[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.
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.