Change Or Die

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.
— Seneca
Change Or Die

What if this was posed to you as an actual question with real consequences? Change or die. I'm not talking about the emotional pull or feelings of a finite life that comes from watching a Pixar movie. You walk away, changed for a day or afternoon or at least until you fall back into your old routine. I'm talking about actual life and death. One day you're laughing, living, breathing, and the next, blackness. Does it feel like a no brainer?

Duh, of course, I'd choose to change.

Alan Deutschman unleashed a piece in Fast Company that took this question one step further by asking, "what if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think and act? If you didn’t, your time would end soon — a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?"

What I went on to read is a disturbing reality. It resembles a horrific car crash where you're amazed to hear anyone escaped alive.

Let's say you and nine friends have the misfortune of a diagnosis of severe heart disease. You each have to undergo bypass surgery. A procedure that acts as a band-aid to the immediate discomfort and pain, but really does nothing to prolong your life. The only thing that will ensure you won't end up back on the table is a healthy lifestyle change. 

You're now faced with a decision to change that actually matters (if continuing to live is one of your priorities).

How many of you and your friends will change their ways?

One.

Deutschman cites research that shows despite every piece of clear evidence not changing will kill you, it's not enough to spur change.

Nine of you will die an untimely death, rather than make the needed behavioural change.

Dr. Raphael Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum, said that as far back as 1955 many articles show that 80% of what eats up hospital budgets is consumed by the same five behavioural issues.

Can you guess what they are? 

If you said skydiving, living too close to Chernobyl, hanging up Christmas lights, driving with your Grandma or playing naked Twister, you're wrong on every front. But I'll give you a couple of gold stars for creativity.

Too much smoking, drinking, eating, stress, and not enough exercise are the killers.

If everything points to your eventual demise and it still doesn't act as enough of a motivator, what works? Why is change so damn difficult? Why do we resist change with such ferociousness that our own mortality is not enough to pull us out of our destructive habits?

John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor, points out the surprising truth. It comes back to people's feelings. "In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought.”

The only way to drive lasting change is by bringing in the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions that are so often ignored, said Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California.

Fear of death isn't enough to arouse change. Denial always comes full circle and we return to our old ways out of habit.

Facts alone go in one ear and out the other if they don't fit within the scope of our worldview. For us to make sense of facts, they have to fit within a context of what we already know and believe. Otherwise, we simply won't understand each other. Look at any opposing political parties as an example.

The key turns out to be inspiring a new vision that Ornish calls the "joy of living." You're not just going to live longer, you're going to feel better and live a life without pain. A life full of pleasurable moments that otherwise seemed impossible.

New York Times bestselling author Dr. Chérie Carter-Scott shared the mindset behind those who visualize and those who don't, and why it has such a profound impact on their futures. "Ordinary people believe only in the possible. Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable, but rather what is impossible. And by visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible."

So, how exactly do you design a new vision that inspires a joy of living?

In the bestselling book The Miracle Morning, author Hal Elrod has helped millions of people change their lives. He describes visualization as the process of imagining exactly what you want to achieve or attain, and then mentally rehearsing what you'll need to do to achieve or attain it.

Sound a little too woo-woo crystal magic for you? Bill Gates, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Anthony Robbins, Tiger Woods, Will Smith, Jim Carrey and Oprah have all claimed it played a significant role in their success.

Elrod cites a famous example from Jim Carrey, who wrote himself a cheque in 1987 in the amount of 10 million dollars. He dated it for Thanksgiving 1995 and added the memo line "For acting services rendered." Carrey spent years visualizing that amount and what kind of person he needed to become to make it happen. In 1994 he was paid 10 million dollars for his starring role in Dumb and Dumber.

Having these larger-than-life visions help make the process enjoyable, reduce stress and tame that nasty paralyzing fear. Visions cast a picture of what you're working towards. They aid in igniting the motivation needed to keep going and slay procrastination.

It's like the process of making a movie. Directors don't just go with the flow and hope it all turns out. They have a living, breathing vision of what they want to see on screen and make a plan to bring it to life.

What is it you really want to see happen in your life? What are you unwilling to leave to chance?

Elrod encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and "forget about logic, limits, and being practical. If you could have anything you wanted, do anything you wanted, and be anything you wanted - what would you have? What would you do? What would you be?"

This is most likely the first time you've ever crafted a vision. School taught you to live in a box and told you what you're capable of. As Elrod pleads, throw caution to the wind and "visualize your major goals, deepest desires, and most exciting, would-totally-change-my-life-if-I-achieved-them dreams. See, feel, hear, touch, taste, and smell every detail of your vision. Involve all of your senses to maximize the effectiveness of your visualization."

Skipping the above step is like mixing all the ingredients of a cake, but stopping before throwing it in the oven because you don't have time.

The more vivid you make your vision, the more compelled you'll be to take the necessary actions to make it a reality.

This is the most important part because you start to see who you need to be and what you need to do to make it happen.

This helps to create an alignment between your values, your vision and the actions you need to take each day. Change happens because you tap into the source that influences your emotions – giving you an infinite fuel reserve to maintain motivation for taking action towards your goals.

As Elrod explains, "the more vividly you see what you want, and the more intensely you allow yourself to experience now the feelings you will feel once you've achieved your goal, the more you make the possibility of achieving it feel real."

Visualization isn't about expecting the best to happen every time. It's about accepting what happens in life and making the best of it. It's your call to change. Dream big, but realize it only comes true if you choose to wake up. 

Are you the one who chooses life?

I know how challenging this can be so I've put together a free workbook for people who want more positive, focused energy to invest in their work and life. Think of this workbook as a lifestyle-design blueprint. It’s a working plan for taking your life from where you are now to where you really want to be. Click here and I'd be happy to send it to you.

Here at Off Camera, we laugh in the face of death... or at least we have conversations with artists, like Brit Marling, who desire to view the world in a different way.