Why You Must Be Patient With Self-Conditioning

September 5th, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

When you use the priming effect or any other daily reinforcement technique to condition yourself for success, abundance, or other positive changes, patience is key.

During the first week or two, it will usually seem like your efforts are having little or no effect. But if the technique is effective, then usually within several weeks after you begin, you’ll start seeing significant shifts in your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. At some point you’ll observe that you seem to be making huge leaps forward every week.

From Minor Pattern to Major Pattern

Let me give you a simple explanation of why daily conditioning seems to be ineffective at first and then quickly picks up steam and often leads to a tipping point, whereby you eventually find yourself in a whole new reality.

Suppose that your initial goal starts out as just an idea in your head. Perhaps it’s a thought, like a new income goal or the idea for a new habit you’d like to adopt. But since it’s just an idea at first, it’s not integrated throughout your whole brain yet. It may be nice to think about it, but that mere thought hasn’t yet weaved itself in your other thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors.

Now for the sake of argument, suppose that this minor mental pattern in your brain — this idea — involves only 10,000 neurons. It’s an isolated pattern, so it has little influence on your vast neural network of 100,000,000,000 neurons.

Then suppose that to make this minor thought pattern into a major pattern that powerfully influences your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors, you’d need to build it up to 10,000,000 neurons in its network of influence — a thousandfold increase. And suppose that if you achieve that 1000x increase, the pattern will be well integrated into your whole being. So if the pattern is an income goal, you’ll find yourself doing whatever it takes to achieve it. If it’s a new habit, you’ll find that the habit is successfully installed, and it’s congruently integrated with your other habits.

A Thousandfold Increase

To get a 1000x increase in a neural pattern in a timespan of only 10 days, you’d have to double the size of the pattern every day for 10 days straight (2^10 = 1024), which would probably be completely unrealistic.

But to get a 1000x increase over a more lengthy interval, the neural pattern can expand at a slower, more sustainable rate. For instance, to increase by a factor of 1000 over 90 days, the neural pattern only has to extend its influence by about 8% per day. That may be doable.

Note that with an 8% increase per day, on Day 1 you’ll only add 800 neurons to the pattern (8% of 10,000). That’s a puny gain, so you may not notice much effect. The results aren’t coming through yet. Your behavior seems unaffected.

On Day 30, you’ll add 7,454 neurons to this pattern, for a total of 100,627 neurons. That’s a 10x increase from when you started, but it’s still only 1% of the way to your goal of a 1000x increase. Imagine doing daily conditioning for 30 days straight and only seeing 1% of your desired results thus far. You’re going to need some patience to continue.

On Day 60, you’ll add 75,005 neurons to the pattern’s still-expanding network, for a total of 1,012,571 neurons involved. Even after 60 days, you’re still only 10% of the way to your goal. What if you were to give up now and proclaim that the technique you’re using doesn’t work well enough? You’d be giving up right before a massive tipping point.

By the end of that 90-day time period, you’ll be adding 754,752 neurons to this pattern in one day, finally passing 10 million neurons total for the pattern. Note that 90% of the pattern’s growth happened in those last 30 days, with the first 60 days only getting you to 10% of your goal. The gains you’ll be seeing in those final 30 days will be staggering relative to what you saw during the first 30 days.

Daily Conditioning and Exponential Growth

I’ve been seeing effects like this with a variety of daily conditioning methods, such as listening to positive audio programs every day or reviewing my goals every morning. At first it seems like there’s little or no effect. But with enough persistence over a period of months, it’s quite possible to suddenly tip into a whole new level of experience. Eventually that little pattern that was once just an idea becomes dominant enough to start influencing thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behavior congruently.

This was the #1 strategy I used to earn two college degrees in three semesters. I listened to motivational and time management audio programs for about two hours per day. I kept up that conditioning throughout all three semesters. I noticed that whenever I slacked off, other people’s limiting beliefs began to influence me, as did my own past programming, and I’d start feeling more stressed and have doubts about what I was doing. But when I returned to my conditioning regimen, mainly by listening as I walked from class to class and to and from school each day, I strengthened the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors that aligned with my goal. I seriously doubt I’d have been able to achieve that goal without that daily conditioning.

Usually when I do this type of daily conditioning, I notice only very subtle or negligible changes during the first week or two. I may notice that I’m thinking about the ideas a little more, but that’s about it. My behavior seems unaffected.

But after about 2-4 weeks, I start noticing some small shifts. I may take a few small actions that align with the conditioning, but they’re very subtle. That’s a good sign, but these shifts are still too trivial to make much difference by themselves.

Then after 4-6 weeks, the shifts start to pick up steam, with observable changes happening every week. It’s very rewarding to watch this play out over time.

Finally after 10+ weeks, at some point I notice that whatever I was conditioning now seems like no big deal. I’m already doing it. I often don’t notice the shift when it’s happening, but when I’m past that point and looking back, I realize: Oh yeah… I guess I achieved that goal somehow. Interesting…

Sometimes the conditioning produces a series of incremental changes only. Other times it leads to a sharper tipping point. Several weeks ago I had an epiphany. I up and decided to close and delete all my social media accounts. It was very clear that I needed to do that. But just a few days earlier, that decision wasn’t clear at all. However, I was doing months of almost daily conditioning leading up to this decision (in the form of video priming), and quitting social media aligned closely with the conditioning I was doing. It took a while, but eventually that conditioning became strong enough that new thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors became dominant, and those patterns made it very clear that it was time for me to move on from social media.

