so I don’t want to create expectations that become self-fulfilling prophecies slowing changes that could happen faster, bringing about a life you want faster.

The Method: implementation stage 1: a caveat

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

I should note a caveat for the transition stage. Since this stage involves conflict, feeling fake, and overcoming inertia, you may use a lot of willpower. How do you know you’re moving in a direction that improves your life? How do you know you aren’t pushing hard on something that you thought would help but isn’t?

The best answer is through experience. After a few transformations you pick up the subtle cues that show inertia decreasing or that what seemed feeling fake at the beginning also carried feelings of exploration and discovery. For example, if you tried a new style of clothing or haircut, it could happen that everyone you know and trust tells you they don’t like it, but one person you don’t know from a social circle you want to join tells you it looks great. You may learn that one comment trumps all the others, no matter how much your trust and value your other friends.

It’s just like how new clothing may feel uncomfortable, but if a few people you’re attracted to tell you it looks good on you, you tend to find it more comfortable each time.

You’ll know the transformation at least has a chance of taking root when the environments, beliefs, and behaviors bring about the emotions you want. When you feel reward, you’ll know you’re on track. With experience, you’ll detect ever subtler feelings of reward and even know where the reward will come and how before it happens.

If you never feel reward at all, you have to ask if you should keep pushing in the hopes reward will come or if you should let go and put your efforts some place else, perhaps to come back later. If you push too hard without reward you may reinforce beliefs contrary to your goals, like a New Year’s Resolution.

What about when you’re starting and don’t yet have that experience?

I’ll write in more depth later on how to start initial transformations, but I recommend starting with simple transformation with relatively low risk, partly because they’re easier and partly to enable you to build experience. My home run after three strikes story is a great example. It took less than an hour. The stakes were low: if the experiment didn’t work my night would have been no worse than I started and I would have learned something. My other two simple examples also work to show you how transitions work.

If you’re starting using the Method for the first time and you just have to use it on some intense part of your life deeply connected to all other parts, I recommend finding a few places to practice first. As I mentioned, I’ll cover later how to find simple places to start.

So if you don’t have experience, start small or in cases where you have nothing to lose. If you feel compelled to jump into challenging cases… well, just look forward to learning from them. Using the Method won’t do any worse than alternatives.

The Method: implementation stage 1: transition

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

You can usually do the preparation stages of transforming a part of your life easily since you can do them yourself, without someone else. Working with other people usually makes things more complex. Still, you generally do benefit from involving others. Because they have different perspectives and can see your life from further away, their comments usually help.

At the end of the preparation stages you have two sets of environments, beliefs, and behaviors in mind — your current one and your desired one. You know your current situation so, however little reward it brings, you know how to get the reward it does bring and whatever emotions you want from it. You know what other parts of your life it conflicts or harmonizes with. Your desired situation you know less about.

I call this stage the transition stage because you are still mostly in the old stage, but moving toward the new one. The transition involves change. After many successful transformations you’ll find this change invigorating and encouraging. Leaders, for example, challenge and push themselves in new directions all the time. Those who don’t may find themselves stagnating.

Your first few transformations may not cause you to feel invigorated and encouraged. You may feel conflict and difficulty in changing. The new you, before it takes root, may feel fake, like you’re acting.

At first, the new environments, beliefs, and behaviors you implement will conflict. They may conflict with other parts of your life. If you’re transforming into an area you know little about, they may conflict with each other. You may not know which parts of your new or old self you are keeping or getting rid of.

For example, while I was starting Submedia, I still dressed like a graduate student, clashing with venture capitalists’ or clients’ offices. At first I didn’t understand the difference between equity and debt, a problem when attempting to raise funds.

At first you have inertia because the old parts of your life you are changing tie in with other parts, meaning to change those old parts you have to change others. These connections can slow your pace and make you wonder if the change is worth it.

