Want to move beyond your life’s current limits? Shift your motive from self-presentation to service.
About en*theos Optimal Living
Our Optimal Living 101 series gathers big ideas from some great “how to” video courses presented by our friends at en*theos.com. Find the link to the full class “How to Reinvent Yourself” — free! — below. To discover more about en*theos classes, visit www.entheos.com/academy.
About the Expert
Steve Chandler is a master coach to top professionals. He is the author of more than 30 books that help people overcome their fears, master their time, and astonish through service, including Time Warrior and 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself.
We hear a lot of talk about how to reinvent our lives, and it usually involves becoming something, as in “Become a warrior instead of a worrier” or “Become a manifester instead of a resister.”
That’s fine, but when we reinvent ourselves in the most exciting and beneficial ways, we don’t change from an inferior personality into a superior one. We change from a noun to a verb.
One really rewarding reinvention I made in my own life (thanks to some help from my business coach) involved shifting from being a money-fearing dud (a noun) into creating, making a difference, and joyfully serving others (a series of verbs).
If you’re stuck and you want to move forward, noticing your words is a powerful place to begin. Here’s how to become the action-oriented verbs you can be, instead of the dull nouns for which you’ve mistaken yourself in the past.
1. Stop Winning Friends and Influencing People
Most of us think being appealing and influencing others will bring us what we want, but it’s much more powerful to stop trying to make an impression and start trying to make a difference in the world.
This orientation to winning people over is a hangover from childhood when the adults had all the power. They needed to be charmed and manipulated for us to get what we wanted. This became second nature, but it doesn’t serve us.
You don’t need to impress people. If you want to thrive, focus on service and self-expression, not self-presentation.
2. Adjust Your Relationship to Life
If you see life as something outside of you, something that happens to you like a hurricane or a tornado, then you will say things like “That’s life!” when things go wrong. Life happens to you.
But when you view life as something inside you, as a source of energy you’re lucky enough to possess, then you can ask, “What do I want to do with my life today?” If you woke up today, you still have this gift. How do you want to use it? What for?
3. Use the Language of Intention
When there are so many things we “should” do and “have to” do, we are stating our belief that we don’t have any choice in the matter. When we use the language of obligation, we cast ourselves as victims in our own stories.
The truth is, you actually do things because you intend to, because you want to, because you choose to. Even the things you don’t necessarily love doing.
If you want to reinvent your life, convert to the language of intention. Saying “I choose to go to work” is more energizing than “I have to go to work” because it is closer to the truth. It is not a passive submission, nor is it a sugary affirmation. It’s true, and the truth will energize you far more than a story about passivity.
4. Give Up Your Personality
The word “persona” is derived from the Latin word for mask. Your personality is not you. It’s also a trap. When we repeat the same stories, embrace certain traits, and declare our patterns unchangeable, we’re just collecting evidence to prove we’re consistent. It holds us back.
Kids don’t have this problem. They reinvent themselves from moment to moment: “Now I’m Mighty Mouse! Now I’m Wonder Woman!” If it’s more fun than what they were a moment ago, they become it!
Replace personality with purpose. Then you can be whoever you need to be based on what you are creating right now.
5. Learn to Be the Problem
One way to find the locus of true power is to say, “If there’s a problem, I’m the problem.”
Too often we think someone or something else has to change for things to improve. But when we’re the problem, we’re the solution. And if we’re the solution, then we can be creative about what sort of outcome we want.
Here’s what I ask my coaching clients: “Given the situation you’ve just described, what would you like to create in response to that?”
6. Change “How To” into “Want To”
We often believe we aren’t doing something beneficial because we don’t know how to do it. This is a misunderstanding. If we know “how to” use Google, we can find out how to do almost anything. The real bottleneck is usually that we don’t (yet) want to do that thing.
Try this instead: Next time you claim you don’t know how to do X or Y, ask yourself what you’d do if you had to do it. Or ask yourself what you’d do if someone offered to pay you a million dollars to complete that task. You’ll be shocked at how fast solutions start to present themselves.
7. Shift Your Definition of Optimism
We often think “optimism” means believing that the universe will provide. But this isn’t very useful.
I think optimism means being courageous and tough-minded and focused on possibility. To me, optimism sounds like this: “I bet we can do this. Let’s have fun doing this.”
Pessimists think they’re being realistic when they say something isn’t possible, but how can they know if they’re not willing to try?
8. Convert Reaction to Creation
The brain is a marvelous bio-computer. One way we can use it is to react to things. The other, more powerful way is to think creatively.
Kids do this intuitively. If you bring a puppy into a room full of children and ask who wants to name her, every hand goes up.
The same thing will not happen in a room full of adults. They’re reacting to their fear of what other people might think if they raised their hands. But kids rarely question whether they’re “creative enough.” And we adults would do well to follow their example.
9. Don’t Decide, Just Choose
We spend so much time agonizing over decisions because we’re afraid we’ll make the wrong one. Most of this frustrated effort comes to nothing, because every decision is actually just a choice. If you’re concerned you might make a bad choice, don’t be. You can create good things around any choice.
10. Rise Up
It can be helpful to think of our moods as positions on a ladder. Fear and resentment are at the bottom; spirit and humor and creativity are at the top.
Avoid making big changes when you’re at the bottom of the ladder. Just focus on moving yourself up. Take a walk, sing, laugh, meditate, breathe, listen to music. When you’re at the top of the ladder, doing good stuff becomes easy.
The best way to stay up on the top is through service to others. There’s even a name for this: “the helper’s high.” When we stop self-presenting and start serving, we naturally raise our game.