We learned that the secret to creating lasting change involves fixing the innermost level known as the self image.
Your self image was formed since childhood by those around you such as your parents, teachers, coaches, siblings, friends, neighbors, media, and society. Once your self image was formed based on those factors, your actions and perception of reality became conducive to that self image, further reinforcing it. Because of the actions you took and your skewed perception of reality, you got additional information that reinforced the self image even further and the cycle continued.
So how can you stop this seemingly unstoppable cycle? How can you craft a new self image that will create the lasting changes within you that you desire?
You just have to realize that your self image as of this moment, was formed entirely outside yourself. Entirely outside. From what your parents have said about you, to your teachers, coaches, professors, friends, family, etc., they have all participated in creating the “you” that you see today. Blow all that away. Itâ€™s as fragile as brittle paper because it was based entirely OUTSIDE of you. Youâ€™re old enough to realize that nobody can define who you are except YOU and YOU alone. You have the power. Nobody else. Now you can create your own self image, entirely from scratch (if you choose to do so) from the inside and have it then manifest on the outside. Start to define who you are.
But who are you? Who are you really?
It’s a hard question to answer. Thatâ€™s where Stephen Covey’s funeral exercise comes in. In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he states that we are really many separate identities that when combined, make up who we are. We are a friend, a brother, a sister, a boss, a worker, a leader, a follower, a cousin, a wife, a husband, etc.
To establish a new self image, imagine yourself at your own funeral. Imagine that your best friend was called up to give a eulogy. What would you want him to say about you? Imagine your boss was called up, what would you want him to say about you? Imagine your wife/husband was called up. What would you want him/her to say about you?
This is a very powerful exercise I highly recommend you commit to in writing. For each identity, write down the kind of person you would like to be remembered as. This will help you chisel your new self image. Make it as descriptive as possible. Include as many adjectives as you can. You must be very specific and have a crystal clear idea as to the type of person you want to be.
Once you have this blueprint ready in writing, you’re ready to start creating lasting change. How do you start changing the self image? You simply use the same procedure that formed your self image when you were a child. Remember, it all started by you taking in information of what other people said about you that gradually shaped your self image. If parents, teachers, friends always called you shy, guess what? You were shy. Now YOU have the information to create the new self image you wish to cultivate.
However, this won’t happen overnight. You got information about yourself for many years that gradually shaped the self image you have today. You really think you can change it overnight? Of course not. Does that mean it’ll take just as many years to create a new one? Not necessarily. You just have to be consistent.
Thatâ€™s where a lot of people get hung up on. They have this great idea of who they are and they remind themselves for a couple of days but soon it gets drowned out by the noises of everyday activity. Your whole life, your self image has consistently been reinforced by information from other people. Your whole life. But now, you have a clear, specific detailed image of who you want to be, so it’ll take less time for the new self image to form. Before, you were gradually piecing it together bit by bit, but now you know EXACTLY the type of person you want to be.
So how can we remind ourselves of who we want to be on a consistent basis? First off, it’s going to be pretty hard if you try to change each identity all at once, so choose one identity you wish to focus on. Then put your detailed description of that identity where you usually look each day. Some people print out their descriptions and stick in the bathroom mirror, some on the refrigerator, some on their computer. It doesnâ€™t matter where you put it. The point is you have to read it every morning and every night and PICTURE YOURSELF AS THAT PERSON. Remember the power of visualization. It will help immensely in helping craft your new self image.
So start with one identity you wish to change. Let’s use a friend as an example and let’s just say in the past, you were the type of friend who would gossip and have trouble keeping secrets and you wish to become one who doesn’t. You’ve written down your new self image as a friend and you read the description and visualize it on a consistent basis. How soon will the self image start reshaping? Here’s how you’ll know.
Opportunities will start to arise in your life that will challenge your new self image.
In keeping with the above example, let’s say you’re out with a group of friends and the conversation slowly turns to your buddy John, who doesn’t happen to be there. Your friends start talking about him and right before you start dishing out the dirt and gossip on him, you pause. Before, you would’ve spilled the beans in a flash, but now you hesitate. Why? Because the action you are about to take conflicts with the new self image you’ve been creating.
When this happens, it’s a sign that your self image is starting to change. Journal this event and keep track of every subsequent event to reinforce the fact that your self image is changing. Youâ€™ll soon start habitually acting in a matter conducive to your self image. You’ll also start perceiving reality that is conducive to your self image as well. Both these factors serve to reaffirm the new self image. This will build to the point where your behavior and filters of reality will become automatic and thatâ€™s when you know you’ve created lasting change.
Remember, again, this won’t happen overnight. It will happen, but gradually. You’ll find the reason why change is so gradual is because it serves to weed out the people who really want it and the people that donâ€™t. How long will it take you ask? It might take weeks, months, or even years. Nobody knows for sure. It really depends on the individual and how committed he/she is on a consistent basis. If you feed specific detailed information about your new self image to yourself and visualize it on a consistent basis, then soon enough, your self image will change and that’ll be reflected in the actions you take and how you start to perceive reality accordingly in order to validate your new self image. When you find yourself at that point, then you’ll know that the process is working FOR you on autopilot and the rest, as they say, will be history.