Finally, the new you may feel fake. You still know the values by which you lived as the old you. You don’t know which values you will keep or lose as you become the new you. You will come to value this feeling of foreignness as a signal that you are going through a meaningful change, not accepting mere comfort to guide you. Without that feeling you wouldn’t know that the change you are going through is significant. Until you know how much of the old you you will keep and how much of the anticipated new you you will accept, you don’t know which values you will end up with. In general, though, the beginning of any meaningful change in your life will give you some feelings of foreignness or fakeness.

I will return to this feeling in the third stage, when feelings of deeper genuineness and authenticity replace these initial feelings of fakeness. If you know where you want to go, you’ll come to find the old you, the one you crowd out, more fake than you realized. The new you seemed fake from the old one’s perspective, but the new you will feel more genuine after the transformation than it felt fake before.

These three effects of conflict, inertia, and feeling fake make the transformation challenging. None of these problems, as we’ll see, are deal-breakers.

The Method: implementation stage 1: a caveat

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

I should note a caveat for the transition stage. Since this stage involves conflict, feeling fake, and overcoming inertia, you may use a lot of willpower. How do you know you’re moving in a direction that improves your life? How do you know you aren’t pushing hard on something that you thought would help but isn’t?

The best answer is through experience. After a few transformations you pick up the subtle cues that show inertia decreasing or that what seemed feeling fake at the beginning also carried feelings of exploration and discovery. For example, if you tried a new style of clothing or haircut, it could happen that everyone you know and trust tells you they don’t like it, but one person you don’t know from a social circle you want to join tells you it looks great. You may learn that one comment trumps all the others, no matter how much your trust and value your other friends.

It’s just like how new clothing may feel uncomfortable, but if a few people you’re attracted to tell you it looks good on you, you tend to find it more comfortable each time.

You’ll know the transformation at least has a chance of taking root when the environments, beliefs, and behaviors bring about the emotions you want. When you feel reward, you’ll know you’re on track. With experience, you’ll detect ever subtler feelings of reward and even know where the reward will come and how before it happens.

If you never feel reward at all, you have to ask if you should keep pushing in the hopes reward will come or if you should let go and put your efforts some place else, perhaps to come back later. If you push too hard without reward you may reinforce beliefs contrary to your goals, like a New Year’s Resolution.

What about when you’re starting and don’t yet have that experience?

I’ll write in more depth later on how to start initial transformations, but I recommend starting with simple transformation with relatively low risk, partly because they’re easier and partly to enable you to build experience. My home run after three strikes story is a great example. It took less than an hour. The stakes were low: if the experiment didn’t work my night would have been no worse than I started and I would have learned something. My other two simple examples also work to show you how transitions work.

If you’re starting using the Method for the first time and you just have to use it on some intense part of your life deeply connected to all other parts, I recommend finding a few places to practice first. As I mentioned, I’ll cover later how to find simple places to start.

So if you don’t have experience, start small or in cases where you have nothing to lose. If you feel compelled to jump into challenging cases… well, just look forward to learning from them. Using the Method won’t do any worse than alternatives.

The Method: implementation stage 2: support

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Once the elements of a transformation start supporting each other the transformation starts to feel like it will take root. You may still feel some inertia, fakeness, and conflict between the old and new you, but decreasingly.

Examples of elements supporting each other include

  • After starting a new hobby (behavior) you start meeting others who do the same hobby
  • People compliment you on losing weight
  • People you meet in new circles of friends or colleagues have mutual friends
  • Confirmation biases start reinforcing new beliefs

and so on.

You also start feeling reward from new cycles as the elements in them resonate with each other. That reward means you decreasingly need to use willpower.

Once you start feeling some reward, you generally don’t doubt if the transformation will work out at all, as described in the caveat for stage 1.

By this stage, while you could slide back if you let up and had attachments to the old you, completing the transformation is usually a matter of time.

The Method: transformations, stage 3: regular life

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Eventually a transformation’s new environments, beliefs, and behaviors synchronize completely with each other. The cycle you changed brings the emotions you want and reward.

