Your Story, Even If It’s True, It’s a Lie

“Don’t become a victim of yourself. Forget about the thief waiting in the alley; what about the thief in your mind?” – Jim Rohn

We all have a story to tell. We believe these stories define us… when in reality they only define a part of our lives. In much of my writing, I tell a story of addiction, depression, success, failure, loneliness, love, etc. While these stories shaped the person I am today, I am mindful of the fact that my past does not define me. I am blessed for my story but I am not indebted to it.

They say that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior…. It’s true if you want it to be. It’s bullshit, but if you want to believe your past is your future, you’re welcome to it. If not you must believe you have the power to change.

Our story is a lie.

Let go of the story that is keeping you from the life you want. Then let go of the people who are unwilling to see you as anything different than your old story.

The Psychology of High Performers

“Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” – Henry Ford

What is the psychology of a high performer?  I’m not taking about the habits or what do successful people do that make them that way.  There are lots of books outlining the behavior of high performers. A better question might be, with so much information on how to be “successful,” why don’t more people have the life they want?  On a psychological level what is the difference between high performers (those who get what they work toward) and low performers (those who are constantly stuck in the same rut)?

On a side note, this is not a discussion on how we measure success.  Although it is important that you identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s a phrase commonly used in business).  If your goal is to be healthier what would be your KPI’s? A smaller waste, weigh less, muscular definition, lower blood pressure, maybe you’d like the endurance to run a marathon!  When we are talking about health there are a number of KPI’s.  KPI’s could be goals, or signposts that we are headed in the right direction. KPI’s are the objective results that are part of a larger vision.

I would also like to point out that many higher performers I’ve worked with are not happy.  I don’t want to suggest that the psychology of a high performer is necessarily better than a low performer in terms of health, fulfillment, joy or happiness. We all hear about the famous actor who struggles with drug addiction, the successful executive who commits suicide, or the politician caught up in a sex scandal.  High and low performers alike have their fair share of problems.

I am developing a pragmatic model for Performance Behavior/Performance Psychology based on my experience in trying to transform my life and as a coach helping my clients to so the same.  I’ve come up with what I perceive to be a linear path of thinking that leads to high performance behavior after listening to hundreds of people.  The Five Questions model is a framework I’ve developed in working with my clients. It’s a homework assignment that I ask my new clients to do before our first session together. This exercise allows for me to gauge their level of performance and the barriers to achieving goals.

The Five Questions

1) What do you want?

This is a simple question that I find most people answer like a kid writing a letter to Santa Claus.  I’ve heard many times the idea that we work hard to buy things we don’t want to impress people we don’t like.  What is it YOU really want?  This question for many is not easy.  Of course there is the standard, financial security, love, joy, acceptance, etc. but what does that look like to you? Knowing what you want must be objectively clear. High performers are very clear about what they want. They set goals and constantly measure success.

2) Why do you want it?

Are you driven by fear or purpose?  I find that many wants are driven by fear, greed, social expectation, or sometimes a personal expectation that is meant to make one feel “GOOD ENOUGH.” What do I want, is not the same as what will make me feel OK about myself. The reason why we want is more important than what we want.

When we follow the GREAT framework, Rejecting Negativity comes before Excitement (Visioning) because we don’t let our negative factors influence our vision of ourselves or let it direct out actions. Why do you want what you want, should be in alignment with your LIFE purpose. It should be directly linked to what you LOVE, what INSPIRES you, a practice of FORGIVENESS, or what you ENJOY. Most important is should be free of social expectations that don’t make you happy.  For example, you may become a doctor to help people, however if that vision is one your parents encouraged your whole life, it may not be the vision that makes you feel fulfilled because it may be covering a greater desire.

High performers are driven by purpose. They may be motivated by fear, greed, a desire to be enough but those who are most successful are in alignment with a purpose. They are driven by a higher purpose.

3) Do you believe what you want is possible?

This is not a YES/NO question.  This is an introspective exercise. Dig deep.  Is there any doubt?  The slightest doubt in your ability will grown into negative thoughts that stop you from pursuing what you want!  If you don’t believe you can get the job of your dreams, you might not apply. If you don’t believe the partner of your dreams will go out with you, you won’t ask him/her out.  If you don’t believe in yourself than who will?  If you don’t believe you can get what you want then what is stopping you?  If you answer is yes than move to the next questions.

It goes without saying that high performers believe they are capable achievement. They have no doubt in their abilities and “act as if” when their confidence weakens.

4) Do you believe you are worth the time, effort and investment?

Again, not a yes/no question. You may believe what you want is possible but do you invest your time, effort and investment to get what you want? Or Do you make excuses. I don’t have time; I don’t have the energy.  Our time is the most important resource and we give it away. We waste our time on TV, the internet, other people!  You may believe you can accomplish your goals but you won’t take the time or investment to do it, or worse, you make the time and make the investment but you don’t put in the effort! You go through the motions blaming outside conditions for your poor results. You get the job of your dreams and you show up late, make mistakes, and lose your job!

High performers invest in their future. They work long and hard and invest in their education and often hire people to help them build skills.  They put in the time, effort, and money to make their dreams come true.

5) Do you believe you are deserving of the reward and recognition?

