At the age of 35, Og Mandino hit rock bottom. A WWII veteran turned insurance salesman, Og had recently been left by his wife because he was an alcoholic who he couldn’t hold a job. Living out of his car with less than $50 to his name, Og was considering spending his last dollars on a gun with which to kill himself.1
Instead, Og went to the library. He walked into the self-help section and began reading. He absorbed the wisdom he found in those books, made it his own, and turned his life around. Og got sober, he got a good job, and he started writing. He helped run Success Unlimited magazine and published over 20 books, which have sold over 50 million copies.1
Og Mandino’s story is a powerful demonstration of the fact that people can change their lives for the better. And although his story is an extreme example, it is not unique. Millions of people have taken situations that seemed hopeless and turned them around. Change is possible.
I bring this up because, if you don’t believe change is possible, you’re unlikely to even begin walking down the path of becoming better. And who could blame you? If change isn’t possible, there’s no reason to try.
The belief in whether or not change is possible is a classic self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you believe that change is impossible, you won’t try very hard to change because you don’t believe it is worth the effort – that is, if you try at all. And you won’t ask for help because there’s no point. And you’ll unconsciously sabotage yourself every step of the way. But in the end, you’ll feel vindicated that at least you were right: Change is impossible. Maybe it’s possible for other people, you’ll think, but certainly not for you.
On the other hand, if you believe that change is possible, you’ll try hard to change, you’ll persist through difficulty, you’ll ask for help, and, through your efforts, you’ll prove yourself right. Change is possible if you believe that it is, not because you believe, but because of the actions you take when you have that belief. Positive thinking only works if it leads to positive action.
That’s a pretty good reason to change your mind if you currently believe change is impossible. Here are some other reasons:
Brains can change. In fact, the human brain was made for change.2 It’s our species’ specialty. Mindsets can change. Even mindsets about change can change. You can try new strategies and new techniques. You can change your approach. You can learn new things. You can learn how to change.
Now, just because change is possible doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not. Changing your life for the better is hard. In particular, behavioral change is one of the most difficult things to do, whether you’re trying to start a good habit, quit a bad habit, or help someone else change.
Oddly, the self-fulfilling prophecy described earlier reverses when it comes to beliefs about the difficulty of change.
If you believe change is going to be easy, you will probably fail. And then, because it wasn’t easy, you might come to the mistaken conclusion that it’s impossible. But if you believe that change is going to be hard, you’ll expect there to be bumps in the road – you’ll expect obstacles and setbacks – and you’ll be undaunted by them. You’ll succeed, and, ironically, you’ll wind up having an easier time with change than the person who believed it would be easy.
Think of it like mountaineering. You don’t set out to climb a major peak alone and without proper gear. You get the right equipment, train with a rope-team, and map out your approach. It’s still hard, but you’re ready.
Likewise, the person who believes change will be hard makes a strategic plan, enlists the support of others, and uses proven techniques. Through all that preparation, she becomes adequately prepared for the challenge of transforming her life.
The universe is a place that changes constantly, and you are a part of the universe.
My own life could certainly be taken as evidence. During my twenties, I spent a lot of time changing for the worse. It is, in fact, rather easy to change for the worse. In recent years, though, I’ve strived to change for the better. It has been difficult, yes, but it has worked.
You’re not the same person you were ten years ago. You’re not exactly the same person you were yesterday. Change is actually inevitable.
The direction is up to you.
1 Mandino, Og. A Better Way to Live: Og Mandino’s Own Personal Story of Success. Bantam, 1990.
2 Merzenich, Michael. “Growing evidence of brain plasticity.” TED2004. http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_merzenich_on_the_elastic_brain.
Title Image: Creative Commons Public Domain. Courtesy of Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/butterfly-leaf-anima-nature-plants-404731/. Words added.
Caterpillar: Creative Commons Public Domain. Courtesy of Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/caterpillar-branch-larva-1209834/.
Brain Muscles: Verges, Xavier. “Grow your people.” June 24, 2011. https://www.flickr.com. Creative Commons 2.0.
Mountaineering: Creative Commons Public Domain. Courtesy of Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/high-altitude-mountain-tour-glacier-1578127/.
Universe: Creative Commons Public Domain. Courtesy of Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/en/eagle-nebula-ic-4703-fog-11173/.