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How to Change Your Life (6 Step Blueprint)

Every day, people wake up and tell themselves that they are going to change their lives, but they never do.

Why?

It’s not because of a lack of urgency. And it’s certainly not due to a lack of motivation.

Usually, what it comes down to is the system.

Most people fail to change their life before they even start because their system for behavior change is flawed.

In today’s article, I’m going to lay out a simple 7 step blueprint for how to change your life by focusing on habits as opposed to goals. 

When you have the right system in place for change, you’re already ahead of the 95% of people who want the things that you want. So let’s dive into the framework that will help you radically change your life in the next 365 days.

 

Step #1: Make a Commitment to Embrace Discomfort

 

The things you want. The person you want to become. The goals you have. 

What do they all have in common? They all require you to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Change isn’t the fun and joyful process that people want it to be. You have to choose to embrace fear and discomfort something we are not wired to do.

Your brain is programmed to fight any action that goes against the status quo. It’s only goal is to keep you alive, and any behavior that is a deviation from your standard routine is viewed as a threat to your survival.

Your brain would literally rather die than help you become a completely different person. So that’s what you’re up against.

Now, before you start mapping out your plan to leave the 99% in the dust, what you’re going to do first is record a video of yourself.

This video will serve as a reminder for the type of person you want to become and the life that you want to live. That way, when you find yourself questioning the journey, you can go back to this video and remind yourself what you’re after.

It doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to be a short video reminding yourself that overcoming fear and experiencing discomfort is necessary for you to have the life you want. 

Finish the video by talking about the pain of regret. Emphasize the fact that you don’t want to get to the end of your life with regrets about the changes you failed to make in your life.

Keep this video private and save it to a specific folder on your phone/computer.

 

how to change your life -- embracing fear

 

Step #2: Figure Out Your Desired Identity

 

Once you made the personal video, we can start mapping out your plan for how to change your life.

Conventional wisdom claims that the best way to achieve what we want in life — getting into better shape, building a successful business, spending more time with friends and familyis to set specific, actionable goals.

I disagree wholeheartedly. And here’s why.

Goals are about targets — they focus on the outcomes you want to achieve as opposed to the type of person you’d like to become.

Think about it. When you say you want to lose 50 pounds, what are you really saying? Well, you’re saying that you want to become healthier.

When you say that you want to read 50 books this year, what are you really saying? You’re saying that you want to become a voracious reader.

Look at this another way. If you have a 50 to lose pounds in 6 months, but only lose 33, did you hit your goal? Nope, you missed it by 17 pounds.

But what if your goal was simply to become a healthier person? Does losing 33 pounds mean you reached that goal? 

Absolutely.

When it comes to behavior change, you don’t want to tie your success to arbitrary targets.

Despite what you’ve watched on Youtube, or what you’ve read online, you don’t need to set specific, actionable goals in order to change your life.

All you need to do is figure out who you want to become, and then create a system of habits that align with that identity. Do that and reaching your goals will become inevitable.

But that’s later, let’s get back the action steps for the blueprint of how to change your life. 

Start off by simply writing down ideas for the identity that you want to develop. Think about who you want to become and use this sentence as a format:

 

I want to become {fill in the blank}

 

Examples:

  • I want to become a healthier person
  • I want to become a better spouse
  • I want to become more productive
  • I want to become more confident

 

Write down anything that comes to your mind. 

Once you’ve got about 5-10 ideas down, you need to narrow down the list to one desired identity.

One key mistake that people make when it comes to behavior change is focusing on more than one change at a time. They spin their wheels trying to stick to 3-4 different habits at once and end up no closer to their goals.

In order to leverage your time in the most efficient way, you need to prioritize a keystone change.

A keystone change is simply an identity change that produces a ripple effect into other areas of your life.

For example, let’s say that one of the identity shifts you listed out was becoming more confident. What other areas of your life would be affected if you became more confident?

Well, you’d probably be less afraid of talking to strangers, which will help you expand your social circle. You’d be more assertive and confident at work, which will improve your performance, and likely, your income.

You’ll be more inclined to express your true feelings and ask for what you want directly, which will lead to countless other opportunities that other people never get to take advantage of because they’re afraid to speak their mind.