At this stage this cycle becomes a part of your regular life, a life now more rewarding for the change.

You haven’t replaced the old you. In circumstances where the new you fits you crowd out the old part of you. In situations where the old you belongs, the old you comes out. In my life, for example, by the time I was a full-time CEO of the company I co-founded, I no longer identified primarily as a physicist. Still, when I met with my old classmates or professors, I could return to identifying myself as a physicist (though less able to solve the harder problems I once could).

Likewise, after having had a couple solo gallery shows in New York City, having installed a few large public works, and having taught at world-class art schools, identifying as an artist became a part of my regular life.

I started blogging less than a year ago and at just under 400 posts, I feel like blogging is part of my regular life, especially now that I post two or three posts a day, including the North Korea and My Art pages.

As the new you becomes part of your regular life and all the elements in it resonate to bring you reward, the fakeness you felt earlier not only dissipates, feelings of authenticity greater than the feelings of fakeness will crowd the fake feelings out.

For example, if you wanted to take on new leadership responsibilities at work, but held back because you didn’t feel confident, you might have felt fake the first time you took on those responsibilities. If you made that move a transformation by changing your environments, beliefs, and behaviors in sync, you might eventually make the new role a part of your regular life. Once comfortable with the new roles and responsibilities, you might recall how you held back from taking them on as a sign of being fearful and fake.

Or if you always wanted to dress more stylishly but felt awkward or that you stood out too much in them, you might, after wearing the new clothes a few times and getting complimented on them by stylish people, feel fake going back to khakis and boring clothes. Or even just thinking of how you used to wear them.

Each completed transformation creates a building block for a new lifestyle. Completing one makes the next one easier. Transforming more and more parts of your life creates a more and more rewarding lifestyle. As you transform cycles with different combinations of characteristics, you get reward of different characteristics. A good life gives you reward across all combinations of characteristics from all different cycles.

But that’s for later posts. For now we’re just covering one transformation.

The Method: illustration of implementation stages

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Here is an illustration of the implementation stages of step 4 of the Method.

  1. Overview
  2. Transition (also a caveat)
  3. Support
  4. Regular life

The Method: example 1: a home run after three strikes

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

This example illustrates my first by-the-book implementation of the Model and Method. I don’t pretend that the change was earth-shattering or bigger than it was because the magnitude of the change was not the point. The point was that the Method produced the results exactly as expected despite countervailing emotions and that I could repeat it on a bigger scale later.

That was the home run. To be able to make yourself feel how you want by living according to your values while being resilient to arbitrary mood swings improves your life. You could say call it the most important thing in life.

The situation before

One night a few years ago I had planned to have dinner with a friend, watch a World Series game, and go out for a few drinks afterward. My friend ended up having a cold that night and it rained, so the three strikes were that he couldn’t go out after dinner, the game was delayed, and there would be fewer people out that night because of the rain.

I don’t know about you, but when I plan to go out and have fun, I don’t like ending up at home instead. But after three strikes I know I can resign myself to watching television without feeling bad. In any case, I found myself walking home feeling resigned, an emotion I knew I prefer not to feel.

I realized, having developed a Method to bring about whatever emotion I wanted, this evening would be the perfect opportunity to test it. It wouldn’t be a double-blind controlled experiment, but my purposes didn’t demand that level of rigor. I only wanted to see if it would work for myself. Moreover, I recognized my emotional resignation improved this test, since it could show that the Method could work despite emotions motivating me in the opposite direction.

Know your emotional system

I already did the first step of knowing my emotional system by understanding the Model. Of course, the better you know it the better your results, but I knew it well enough the an experiment.

Understanding my current emotional cycle

The Method begins with awareness because planning or action without awareness can easily create counterproductive results. I began by assessing the emotional cycle that led to my feelings of resignation.

