How Do I Change?

You’re not happy with the way you are. Maybe you’ve tried to change and you find yourself back where you started, doing the same things and feeling the same way every day. 

You ask, “How do I change?”

Or more specifically, “How do I change for the better?”

This is what Anna struggled with when she came into the Success Stories Community. Despite a great desire to get fit, she was unable to stick to an exercise routine. As a business owner and mother of a couple young kids, something always got in the way. 

She had a goal but life wasn’t going to change to help her meet that goal. She had to change. 

And change she did! 

By adjusting her mindset and overcoming the fear that was holding her back she now works out almost every day with excitement and enthusiasm. Watch her tell her story here

How did she do that? I will tell you below. 

Recent science looked at almost 55,000 studies on what helps people change, identifying 72 factors that facilitate change1. We are going to review the top seven that accounted for the most change.

A quick note before we start: 

Don’t read this as general tips. 

Get a specific idea of what you want to change in your mind right now. 

Be sure it is realistic and under your control. We can’t change other people, for example. 

Have a plan for what that change would look like in specific behaviors or actions. Like Anna above who wanted to work out 6 days a week. 

Now we can answer “how do I change?” so that you can execute this plan. Read each section and identify how you can put each concept into action.

Start with your emotions 

What’s your relationship with your emotions? 

Do they dictate what you do? 

Are you finding that you are chasing comfort? 

Because that’s what human beings do. We approach pleasure and we avoid pain. It’s a very useful survival instinct. 

However, in the process of change, or in the process of achieving our goals, we have to be able to go through difficult emotions in order to achieve them. 

We can’t run away!

If you want to lose weight, being hungry and exercising when you’re uncomfortable is a necessary feeling for success in your fitness goals. 

I don’t know any area of life that doesn’t have pain involved, whether that be the most beautiful marriage, raising wonderful kids, having a successful career, ultimate fitness … there is a ton of pain involved in all of these. 

Do not let your emotions lead you. They are not the things that should be in charge. 

So we must learn to be willing to feel these things and learn to bring them along with us as we take committed action towards our goals. 

This used to be called “acceptance” but too often people confuse that with passive resignation. 

Being willing to feel is an active step of opening up to the experience and dropping the struggle to control it, or make it positive, or get rid of it. 

It is in that struggle to control or change these unpleasant emotions that keeps us stuck. We get distracted by this battle and lose the focus and energy to change and do the things we want to do.

This doesn’t mean you have to like it. 

Again, we are not changing the experience. We are letting it just be there as we invest in our valued goals. 

“Tug of War with a Monster” is a great story to illustrate this concept and teach you how to change in this way. 

It is one of the many lessons inside the Success Stories Community that will help you overcome your emotional challenges to reach your goals. Here is a sneak peek into that training. I promise, these 4-minutes will help you change for the better.

Next is to address your thinking

Are you letting your automatic thoughts dictate your life? 

Are you doing what your head impulsively says? 

This is dangerous because our thoughts have a biased purpose – and it is not to achieve our goals or make us happy. 

It is to look out into the world and identify all the things that could go wrong in a primitive attempt to warn us of danger. It is our survival instinct. 

And it works when we worry about getting hit by a car so we look both ways before crossing the street.

But what happens when our mind tells us that we don’t want to embarrass ourselves when we make that presentation in the big meeting? 

Or we don’t want to make a mistake in the game and cost our team the victory?

We get distracted from what we need to do and our attention is stuck on the thoughts, the overthinking, the “what if?” questions, the scary images of what can go wrong. 

The difficult part is that these thoughts are true and valid! 

Those things could happen (and likely will if you keep focusing on them).

And I bet positive thinking hasn’t worked because these threats are real.

So what do you do instead? 

Ask if these thoughts are working or not. 

Are they moving you in the direction you want to go, or are they hurting your progress?

Not are they positive or negative, right or wrong, true or false. 

