positive thinking

Directing Positive Change

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We humans are not perfect, have you noticed? Many of us have aspects we would like to improve in order to make life better.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear illustrates three layers of behavior change. We may seek to change an outcome, or the process to get that outcome, or our identity. Let me explain.

The outcome is the obvious thing, what we want to end up with. I’m reminded of comedian Steve Martin’s advice on how to become a millionaire. “First, get a million dollars.” Lose weight, get a degree, or get in shape are other examples of outcomes.

The process or systems you use to get to a desired outcome are a better focus for our efforts to change. If your goal is financial independence, you might begin contributing to a retirement plan, start a Roth IRA, begin a monthly automatic deposit to a savings account, find ways to earn more money, or monitor your expenses more carefully.

It seems like a process orientation – how we get to our desired outcomes – is a better place to focus than on the outcomes. But there may be a more powerful layer to effect change.

A recent news story indicated that a large fraction of pre-retirees believe they will struggle financially in retirement. If part of one’s identity is they will end up broke, it may be difficult to make process improvements stick. “What’s the use, if I am going to end up broke anyway?”

If identity becomes “I am a person who will always be able to get along financially,” then doing the things that are necessary to make that true become easier, if not automatic. But can our identities be changed?

James Clear says that what we do affects what we believe about ourselves, our identity, just as our identity affects what we do. So taking those steps to improve our processes, combined with a thoughtful approach to what we want to become, may actually shape our identity over time.

Consider the difference between “I’m trying to quit smoking” and “I don’t smoke anymore.” The first version is from a person who still identifies as a smoker. The second version is from someone who believes that smoking is now a part of their past, not their present identity. You know which one is a more effective way to look at it.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Mind Games

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What do you think when you hear the phrase ‘mind games?’

It has a negative connotation, doesn’t it? One person is trying to gain an advantage over another through the use of nonproductive emotions or attitudes. But that only applies to the two player version.

There is a solitaire version of the mind game that may be exactly the opposite of the two-player game. The Solitaire Mind Game can be a positive way to shape your attitude. A recent example illuminates this.

Most of us have had the experience of a stressful day of travel. You know my schedule includes a couple travel days a month, sometimes more. But my stressful travel days are pretty much over.

I simply decided to have relaxing days of travel instead of stressful travel days. My life has been better since. Same mode of travel to the same destinations, but now relaxing instead of stressful.

I know how to find good food and beverages, and the quietest, most comfortable places to work when traveling. Getting to them usually provides some exercise, which would otherwise be lacking on those days. This blog is being written partly in a nice café that serves Scooter’s coffee and happens to be in an airport, partly on a plane where they serve just about anything one might choose to drink.

Sometimes I need a few hours of quiet time to do some strategic planning. Or figure out new ways to make things better for you. The enforced solitude of travel is a good thing, because it gives me time to ponder things that take time to ponder.

And it isn’t all work-related! Life in the 21st century has some features that contribute to relaxing days of travel. I have eighty-seven good books and my complete music library with me, on a device no bigger than a spiral notebook. Those electrons are pretty easy to lug through the airport.

After a relaxing day of travel, I am ready to meet people I enjoy or run errands that need to be run. This is so much better than enduring stressful travel days! And I owe it all to the solitaire version of Mind Games.

Clients, please call or email to find out why I am grateful for flight delays, or to learn why you might be grateful for market volatility, or to talk about anything else on your agenda.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.