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4 Ways to Make a Real Life Change

02/25/2015 11:56 am ET | Updated Apr 27, 2015

Michael Jackson said it best in his 1988 hit song "Man in The Mirror" -- "I'm starting with the man in the mirror; I'm asking him to change his ways." Change. It's a simple word but one that causes so many problems for so many people. Whether they want to change their weight, their financial situation, their relationships or whatever, they have all good intentions of making a change, but often find themselves going nowhere fast.

Adding to the problem is that in many cases, we've been sold a bogus bill of goods. The "experts" make it sounds so easy, telling us that making a change is simply a matter of hard work, big dreams, positive thinking and having faith. And it's not that this is bad advice; in fact that's all true, but making a real change in one's life requires a lot more than just the basics.

Making a change starts with developing the mental toughness to accomplish your goals. There are four strategies to remember when making a change.

Take Responsibility
Rule number 1: take responsibility. No matter what you want to change, you are responsible. How many of us love to blame other people for our shortcomings? We blame our parents, friends and others of influence during childhood. We blame everything from our jobs to our family responsibilities to not having enough time in the day and being too tired. The great ones have a thought process, philosophy and habit all rolled into one that overshadows the rest: I am responsible. This one change in thinking has the power to launch you closer to that change than any other single idea.

Create a Winning Environment
To make a real change in your life, you must create a winning environment, and this is done both internally and externally. On the internal level, winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is what counts. Winners have a "whatever it takes" attitude. They are willing to pay any price and bear any burden in the name of victory. Externally, start with the people around you. Limit your exposure to neutral and negative people, remembering that consciousness is contagious. Befriend a champion or someone who has already accomplished what you are after, and spend as much time with this person as possible. This will raise your level of expectation. If you want to lose weight and get fit, for example, get around people who have already done this. If your goal is to become a millionaire, get around the wealthy. If you aspire to be the next partner in your law firm, get around the other partners.

Make "Do or Die" Commitments
If there was ever one word that defined making a successful change, it would be commitment. Most people think it would be nice to achieve their goals, as long as it doesn't get too uncomfortable or painful. Those who successfully change don't recognize the pain, because they have made a commitment to do what it takes to be successful. When most people make a commitment to change, they approach it like a hobby. Next time, make a commitment and approach it like a war, knowing you will have to endure an unknown level of suffering along the road to victory. While the masses always question the price they have to pay for success, those who successfully make a change pay whatever price it takes to win. This small difference in mental strategy makes all the difference in the world. Commitment is more about making a decision to do whatever it takes to succeed than anything else.

Understand The Power of Persistence
Make a list of the times you exhibited iron-clad persistence. Go back to your childhood, if necessary. Next, ask this critical thinking question of yourself: If I applied that same world-class persistence to my current situation that I want to change, would it help me succeed? If the answer is yes, you know what to do. Once you have clearly defined what you want to change, down to the last detail, wage war to get it. Become unstoppable as you convince yourself there is no way to fail. This subjective perception is one of the most common thought processes of the most successful people. While the rest of the world watches with doubt and disbelief, champions talk themselves into believing that winning is their destiny and defeat is impossible. This winning expectation is the fuel that will drive you to persist until you successfully make that change.

As Michael Jackson also said in Man in The Mirror, "No message could have been any clearer; take a look at yourself and then make the change!" I couldn't agree more.