Environment: in the rain, my friend sick, few people out, no World Series game to watch

Beliefs: I had tried and things weren’t working, trying again was not likely to succeed, what’s the point?

Emotions: resignation, futility

Behavior: walking home, walking with my head down, wondering what else was on television

As the Model explains, my emotions involuntarily followed from the environment, beliefs, and behavior, so they depend on the voluntary elements of the emotional cycle. Though in general I can choose my environment and beliefs, anyone could say circumstances beyond my control led to a situation where walking home and watching television was my best option.

The Method is based in taking responsibility and creating circumstances for yourself. One of the most effective ways to bring about situations and emotions you want is to use the principle “Don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can.” Blaming the world might make me feel better in the short-term, but blaming others (or “the world” or “the universe”) leads me to believe I don’t have the power to do improve my situation.

Conceive of consistent environment, beliefs, and behaviors

As we’ll see, we want to pick environments, beliefs, and behaviors consistent with the emotions we want to bring those emotions about, consistent with each other to bring reward about, and consistent with what we will and won’t or can or can’t change.

I looked at what I could and couldn’t change and realized I could bring about emotions I’d prefer to resignation consistent with what I couldn’t change. In particular, I conceived of the following set of environments, beliefs, and behaviors that would be consistent with each other and myself.

Again, I don’t pretend the change to be earth-shattering, just that the Method worked as predicted, despite countervailing emotions, suggesting I could do it bigger later. What could improve your life more than the ability to make yourself feel better when you wanted through living consistently with your values?

Environment: at the places I would have gone with my friend, but by myself

Beliefs: that I can make friends anywhere on my own, that my social skill are that good (I didn’t grow up with great social skills so had to learn them through great challenge to be able to adopt this belief)

Emotions: friendliness, fun

Behavior: to go out and talk to people, tell stories, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company; to approach strangers and befriend them.

In other words, I decided to go out on my own and have the fun I would have had with my friend by myself.

Implement them

I did what I planned. I walked to a nearby bar (environment) reinforcing beliefs that I had developed my social skills enough that I could talk to anyone and start a conversation we’d both enjoy (beliefs). I entered the bar and approached a few people and began conversations (behavior).

Results

Within thirty minutes I felt friendly and outgoing and was enjoying myself – feeling exactly the emotions I anticipated. In fact, I couldn’t conjure up the feelings I had had just before that had motivated my to stay in. Though I had begun by using willpower, soon my emotions kicked in and motivated me without conscious mental effort.

I realized that with the Method working so much as I expected, I could use it to bring about whatever emotions and reward I wanted.

Again, we’ve all gone out when we weren’t in the mood but found ways to enjoy ourselves. I’m not calling merely going out and having fun a big deal. I’m calling the predictability and independence important.

Recognizing I had that independence and that with practice I could bring about the emotions I wanted through conscious effect and that I would be resilient to feeling how I wouldn’t want was the home run.

The Method: example 2: overwhelming joy on a bleak morning

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Today’s example of using the Method came a year after yesterday’s. That one was my first by-the-book implementation and test of the Method, this one was my first automatic implementation. I had practiced it enough to internalize it enough I did it without thinking about it. Since it happened informally, I won’t describe it as formally as yesterday’s example, which I did do more formally.

I had been out late with friends the night before an 8:30am yoga class at a new studio I wanted to try. Not sure that night if I preferred the class or sleeping in, I turned off my alarm when I went to sleep around 4am and told myself if I woke up on my own I’d go.

Lo and behold I woke up just before 8am, giving just enough time to make it if I hurried. Unfortunately, I realized what woke me up — I had developed a runny nose overnight. On top of that, the temperature outside had dropped fifteen degrees overnight too. I stuck with my plan and rushed to the studio, barely making it on time.

I blustered in to… an empty studio. What was going on?

The receptionist asked if she could help me.

“I’m here for the 8:30 session.”

“Are you sure? Our first session is at 9:45.”

Huh?!?