That’s the power of a keystone change. Once the first domino falls, the others fall naturally. 

If you find yourself struggling with this, here are two questions you can ask yourself in order to speed up the process of nailing down your keystone change:

 

  • What’s my biggest demon? What change have I been obsessing about making that hasn’t occurred for me yet?
  • What identity shift would have the greatest impact on the other areas of my life?

 

These questions should lead you to land on an identity shift that will have tremendous impact. 

Once you’ve figured out your one keystone change, it’s time to move on to Step 3.

 

 

Step #3: Reverse Engineer Your Desired Identity

 

Now that you’ve figured out your keystone change, it’s time to get a little more specific when it comes to the identity you want to build. 

We need to reverse engineer your desired identity and figure out what type of behaviors you need to engage in to become that person.

For example, let’s say that you’ve decided that you want to become more productive.

The next logical step is to ask yourself: “What daily behaviors does a productive person engage in?”

This question will reveal the actions that support the identity you’re trying to build.

So whatever your desired identity is, ask yourself — What does a {{ fill in desired identity}} person do on a daily basis?

I’ll lay out a couple examples to show you how it would work:

 

Desired Identity I want to become healthier

What does a healthy person do on a daily basis?

 

  • Eats fruits/vegetables
  • Drinks lots of water
  • Daily walking/running
  • Lifts weights
  • Keeps a food journal
  • Doesn’t eat late at night

 

Desired Identity I want to become more productive

What does a productive person do on a daily basis?

 

  • Does hard tasks things first thing in the morning
  • Makes a to-do list
  • Wakes up early
  • Fuels body with clean food
  • Doesn’t get distracted by texts/social media

 

Once you’ve made a list of at least three behaviors, then you can move onto the next step.

 

Step #4: Pick a Habit And Apply The Two Minute Rule

 

Now that you have some behaviors that align with your desired identity, the next step in this blueprint for how to change your life is getting specific about your habits.

Your life doesn’t change until you change something that you do daily. This is why I’m a big believer in systems as opposed to goals.

Goals focus on a future outcome that you are trying to achieve. Systems are about the daily habits that make achieving your goals inevitable.

So while your identity based goal can be broad, your system needs to be specific.

Take a look at the behaviors that you outlined the previous step and pick one behavior that you think will significantly move the needle in your life.  Focus on the high-impact behaviors that will make the biggest impact on your life. 

If you’re 50 pounds overweight, you can start with eating healthier or getting out and exercising. And while both habits are beneficial, actually getting out there and moving your body is clearly a bigger need.

The best way to figure out your starting point is to ask yourself the question — Which of these behaviors do I feel the most resistance towards doing?

The answer to that question should be the foundation of your new habit.

Next up, it’s time to create your daily habit.

When you’re trying to build a new habit, it’s easy to let ambition take over and start big. The excitement and motivation you feel can cause you to do too much, too soon.

Everyone’s heard things like: start small, take baby steps. But even when you know you should start small, it’s still easy to start too big.

The most effective way to start small and ensure that you stick with a habit long-term is to apply the Two-Minute Rule. 

The Two Minute rule states that when you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. 

 

  • Walk for 30 minutes per day becomes walk 100 steps per day
  • Read for 10 minutes per day becomes read one page per day
  • Write for an hour each morning becomes write 50 words

 

The idea is to make your new habit as easy as possible to start. This will give you a way to slowly re-inforce your new identity each day.

At the start of your journey, this habit may seem like a waste of time. You may be wondering how can such a tiny action have a radical impact on my life?

Keep in mind this habit is just a starting point. As James Clear says, it’s about “casting small votes for the type of person that you want to become. As the votes build up, so does evidence of your new identity

The most powerful force in the human body is the need to be consistent with who we’ve been in the past. 

So even though walking 100 steps per day is considered easy, your brain will still manufacture resistance because it’s not a behavior that is consistent with your current identity.

However, there’s really no excuse as to why you can’t go outside and walk 100 steps, and that’s the key. 

Despite the fact that the behavior represents a deviation from your previous self, it’s a habit that’s too easy to say no to. You don’t have to rely on willpower and motivation to get it done.

Once you’ve been walking 100 steps per day for 30 days straight, now your brain has some new evidence. You start to form a new belief — I am the type of person who walks every day.