Are they working for you?

If so, then let them guide you.

If not, then unhook from them because they offer you nothing of value. Let them become background noise, like a radio playing a song you don’t like. 

You still hear it. You don’t like it. But you’re not invested in it. 

Turn your attention to what moves you forward. 

This may sound difficult. I admit, it will take practice. 

And I also promise that it will help you change because it is the investment in these old, problematic thoughts that keeps you stuck.

Where is your attention?

I don’t know about you, but my mind goes all over the place. 

Despite what you’re told, it is impossible to stay dialed in for a full game, the whole class, or even one conversation.

Our mind is built to think and wander. 

Automatic thoughts pop up and we continually notice things in our body and environment without trying. 

This is why it is much more a skill of refocusing than focusing. 

Refocusing starts by noticing when your mind has wandered so you can bring it back to what’s important now in the present moment. 

Mindfulness (paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment) is a skill that can be practiced to improve your ability to focus.

The opposite of this would be having your attention stuck in overthinking, rumination or worry. 

It can look like “what if …?” thinking or replaying that mistake over and over again. 

And you know what happens next. 

You are distracted from what you are doing and can not do it well. “It” could be anything. Your golf swing, the details of the spreadsheet your working on, what your spouse is saying. 

Your performance declines because your attention is inside your head and not outside on what you are doing.

If you want to change, you have to do different things, with intention, in the moment. 

And your ability to control your attention will enhance your ability to change. 

How do you see yourself? 

Your identity dictates your life. It influences your beliefs, your truths, your emotions, the way you interact in the world, your behaviors. 

Most often, people want to change a behavior. But it is difficult to act in a way that is inconsistent with your identity. 

I remember an international alpine skier I worked with who in fourth grade was told by a teacher, “you are a loser and will never win anything.” 

Now, anytime she was in a position to win, she unconsciously sabotaged her behavior and lost. 

She would inexplicably fall during the run, or make a strategic error, or was unprepared with nutrition or recovery before a race. 

Winning threatened her identity as a loser. 

Our minds don’t like the inconsistency of our thoughts and beliefs, so her behaviors were hijacked to match her identity. 

She had been trying to change her behavior for years!

She needed first to change her identity and what she believed about herself. Once she unhooked from this self-concept as a loser, the winning followed. 

Find your motivation

If you want to change for the better, you will need a really good reason to go through all the pain and difficulty involved with making that change. 

Knowing your values can provide the energy to change.

A quick way to define your values is to simply ask, “who and what is important to me?” Then keep that answer in the front of your mind for inspiration and purpose. 

If you say “health”, keep this in mind when the emotions we spoke of above get in the way. 

Be willing to feel the discomfort of exercise and the craving for sugar as evidence that you are doing something to improve your health when you work out and eat well. 

Maybe you value your relationships with your teammates. Showing up early to practice and doing your job with consistent effort can be motivated by a desire to be a great teammate. 

Another strategy is to identify the qualities or characteristics that mean the most to you. 

What kind of person do you want to be? 

Honest, caring, generous? 

Qualities like this can guide you in the process of change. 

Goals are an outcome, like winning a state championship. 

Values describe the how. 

It might take characteristics of hard work and persistence to get there, for example. 

Do you value these attributes as a part of your identity and who you are? 

So that when you don’t feel like doing what it takes, you do it anyway because that is how you want to live your life. “I am a hard worker. I persist when things get tough. This is who I am and what I do.”

Your values can guide your behavior. 

Have a clear vision of what they are!

Intend to change and take the steps to do so

At this point we have to ask, “do you really intend to do something different?”

So many people want the change outcome. Some distant future where things are different and better. A fantasy disconnected from the process of the real behavior changes that are required today. 

The five steps above change things on the inside to help you change things on the outside.

 This is ultimately where the changes manifest into results. It is about taking committed behavioral action. 

