First steps to take when changing your life

Issue number #004 
09 February 2023
Reading time: 5:33 minutes
(it's a bit longer today, sorry)

Did you ever change something, only to realise that it wasn’t a good idea?

Or maybe it was a good idea, but the way you went about it was… let’s say… not the cleverest one.

I had my share of those mishaps.
Until I stumbled on the most obvious solution to avoid that mistake again. It was so self-evident that I smacked my forehead and shook my head.

The first step before taking any action is to gain clarity

Yep, I know. It does make sense. Doesn’t it?

After all, how do you want to arrive somewhere if you don’t know:
where are you going and
how to get there, right?
Oops. Wrong.

There is one more thing you need to know to gain complete clarity.

You need to know where you are now, at this very moment.

And that was what I was missing when I changed something and later found out that it either didn’t help or even made things worse.

I didn’t know exactly —and I do mean exactly— where do I stand. Let me show you what I mean.

I tried a few times to get out of constant debt. I promised myself that I would curb my spending, pay off what I borrowed and, above all, focus on making more money.

That last part was all I could ever manage. I never had a problem increasing my value for my employer and getting a raise and promotion. But spending less? Paying off debt? Balancing my books? No. Nope.

The problem wasn’t the ability to balance books. So, what was the problem?

I never did any books.

I didn’t know where all the money went. Yes, I had a rough idea. But not clarity.

When I decided to use the Kakeibo system to plan and track my spending, the results were instant. Since then, I have fine-tuned my system with different tools. But this letter is not about financial planning and getting out of debt, so I am not going into details about that. However, if you would like to get my take on personal finance management, send me an email.

Back to the one step we need to take after deciding to change. Gaining clarity.

But first, I have to warn you.

These steps work every time I use them.
E v e r y t i m e.

But they take time.

It’s a process. Not a magic pill. If you want something which will change your life miraculously in an instant, sorry. I don’t have such tools.

I believe that we, humans, are like trees —hence Tree of Life Quest, the name of my life philosophy.

Imagine a beautiful, majestic tree which stands firm in its place.
A tree which supplies the hungry with plentiful fruits.
A tree which casts a welcomed shadow for the pilgrims weary of the sun.
That tree also gives shelter and habitat to many forms of life.

And trees like that? They do grow slowly.
It takes time to become something so special.

So, are you ready to go on a journey? Let’s dive in.

How to gain clarity.

There are three parts to getting the whole picture:

  1. Clarify where you are now
  2. Clarify where you want to go
  3. Clarify how you will get there

You can tailor this process for a single issue —like fixing your finances or time management— or for a complete overhaul of your life. It works in both cases.

1. Clarify where you are now.

This has three parts as well.

  • Tracking: First, don’t change anything. Do what you did until now. And start tracking.
    For example, if you want to change your time management practice, track what you do for a week. Write a short note every 5 minutes (or every time before you start a different action).
  • Categorisation: Categorise data by results, not by activity.
    Think about the most likely consequence of this action. And group actions by their outcome.
  • Sorting: When you have groups of possible results, sort them by the most desirable and least desirable outcome. You will use the list in the next step.

Now our steps look like this:

  1. Clarify where you are now
    • Track current behaviour
    • Categorise data
    • Sort data
  2. Clarify where you want to go
  3. Clarify how you will get there

And we are ready for the next step.

Oops. I have to apologise.

This email will be longer than I expected. I thought to divide it here in two, but it would make no sense to finish here and send you the rest next week. So, here comes the next part.

2. Clarify where you want to go.

If you did the first part diligently, your next job would be much easier.

There are two things you have to focus on:

  • Desired state of being
  • Feared state of being

Both are equally important.
Focus on what kind of a person you want to become.
Use the list with the best and worst possible outcomes created in the last step. You can add some things or experiences but don’t dwell on them. They are not essential to gain clarity.

  • Desired state of being: This describes the types of behaviour you want to engage in.
    Go crazy. Describe yourself as the best version of any human in history. The outcomes you marked as desirable are the ones you are looking for. But if you’ll come up with even better ideas, use them.
    This is your motivational list. It states your ‘Why I want to do this’. This list will help you to act —especially at the beginning when you start making changes.
  • Feared state of being: Here, describe yourself as the version you don’t want to experience.
    Again, go crazy. If you think that one of the possible outcomes of your actions is your death (for example, smoking), describe in detail how it will affect your loved ones.
    The grimmer the description in this section, the better. This list states your ‘Why I must do this’. This will help you to act in the long run.

*Sidenote: It was proven by psychologists that positive images of things we want can help us to start something. However, their effect diminishes over time. When the process takes a long time and gets tough, the negative images of what we don’t want have a more powerful impact on our decision to keep going.

Now our steps look like this.

  1. Clarify where you are now
    • Track current behaviour
    • Categorise data
    • Sort data
  2. Clarify where you want to go
    • Desires
    • Fears
  3. Clarify how you will get there

Ready for the next step?

Clarify how you will get there.

This step is specific to what you want to accomplish.

Therefore I cannot give you an exact roadmap. But there are three general rules.

Your clarity on how to do something doesn’t come from studying all options. It comes from testing them.

  • Learn a bit: You can find nearly any answer to any question online.
    Two big problems are that the advice can be misleading or too complicated. You can spend the rest of your life trying to find the best solution while doing nothing else. The solution is to learn a bit and move to the next step.
  • Take a test action: Take the advice you learned and use it for a set time.
  • Evaluate: After testing, evaluate the results.
    • Did it work?
    • How much it helped?
    • If I will continue, can it have a compound impact? Decide either to keep this tool or to drop it.
    • If you keep it, ask yourself:
      Are you ready to add something new? Or do you need more time to focus on this action? If you need more time, set a new period for evaluation.
  • Repeat: If you are ready to add something or you dropped this entirely, go to point 3.a. and learn something new. Rinse and repeat.

Now our steps look like this.

  1. Clarify where you are now
    • Track current behaviour
    • Categorise data
    • Sort data
  2. Clarify where you want to go
    • Desires
    • Fears
  3. Clarify how you will get there
    • Learn
    • Test
    • Evaluate
    • Repeat

And that’s it. These are the first steps to take when you want to change something in your life.

So here’s my tip:

Whenever you’re making change, clarify
1. where you are now; 2. where you want to go; and 3. how you will get there.

I hope this was clear enough, but if you have questions, hit the reply button and fire away. I will gladly elaborate.

Stay awesome and have a great week.


action time

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Thank you for reading. See you next week.


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