The One Question You Need To Ask Yourself Before You Can Change Your Life

04/06/2015 03:14 am ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015
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What's the story you'll tell yourself if you don't create meaningful and lasting change in your life? Be honest. You know your patterns. You know your typical excuses, rationalizations, and justifications for failure. Just look ahead, see which excuses you are most likely going to rely on, and write them down in a story.

Be creative, thorough, and brutally honest about the things you will say to justify your failure. You know you con yourself and let yourself off the hook when the going gets tough. This is a test to see how willing you are to recognize that con job that sabotages you. It is a test to see if you can tell it like it is, or if you want to just live with the same old, tired excuses and be right instead of happy.

So take a moment to argue your limitations, and to create a record of the thoughts and beliefs that you use to sabotage yourself in every endeavor you undertake. Put on paper the thoughts and beliefs you use to prevent yourself from changing your life for the better. The more candid it is, the more self-critical it is, the more valuable it is.

Are any of the following excuses familiar; did some of them get on your list?

- It was just too hard.
- He really doesn't understand me.
- That's all for other people.
- I couldn't focus because of the kids and my job.
- He's just too harsh; I need a more gentle approach.
- My problems are different.
- I need to read it again.
- Until my spouse reads it, I'm just spinning my wheels.
- I'm right and he's wrong.

Try something new. You can help yourself immensely if you evaluate your life, behavior, and thinking very differently. Instead of asking whether the way you are living, behaving, and thinking is "right," ask whether the way you are living, behaving, and thinking, is working or not working.

If what you are choosing is not working, that by itself tells you that those things are worthy of change. This ought to make perfect sense — unless, of course, you're more concerned about being right than you are concerned with being successful.

If, on the other hand, your priority is winning and getting what you want, then you must be willing to "move your position" on anything and everything that you want to deal with.

You can always go back to your old way of doing things; resolve that if what you are doing is not working, you will be willing to change it. If your marriage isn't working, change what you're doing. If your self-management isn't working, change what you're doing. If your "child management" is not working, even though you're dead sure you're right, change it. What have you got to lose? Forget about being right or winning the argument about who is right. If what you're doing is not working, change it. Measure your thinking and behavior by that simple yardstick: Is it working or not working? You've been right long enough; try being a winner instead.

Modified excerpt from Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, by Phillip C. McGraw, PhD

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