The Challenge of Personal Change



“Some people change their ways when they see the light; others when they feel the heat.” — Caroline Schoeder

The fastest way to change your results is to change yourself.  The problem is, changing yourself isn’t always easy, especially when you don’t have a framework.  It’s very easy to fall into some common pitfalls and traps.

If you have a mental model for personal change, it’s a lot easier because you can take more specific action and you can get more specific feedback.  As long as you keep taking action, you can keep tuning your approach and move toward your target.

7 Ways to Stack the Deck of Personal Change in Your Favor
Here is a short list of ways to improve making personal change:

  1. The Change Frame.  Use The Change Frame to evaluate whether to change you or your situation.  In terms of you, you can change your thinking, feeling, or doing.  In terms of the situation, you can adapt to the situation, adjust the situation to suit you, or avoid the situation.  For example, if you know you don’t like roller-coasters, don’t get on them.  Don’t spend a life time trying to change the roller-coaster.
  2. Intellectual, emotional, and physical.   This is a distilled take on Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Whenever you change a behavior, it takes time to move through these layers.  First you learn something intellectually, meaning you can regurgitate the information.  Next, you learn it at the emotional level, which means, you have an emotional reaction to it.  You “feel” a certain way about the information.  It has meaning.  Finally, through habit and practice, you learn something at the physical level.  It’s automatic.  It’s burned into your muscle memory and basal ganglia.  You can do it with your eyes closed.   This is why a lot of change effort fail.  You might know the information, but without putting it into practice, you don’t get the emotional connection or physical mastery.  Similarly, if you are trying to change a habit, the challenge is you baked it into your emotions and body.  That is the key.  If you know this, now you can better understand why your change efforts in the past did or did not work.
  3. Motivation, Skills, and FeedbackMotivation, Skills, and Feedback is a way of looking at your challenge in a very actionable way.  First, you have to want to change.  Second, you need to best tools on your side in terms of skills and knowledge.  Lastly, you need actionable and specific feedback.  This is why a coach or mentor can help you over humps and hurdles, if they help either motivate you, or give you a better strategy or techniques, and if they provide useful, insightful feedback to help you make your change.
  4. You, your tribe, and your container.  This is a simple way of looking at your arena.  It’s where you spend your time, who you hang with, and yourself.  It’s YOUR world.    Your tribe can help lift you up, or bring you down.  The visual cues, the reminders, the rewards and punishments of your environment are the structure that shape and influence your behavior.  You can always rise above your container, but one way to ensure your success is to first reshape your container.  You are the ultimate meaning maker and filter of your world.
  5. Gestalt Therapy and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).   These are hard-core ways for changing behavior.   I think when Tony Robbins said when he was searching for the fastest way to make lasting changes, he tested many, many methods, and he found Gestalt Therapy to be the fastest and most effective.
  6. Changing behaviors with emotional connections.    This is the toughest to change.  Ultimately, we move towards pleasure and away from pain.  The trap is when things that feel good, aren’t good for us.  The key to making successful change is linking new habits that are good for us, to feeling good.  Sometimes, the simplest way to do this is to make the change meaningful to you.  Learning how to change your emotional state, can be one of the most powerful ways to help you make key changes in your life, because you can get your emotions to work with you, instead of against you.

If there’s a change you want to make happen in your life, test your results with these proven practices.

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Photo by nasrulekram.


  1. Hey J.D.

    Thank you for this list of practical approaches to self change. Self-change is difficult, and sometimes it’s just as difficult to diagnose as it is to implement. I’m a fan of the re-frame. For me that starts in the mind (where all things start) so it’s the fastest way for me to initiate change. Maintaining it is another story. 😉

  2. This is a simply brilliant summary JD. I’m a fan of gestalt too (surprised to learn that Tony and I have something in common).

  3. @ Marlee — I agree — re-framing is one of the fastest ways to change. Yes, maintenance really is another story 😉

    @ Vitaly — Thank you. Automating our best practices takes work, but it helps when we have science on our side.

    @ Evan — Thank you. I see lot of dots connecting, and I’m hoping this distillation can help others connect their dots. I bet you and Tony have more in common beyond Gestalt, but Gestalt’s a great place to start.

  4. Excellent list JD. About number 4, I think this is so important. The people we surround ourselves with, the environment we live in, these are all huge indicators of what’s going on inside of us (where all real, permanent change needs to take place). But it isn’t just about changing our environment, it’s about becoming comfortable in a new environment. If you want to be rich, don’t just surround yourself with rich people, but become one of them, in spirit. If you can be comfortable in that environment, you’ve gone along way towards cleaning up your beliefs about how rich you can be… 🙂

    Thanks for another valuable post!


  5. JD
    This is great the next book I am reviewing is about neuroplasticity of the brain being put to the test of changing habits and addictions. Basically, it is a step by step program for changing emotional thinking that is deceptive and has just been programmed in over one’s life time.

    Just finishing the first exercise I was able to find nearly 100 messages about food that I was intellectually able to overcome but their programing had not been deleted – like “belong to the clean plate club and save those starving children in China” I was using smaller plates, but emotionally still wanting to save those children in China according the brain pathway – my pleasure center…Since I do not feel the sensations of full or hungry…I need to teach my brain new pathways and delete the deceptive messages….a new frame to be created.

    I think folks will definitely need a mentor to be able to use this amazing program.

    Thank you for your good post.

    I wanted you to know that I am having trouble reading the fine print, but I figured out this week to copy your posts onto Word and then zoom to 200% and I could read them with greater ease – You share so much and I want to read every word.

    I am beginning to see and understand what so many are saying from so many different angles…I don’t want to miss out
    Thank you for another great article, that very much was helpful to me and very clearly stated.

  6. @ Melody — “become one of them, in spirit” … I like that, it’s a parallel with “fake it, till you make it” and “what the mind can concieve, the body can achieve.”

    I’m a fan of starting with the mental model as a way to reshape what’s possible. It’s a quick way to align attitudes and beliefs.

    @ Patricia — It sounds like you’re reading a great book, with deep and useful insight.

    I’m glad you’ve found a solution!

    > You share so much and I want to read every word
    Thank you.

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