At the heart of self-sabotage is the belief you are undeserving of what you want.  These people believe they can get what they want but don’t try. They go through the motions always falling short of their goal.  Then there are those few who know what they want, they are connected to a passion that drives them. They believe in themselves, they take the time, put in the energy and make huge financial investments in themselves and achieve their goals! Then they self-sabotage all their success.  They got the thing they thought would make them happy. They got the job, the relationship, the recognition… then took it for granted. Or they didn’t take care of what they worked so hard to get. These people celebrate losing weight by going out to dinner and ordering desert and soon gain all the weight back. These are the people who get the degree and never go after a career they studied for. These are the people who get the relationship, then fail to nurture and cultivate their partnership. These are the people who deep down inside don’t believe they are deserving.

At some level those that sabotage their success are people who thought success would bring emotional rewards. A sense of love, belonging, accomplishment, pride… These people might have played the WHEN-THEN game. When I’m successful, then I’ll be happy. When I make more money, then I’ll feel less worried. When I get that relationship, then I won’t feel so lonely.  When the goal doesn’t produce the feeling we self-sabotage.

This is why knowing what you want and why you want it is so important.  If we are driven by our wants that are motivated by fear, greed, or a need to “be enough” getting what we want will not produce the feeling we truly desire.

High performers not only feel deserving of all they work for, in some cases their history of success makes they feel entitled to more.  High performers are driven by passion, it is a game they enjoy playing. 

The five Questions is a great framework to understand where you might be stuck.  Don’t be surprised as your confidence, worth and esteem grow, what you want and why you want it will change. Continuous growth is when we constantly challenge what we previously thought was not possible. I’ll leave you with the most important advice I try my best to follow, that is remember to enjoy the journey and let faith guide you toward your destination.

Fear of Change to Joy of Transformation

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin

I don’t think I’ve ever read or heard someone distinguish the difference between change and transformation.  The two words are often used interchangeably but are really two different things.  In further exploring and formulating a model for change and transformation it’s become clear that the not knowing the difference could mean the difference between failure to long-lasting change.

When I started to work on a simplified model (simplified not simple) for understanding change, I was quick to point out the huge difference between change and transformation.  This is easily several chapters for my book but I’ll break it down.  Change is when we want a single aspect of our life to be different.  Example, I want to be thinner!  If I want to be thinner I focus change on that one area (my body) and eat and exercise to support weight loss.  Simply stated, if I want to be thinner I need to eat and exercise to lose weight.  And we all know how simple that is! That’s why we all look so good! Obviously, I’m being sarcastic.  For some people focus on diet and exercise may work. That is the only thing they need to focus on to be successful.  For the mass majority of people who suffer from weight issues, it’s not so simple.

Successful weight-loss for most of us requires transformation.  Transformation is when we want a single aspect of our lives to be different but it is necessary to focus change on multiple areas in our lives to support our goal.  If I want to be thinner I need to not only focus on diet and exercise, but on my emotions that make me want to overeat, my relationship to people and my environment, my job, every person, place, or thing that affects my physical health.  Transformation requires that we inventory and manage change in numerous areas of our lives to support long-term success toward the goal.  Transformation happens and we achieve long-term physical health, and when you are able to say to yourself, “I can’t believe I use to live such an unhealthy lifestyle.”

Transformation is easy.  It’s complex! …but it’s easy.   Transformation requires leverage.  When we begin to change many areas of our life to support change in one area we begin to make progress on multiple levels.  We release the blocks that kept us from getting what we want.  Transformation requires support and accountability from others to help us keep an inventory of our “wins.”  Transformation is a slower process, so if you’re looking to get rich quick or get “rock hard abs in 30 days then this is not for you… unfortunately if change worked for you, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

Change is difficult.  Change is often an oversimplified strategy for getting what we want.  Back to our weight loss example… If I only focus on diet and exercise I will lose weight.  But long-term weight loss may not be possible if I engage in temporary behavior to lose the weight.  Maybe, I don’t go out with friends because my meal plan doesn’t allow me to eat out.  It’s possible that once we reach our goals and return to our “normal” routine, we begin to gain weight again.

The quick fix and failure of change strategies that don’t work cause us to give up on what we want. You start to believe that there is something wrong with you!  You start to believe that somehow you are worse off than others and that you must be a hopeless case.  This is not true!  Maybe you’re afraid to try again.  You don’t want to be disappointed.  You don’t want to get your hopes up. The fear of failure causes us to fear change.  You settle into a comfortable level of erosion that slowly hurts your confidence, worth, and esteem.  There is nothing more devastating than awareness of the acceptance of a life you don’t love.  But there is hope.  You tried to change and you held on to your strategy and it worked till it stopped working… transformation may be your only hope.

On a fundamental level, I strongly believe that change is holding on tight to the way things are.  If only this one thing would be different then everything would be better. Transformation is choosing to let go.  If I work toward making things better and letting go of those things that hold me back, then I’ll change.  Transformation requires we let go of people, places, things, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, etc., that keep us from reaching our fullest potential; in doing so we become who we want to be.

Transformation is flexible and adaptive to a strategy that is not working.  When we are committed to transformation there is no right or wrong only honest appraisal of what works and what doesn’t and the flexibility and willingness to adapt and to keep pushing toward your goals.  Time is not part of the equation.  There is no milestone to indicate failure or success only a daily pursuit of joy in the journey.  When we practice letting go, we move toward transformation, the fear of change dissipates and we feel the joy of transformation.