I later learned a bug showed the wrong time on the studio’s web page. The pre-Model, pre-Method me would have found that bug out (by pestering the staff), found a reason to demand the studio make good on the error, which would have been an odd demand from someone who was using a free pass (my friend was an instructor there). The upshot is I would have found a way to be right, but also miserable and argumentative.

Now let’s review the morning so far: four hours sleep, runny nose, and hurried in the cold all for nothing. I could have stayed in bed. The old me would have reacted to each of these occurrences with frustration, indignation, self-righteousness, or some similar emotion, evaluating the situation as bad or negative and myself as a victim deserving restitution. As it was, instead of evaluating them, I simply observed them as occurrences, neither positive nor negative.

So what did I do? I thought to myself, “Here I am. I can’t take the yoga class I wanted to. What can I do?” I remembered they had luxurious showers with those cool natural pebble floors, better than in my home, so I decided to shower. Then I remembered they had saunas there. It dawned on me I had wanted to relax in those saunas, but wouldn’t have had time. Now I could, so I did.

So far, I had maintained my mood at neutral despite a half-dozen things that would have frustrated or annoyed an earlier me, a meaningful life improvement.

Two things then happened, better than neutral.

The first was while relaxing in the sauna, not thinking about anything in particular, the solution to a problem that had been nagging me for weeks popped into my head. Until then I hadn’t even realized how to frame the problem, let alone solve it. Then here, relaxed, the solution popped into my head.

It showed me the Method doesn’t just bring about what emotion you want, like a magic pill. It makes you measurably more productive and able to live your life how you want. Which led to the second thing.

Realizing I could consistently bring about the emotions I want meant I never had to experience an emotion I didn’t want to. Now I realized I had learned to do it without thinking about it. What an amazing realization! Of course, sometimes unrewarding emotions are appropriate to a situation, and I could choose to experience them, but many times life deals you emotions you prefer to change.

Now I knew how to do so, and I could consistently, reliably, and predictably. I could share the technique with others. And this led me a nearly transcendently rewarding feeling – I hope you know this feeling – of feeling so good you wish you could share it with others

The Method: example 3: two simple but effective examples

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Today’s examples of the Method are simple but effective so they illustrate the Method well as well as how to use it.

The first is an effect you probably already know. Everyone knows feeling happy tends to make you smile. Most people also know that it works the other way too: smiling makes you feel happy. For that matter, showing any emotion’s facial expression tends to create that expression’s mood in you.

Recall that from your emotional system’s perspective, your body is part of its environment. So putting a smile or any other expression on your face involves using your behavior to influence your environment. Since your emotions react to the other three elements of an emotional cycle, as long as your beliefs don’t overly contradict the mood your face projects, your emotions will follow suit.

For your mood to be consistent with your facial expression makes sense evolutionarily for a social species like ours. The ability to project one motivation while behaving according to another — also known as deception — could damage a community if doing so were too easy. It seems plausible for us to have evolved to behave consistently with our expressions. Actors have to practice years to behave like someone else and even then they often learn to “become” the other person so that they can convey “truth,” not lies.

Of course, when you only change your expression, you change your emotions on a short time scale since expressions fade within minutes. Besides, just changing your expression doesn’t change your beliefs. You probably couldn’t make yourself happy for hours just by forcing a smile. Nonetheless, the practice illustrates how the Method works for this range of characteristics.

If you wanted to feel happy for hours, this example suggests that finding a behavior consistent with happiness that lasted hours would prompt a happiness that lasted hours, though you’d probably have to adopt beliefs consistent with happiness for it to work that long.

In my experience, when I try to act happy or any other emotion long enough, eventually I start feeling that way. Most people readily accept this pattern for unpleasant emotions. For example, if you stay in on a night when all your friends go out, you likely expect to feel lonely. Well, you can just as easily evoke joy.