That’s the power of small habits —  each day that you show, you prove to your brain that you are a different person.

These small wins allow you to take on bigger challenges, and that’s what we’re going to discuss in Step 5. 

 

picture of a calendar - how to change your life

 

Step #5: Create an Improvement Plan

 

Just to reiterate, the purpose of small habits is to forge a new identity. But once that identity is all but forged, it’s time to up the ante.

Walking 100 steps per day is great, but it’s not a habit that will get you the type of body you want.

So, the next step in our blueprint for how to change your life is to create a hierarchy of improvement for your new habit as it starts to become an automatic behavior. 

First, you’re going to create three separate categories — Easy, Medium, and Hard.

Your small habit from step 4 is going to automatically go into the easy category.

Next, you’re going to come up with daily targets that correspond to the next two levels of difficulty — Medium and Hard.

Here’s what it looks like in action:

 

Example #1: Walking

 

  • Easy Phase — Walk 100 steps per day
  • Medium Phase — Walk for five minutes each day
  • Hard Phase — Walk for fifteen minutes each day

 

Example #2: Reading

 

  • Easy Phase — Read one page of a self-improvement book each day
  • Medium Phase — Read five pages of a self-improvement book each day
  • Hard Phase — Read ten pages of a self-improvement book each day

 

Example #3: Meditation

 

  • Easy Phase — Meditate for 60 seconds each day
  • Medium Phase — Meditate for three minutes each day
  • Hard Phase— Meditate for ten minutes each day

 

By the end of this, you should have three different versions of your habit from Step 4, with the difficulty rising at each level.

Now, the next question you’re probably asking yourself is — When do I progress to each phase?

Each phase is going to last 30 days. To start off with, you’ll perform the easy version of your habit for 30 days.

Because this is the easiest version of your habit, you cannot miss a single day. If you do miss a day, you’ll have to go back to the start and repeat the Easy Phase for an entire 30 days.

Once you’ve gone 30 days without skipping out in your habit, you’ll spend the next 30 days performing the medium version of your habit.

During this phase, the rule is that you can’t miss twice. Once you’ve completed this 30-day stretch, it’s time to move on to the last phase.

To finish off the 90 day cycle, you’ll perform the hard version of your habit.

The same rule applies — don’t miss twice or you start the 30 day cycle over.

Once you’ve completed a full 90 day cycle, you’ll have made significant progress towards your desired identity. 

However, there’s still work to be done if you want to achieve radical change over the long-term.

 

Step #6: Revisit and Repeat

 

The backbone of this blueprint is consistency. If you don’t show up every day, you will not get the life you want.

Coincidentally, if you only apply this framework for one habit, you’ll miss out on the radical lifestyle changes that you’re after.

Habits are not a finish line to be crossed, they’re a lifestyle to be lived.

Once you’ve crossed the 90 day mark, you get to do the whole thing over again:)

Luckily, you have some of the legwork already done from before, meaning you can skip right to Step 4.

In Steps 2 & 3, you came up with a desired identity and then reversed engineered it so that you were left with a variety of behaviors that aligned with that identity.

In Step 4, you chose a behavior from that list and used it as the baseline to form your new habit. Now, you’re simply going to do the exact same thing and just pick a different behavior and a new habit.

Once you’ve done that, you’re going to apply the Two-Minute Rule so that you make it easy enough to perform every single day, and then create a 90 day plan to scale up your new habit. 

The framework for how to change your life that I’ve just outlined is evergreen — you can continually use it month, year after year, decade after decade.

With each new habit you solidify into your life, you’ll move closer and closer to becoming the best version of yourself.

 

visual representation of how to change your life

 

How to Change Your Life: Final Thoughts

 

I hope you found this blueprint insightful!

But more importantly, I hope that this isn’t one of those articles that you click off and never return to again.

I tried my best to dispense with the fluff and provide an evergreen framework for how to change your life, and I hope that in your eyes I accomplished this goal.

Life is not stagnant. Priorities change. The identity you’re trying to cultivate now may not resemble the one you’re trying to form in 10 years.

However, as long as you have a proven system for fundamentally changing your identity, you’ll be able to create the life you want — whatever that entails for your specific situation.