Here are some interesting paradoxes:
The only dieting programs with lasting results share one aspect that has nothing to do with food.
The only drug-dependency programs that work share something that has nothing to do with being sober.
And the only weight-lifting programs that work involve something that has nothing to do with lifting weights.
Given the subject line of this post, you’ve already guessed it. The common factor is self-image.
Every human who successfully adapts to change must first modify the way they see themselves. Because without a new personal identity, behaviors do not become permanent habits.
My wife tried several different diets. Paleo. Keto. General low-carb. The scale didn’t budge. Then she started a program that taught her, first and foremost, to see herself as athletic and strong. So as she sees herself, she does things that athletic and strong people do.
As of this writing, she’s down 30 pounds, and she’s crazy about it. She’s made it a part of her. As you might imagine, I’m thrilled for her and for me. She looks good.
For this course, I’m asking you to envision yourself as a man with the following qualities:
- He doesn’t let pain determine who he is
- He is willing to go to great lengths to be free of pain
- He lives untroubled by anxiety because he trusts in his destiny and ability
- When he encounters a problem, he says “good!” He is thankful for the opportunity to become stronger
I’m asking you to be a badass. And to be a badass, you have to see yourself as one that you might do what badasses do.
How to figure out your ideal self-image
If you need inspiration, pick a hero – a real world hero, or a fictional one. It doesn’t matter. You’re after qualities. I’ll call them virtues.
With real humans, you have to separate their good qualities from the bad. Winston Churchill was an amazing leader but seldom around for his children. Steve Jobs was a visionary but also something of a tyrant.
If you look up to fictional heroes, remember that even the best writers cannot capture the nuance and fragility of human nature. But it doesn’t matter. If a character inspires you, figure out what virtues they have, and then figure out how you can be like that, every day.
For example, here are the ones I want to become:
- Always alert
- Assertive and always in control of himself
- Never thinks negatively
- Always willing to help others – even at cost to himself
- Always assumes responsibility to fight through the worst disasters
- Looks dashing as hell
With real humans, you have to separate their good qualities from the bad. Winston Churchill was an amazing leader but seldom around for his children. Steve Jobs was a visionary but also a tyrant. One of my martial arts instructors was a combat virtuoso but so cold and aloof that he lost a lot of business opportunities.
It’s time to think like a kid again. It’s time to think about the superhero version of yourself, but without any impossible powers.
Take a walk and think about your actualized, fully-realized self. Maybe you’re strong as a bear. Or maybe you’re lean and fast. You speak assertively and without fear. You’re the guy they call on when the terrorists get free from the prison and they need an ass-kicker to bring them in again.
Later, write the qualities of that idealized self-image in your journal. And then start living them as much as possible. Maybe you already do. There’s always room for growth.