Today’s other simple example is the Body Language exercise from my Social Skills Exercise series. I usually start my seminars with this exercise, so in person I can ask people to remember how they felt doing the exercise as well as other specific questions about the experience. I recommend trying it yourself now.

The Body Language exercise has people adopt body languages consistent with different emotions along with everyone else in the room, creating a greater effect than just smiling. Within a minute, people change their emotions 180 degrees — everyone in the room at the same time. Talk about consistency and predictability — exactly what we want in techniques to change our lives.

When I ask people at the seminars if changing their body language caused them to genuinely feel the new emotions of if they just faked them, they universally say they genuinely felt the new emotions.

You can think of doing either of these examples as early exercises in the Method. You’ll see you’ve done all the parts of the Method before. The Method only systematically combines what you already know how to do.

I made these last points to help lower the barrier to effectively doing the Method.

The Method from another perspective

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Recalling the illustration of the Method from a couple posts ago, I present the Method as a four-step cycle (steps 1-4), grounded in knowing your emotional system (step 0).

  1. Know your emotional system
  2. Understand your relevant emotional cycles and constraints (plus an extra note on points 0 and 1, on awareness)
  3. Conceive of new emotions
  4. Conceive of new environments, beliefs, and behaviors
  5. Implement the environments, beliefs, and behaviors

From this perspective, after transforming part of your life, you end up at the start, ready to start transforming something else. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s a bigger picture.

From another perspective you’ve changed. You’ve moved in a different dimension, as illustrated by the series of illustrations below. Instead of thinking of moving in circle, you move in a helix, or three-dimensional spiral (I made the best animation I could).







The distance you moved up is how much your life changed. If you change your life randomly, not based in self-awareness, you will move in random directions.

When you change your life based in self-awareness, you improve your life, as illustrated schematically here.

When you move up you increase your

  • Experience
  • Reward
  • Ability to transform again
  • Expectation of success, which equals motivation.

By the way, while in other posts I’ve written how I find using judgmental language or calling emotions positive or negative counterproductive to improving your life, in the case of changing your life based on the Method, I use judgmental language and call it improving. Since you are evaluating your life and your emotions by your standards, not by anybody else’s, you have no ambiguity between different standards.

When you consider your life better, it’s better.

Tomorrow let’s look at the effect of many such changes — that is, the effect of many transformations based in self-awareness.

Recalling the illustration of the Method from a couple posts ago, I present the Method as a four-step cycle (steps 1-4), grounded in knowing your emotional system (step 0).

  1. Know your emotional system
  2. Understand your relevant emotional cycles and constraints (plus an extra note on points 0 and 1, on awareness)
  3. Conceive of new emotions
  4. Conceive of new environments, beliefs, and behaviors
  5. Implement the environments, beliefs, and behaviors

From this perspective, after transforming part of your life, you end up at the start, ready to start transforming something else. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s a bigger picture.

From another perspective you’ve changed. You’ve moved in a different dimension, as illustrated by the series of illustrations below. Instead of thinking of moving in circle, you move in a helix, or three-dimensional spiral (I made the best animation I could).







The distance you moved up is how much your life changed. If you change your life randomly, not based in self-awareness, you will move in random directions.

When you change your life based in self-awareness, you improve your life, as illustrated schematically here.

When you move up you increase your

  • Experience
  • Reward
  • Ability to transform again
  • Expectation of success, which equals motivation.

By the way, while in other posts I’ve written how I find using judgmental language or calling emotions positive or negative counterproductive to improving your life, in the case of changing your life based on the Method, I use judgmental language and call it improving. Since you are evaluating your life and your emotions by your standards, not by anybody else’s, you have no ambiguity between different standards.

When you consider your life better, it’s better.

Tomorrow let’s look at the effect of many such changes — that is, the effect of many transformations based in self-awareness.

Recalling the illustration of the Method from a couple posts ago, I present the Method as a four-step cycle (steps 1-4), grounded in knowing your emotional system (step 0).