The biggest challenge in this area is our desire to avoid things that are unpleasant, run away from our anxieties and things that scare us, or a strong desire for comfort (especially when things are hard). 

So addressing any avoidance that you might have is going to be essential.

You might need to learn some coping skills. 

Teaming up with a coach, a mentor, or a psychologist to teach you the skills needed to get through these difficult thoughts and feelings so you can break these bad habits can save you time and energy. 

Our Success Stories Community was built for this and you can learn more about how it will help you change for the better here

The most important thing is that you start and do something. 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits(2), says to master the art of starting. And he is right. 

Too often we become overwhelmed by how much change has to happen. Or all the things we need to do in order to change and get that result. Or how long it will take. 

But we don’t have to do it all today. 

In fact, we can’t do it all today. 

So focus on what we can do, right now. 

What is that first starting step based on where you’re at right now? 

Clear advises to even limit yourself to doing that one thing for just a minute or two for a couple of weeks, until you master the art of starting that new habit. 

Be consistent with your actions!

Do them daily to solidify the change you’re looking for.

For example, if you’re 300 pounds, and you want to lose weight, and you know that exercise is a big part of it, don’t be looking at how Olympians train. Don’t feel bad about what you can’t do, or what you should do or should’ve done. 

Those thoughts aren’t helpful. Unhook as we discussed above.

Walking to the mailbox and coming back after 10 years of sitting on the couch is enough. It is the start you need. Do it consistently and notice the change has begun.

If you’ve been talking about wanting to go to the gym to work out for years and haven’t done it, put your workout clothes on, go outside to your car, and then come back. 

You don’t even have to go to the gym to start. Just practice getting into the car. I promise you after a week of doing this consistently, when you have gotten used to getting into the car, you’re going to be like, “Okay, let me just get in there and drive to the gym.” And then you’ll be getting started, you’ll have gotten over the hump of getting to the gym. 

Now you’re taking committed action.

Your physiology matters

All of the above is at the individual level. 

Now let’s go deeper inside to the biophysical level and address three things that affect change: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. 

1. Sleep

If you want to change, you need sleep because everything we talked about above is affected by your sleep. 

Improved quality and quantity of sleep improves mood, motivation, and clarity of thinking. 

All necessary qualities if you want to change. 

If you’re only getting five or six hours, I say forget everything else and focus on more and better quality sleep. 

My Sleep Your Way to the Top on-demand workshop will guide you through how to do this.  

2. Nutrition

Simply put, what we put into our bodies affects so much more than just our weight. 

The nutrients (or lack of them) affect our mood, energy levels, clarity of thinking, inflammation in our bodies and more. 

I wonder, if you have been unable to change in any area, might your nutrition and the impact it is having on your psychology and energy be a factor?

3. Exercise

Our bodies are made to move. 

Being sedentary also negatively impacts our thinking, our emotions, our biology, our psychology. 

Regular exercise improves mental and physical health, empowering your change.

And lastly, check your environment

We went deeper inside, now look outside. 

Examine your surroundings and see how they are helping or hurting your ability to change for the better. 

Do the people around you support and encourage you, or do they doubt and criticize? 

Even those that care may express fear and anxiety from a place of love, but it can distract your focus and undermine your determination. 

Control the conversation and set boundaries to protect the messaging you receive in life.

What family values and beliefs did you grow up with? 

What ideas about who you are did you learn from your parents or significant others? 

Remember my skier who was told she was a loser? That was an environmental injury. 

Just because that’s what your parents did, or that’s what you were told throughout your childhood, it doesn’t mean it is an objective truth. 

Evaluate these labels as helpful or hurtful. 

Hold on to the ones that work. 

Let go of the ones that don’t.

I understand the challenge in what I am suggesting. 

If you’ve been told something every day about who you are, if you’ve had a coach that for five years told you that you were terrible, you might have started to believe it. 

But the repetition and programming doesn’t make it true. 