  1. Know your emotional system
  2. Understand your relevant emotional cycles and constraints (plus an extra note on points 0 and 1, on awareness)
  3. Conceive of new emotions
  4. Conceive of new environments, beliefs, and behaviors
  5. Implement the environments, beliefs, and behaviors

From this perspective, after transforming part of your life, you end up at the start, ready to start transforming something else. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s a bigger picture.

From another perspective you’ve changed. You’ve moved in a different dimension, as illustrated by the series of illustrations below. Instead of thinking of moving in circle, you move in a helix, or three-dimensional spiral (I made the best animation I could).







The distance you moved up is how much your life changed. If you change your life randomly, not based in self-awareness, you will move in random directions.

When you change your life based in self-awareness, you improve your life, as illustrated schematically here.

When you move up you increase your

  • Experience
  • Reward
  • Ability to transform again
  • Expectation of success, which equals motivation.

By the way, while in other posts I’ve written how I find using judgmental language or calling emotions positive or negative counterproductive to improving your life, in the case of changing your life based on the Method, I use judgmental language and call it improving. Since you are evaluating your life and your emotions by your standards, not by anybody else’s, you have no ambiguity between different standards.

When you consider your life better, it’s better.

Tomorrow let’s look at the effect of many such changes — that is, the effect of many transformations based in self-awareness.

The Method: long-term growth from many transformations

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Yesterday’s post showed how one transformation — that is, one application of the Method — not only cycles you back to start a new transformation, it also changes you, which you can see from another perspective.

You can think of one transformation as one loop of a helix, or upward spiral. Since each transformation increases your self-awareness and emotional intelligence, each time you improve your life, you’ll have more ability and motivation to improve your life again.

So you’ll likely do more transformations, making many loops in this upward spiral, like this one.

Each transformation not only improves your life, but also enables you to improve it yet more the next time. Some changes you can expect in the long term include

  1. A better, more rewarding life
  2. Easier improvement
  3. Bigger transformations
  4. More emotional intelligence
  5. Greater self-awareness
  6. Better social skills
  7. Improved leadership
  8. More genuineness
  9. More authenticity
  10. More being yourself
  11. Greater freedom

You may see changes in other areas, skip some of these, or experience them in different orders. Freedom to be yourself may or may not be your ultimate destination. You may end up being the best father, mother, entrepreneur, actor, or whatever brings you reward.










The Method: improving your life as much as you want is all based on one cycle

[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

As the Tao Te Ching says,

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Yesterday’s post described and illustrated the long-term potential of improving your life through self-awareness — freedom, genuineness, authenticity, and more.

Remember, all this life improvement rests on one transformation cycle, doing it once or twice, and getting the hang of it. So no matter how much you want to change your life — your relationships, your job, your hobbies, whatever — it all boils down to learning on skill. That big long arrow that goes from where you are now to the person and lifestyle you dream of, full of reward and whatever emotions you want, consists of many small rewarding cycles. In a sense, once you begin the process, you effectively are there.

Certainly there are other ways to improve your life than the Method I described, but it works consistently, reliably, and predictably, and is rewarding.

Once you transform once or twice, experience the reward and improvement it brings, and realize you can expect more results from doing it more, you realize repeating the process can improve your life non-stop forever.

While this idea is straightforward in principle, it can take time and resources, especially step 4, implementation and its three implementation stages.

Implementation means changing part of your life. Sometimes changes happen overnight or in minutes. Sometimes they take years. As always, performing them through the Method makes them rewarding.

I will write more on how to do your first transformations, how to make them easier, and various other ways to put the Model and the Method into practice, but it’s all still based in this foundation.

To me covering the Model and Method — the material I cover in the first half of my seminar — tells you all you need to know to improve your life, to lead better, to win friends and influence people, and so on. I get more comments that people like the second half more. I call that part “where the rubber hits the road,” since it relates more directly to your life.

So for most of you who have read through about the Model and the Method, the best is yet to come.