First of all, we are all broken people. If you have a negative message about yourself, it often has more to do with the person sending the message than the receiver. 

Be careful who you give the power to define you to. Be sure they are credible in that area.

For example, I trust my mechanic when my car breaks down but don’t trust him to do my taxes. 

Even my really smart physician can advise me on life and death decisions, but I won’t trust her real estate advice. 

Consider in what areas your sources have authority, and in which areas they may now know much about. 

A parent, a coach, a boss or teacher doesn’t know everything about you. If their feedback is not helpful, hold onto it lightly. It is up to you to decide who you give you power to.


“How do I change?”

  1. Become willing to feel what you must in service of that change.
  1. Unhook from the thoughts that hold you back.
  1. Tune in to the present moment.
  1. See yourself as something much more than just what you think and feel.
  1. Clarify what you value most and take committed action towards those qualities.
  1. Increase the likelihood of success with good sleep, nutrition and exercise habits.
  1. And surround yourself with people who support your change goals. 

“Why am I not changing?”

You might be surprised to hear you have a very good reason. You wouldn’t be doing these hurtful things if you didn’t get something out of it. 

We are so focused on why we want to stop doing something that we don’t see why we keep doing it.

For example, maybe you love food but want to change your fitness level. You want to lose weight and start exercising. However, you have a lot of stress and find comfort in food. Food is your stress management. How else can you address this need?

You grew up in a family that celebrates everything with food, and you enjoy the connection you feel to them in these moments.  What other way can you engage with them and feel the closeness you desire?

Maybe you feel embarrassed at the gym and skipping the gym protects you from that horrible feeling. How do you create emotional safety at the gym so you are not reinforced to skip it?

Notice how stress management, family bonding, and emotional protection are all great reasons not to change!

Another example … you’re a perfectionist and keep ruminating about mistakes and where you don’t measure up. 

You’re super critical of yourself and want to stop it because I’m burning out and my performance is dropping

Why might you ruminate and think about your mistakes over and over? 

Maybe because you pride yourself on having a high standard and showing that mistakes are unacceptable reinforces that identity. And you’re afraid that if you are not perfect you will fail, so demanding perfection and being critical lessens that fear. 

While these perfectionistic behaviors hurt your performance and mood, they are also strengthening your identity, demonstrating you care about excellence, and reducing some anxiety. 

You need to figure out what you are getting out of the thing you want to change and find another way to meet that need. 

Then reinforce the new choice to be sure you keep making it until it becomes a habit.

Going back to the examples above, maybe you start a mindfulness practice to lower stress and when you feel the urge to eat you interpret that craving as a sign of meeting your weight loss goals. 

You recognize your mind is just trying to protect you, look around the gym and see no one is paying attention to you. 

You are the only one thinking this. 

So you decide to willingly feel the embarrassment and focus on the progress you are making toward your valued health goals. 

That progress reinforces these new stress management and thinking habits as well as dietary and exercise changes. 

As a perfectionist who is now feeling increased anxiety because you are trying to allow mistakes, talk to yourself after each mistake and intentionally learn from it. 

Realize how you are better for having made that mistake. Mistakes are now a path to excellence and by acknowledging your progress after making them, you strengthen the process because it brings you closer to your goals for excellence. 

This is how you change for the better. I know it sounds like a lot. It is. It is difficult and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s also hard to do this alone. I’m guessing you’ve already tried and failed, and that’s why you are reading this!

So if you like what you’ve read and found it helpful, there is training and support for you inside the Success Stories Community. Start the change today by joining us on the inside here.


  1. Hayes SC, Ciarrochi J, Hofmann SG, Chin F, Sahdra B. (2022, Sept). Evolving an idionomic approach to processes of change: Towards a unified personalized science of human improvement. Behav Res Ther., 156:104155. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2022.104155
  2. Clear, James. (2018). Atomic habits: an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones . Penguin: Avery.