Since I’ve continued to condition similar patterns after dropping social media, now the new patterns are even more dominant, and the decision to drop social media seems even more obvious in retrospect. I wonder why I didn’t do this years ago.

It’s fascinating how daily conditioning can reprogram our minds and how the effects seem to grow exponentially over time. On any given day, such conditioning looks like it’s having no effect. But when you look back several weeks, you’ll often see some obvious and profound effects.

Maintenance Conditioning

Even after achieving a new goal or installing a new habit, I often find it necessary to continue with some form of the mental conditioning that got me there in the first place. When I don’t do this, I find myself backsliding.

There are so many societal influences that encourage us to feel negative, to fear experiences that aren’t actually dangerous, to obsess over trivialities, and to settle for less than our potential. In the absense of powerful, conscious, self-conditioning, these societal influences too often become the dominant patterns within our own brains.

All experience is mental programming. Whatever you experience through your senses is still actively programming your brain. It’s up to you to take control of this programming. If you don’t like it, you can change it.

Say No to Negative Programming

If your experiences are largely negative, you’re programming your brain to get better, stronger, and faster at running negative patterns. You’re allowing yourself to be programmed for increased negativity. That’s a very bad idea. Please never do that to yourself. If you see this happening to you, run!

Taking in daily positive input is wonderful. Definitely do that! But it’s imperative that you also stop allowing negative patterns to continue programming you. If you’re noticing those patterns at all, they’re definitely programming you. Telling yourself “I’m not being programmed” or “I can rise above this” doesn’t actually work. If your eyes see it or your ears hear it, then those patterns have already gotten into your brain. While you cannot delete old patterns — unless you get yourself surgically lobotomized — you can overpower them with positive patterns. But you need to turn off the negative input first.

Just as with positive programming, you won’t usually notice the effects of negative programming except when you look back to a time when the negative programming wasn’t there. Then you see the cumulative effects, such as the loss of friends, remembering that you used to be happier, seeing your health decline, seeing how much stress you have now, etc.

People sometimes ask me how I deal with negative-minded or critical friends or family members. I respond truthfully that I don’t deal with such people at all. If we can’t relate to each other on the basis of mutual respect and mutual support, then I don’t have such people in my life, regardless of whether they’re blood relatives or were once close friends. I understand that everyone has a bad day now and then, and that’s completely forgivable, but if they opt to wallow in negativity as their default pattern and try to relate to me on that basis, they’re out. To do otherwise would mean deliberately subjecting myself to ongoing negative programming, and that seems like a very foolish thing to do. I have better and more interesting things to do with my life.

Fighting internally with your own brain doesn’t seem like such a bright idea, unless you’re a masochist and love struggling with self-sabotage. I think it makes more sense to regard your brain as your best ally. Give your brain quality input (i.e. quality programming), and you’ll discover that your brain can be a very powerful and supportive ally.

If you find yourself feeling stuck dealing with negative-minded people, let me remind you that you’re saying yes to that. Silent approval is still approval. You have better options than to let people negatively program your brain. Positive conditioning doesn’t take root in poisoned soil.

Opt out of the negative conditioning you notice in your life first. If you have to fire a bunch of people, make it so. Then start conditioning yourself with positive thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors that align with your desired path.

And most of all, be patient. The numbers I shared above are just made up for the sake of example. The important observation I want to stress is that daily personal conditioning requires consistent and patient practice to create change. You’ll often see little or no effect at first, but if you’re taking in positive input, rest assured that it’s already affecting your brain. If your eyes are seeing it (or your ears hearing it), then your visual (or auditory) cortex is processing it, and your neural network is changing. It will take time for these changes to become consciously observable. Eventually this daily conditioning can produce some truly powerful results, which often resemble patterns of exponential growth.

Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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Selecting Projects Wisely

August 29th, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

Sometimes people dive into new projects because they really want to make some money or to “get something going.” They put pressure on themselves to start a project mainly for the sake of trying to create some forward momentum.

While forward momentum can be a beautiful thing, I would actually recommend against this approach. Usually when I see people try to motivate themselves like this, their projects fizzle out within a matter of months, if they can complete them at all. A couple years later, they have little or nothing to show for their efforts. The “I’ve gotta get something going” approach is the dabbler’s strategy. It’s too amateurish to work well most of the time.

The main issue is that these types of projects are selected largely at random. They don’t fit into any greater strategy. They’re just ideas, but they aren’t really inspired ideas, so even a small amount of resistance can kill them off.

I’d suggest thinking instead about a long-term journey you feel you could commit to for at least 5 years — some combo of lifestyle + income streams + fulfilling work that makes for a nice package deal. Then think about projects that align with your vision. This way you’ll be more likely to follow through on those projects; you’ll have more important reasons for seeing those projects succeed.

In 2004 I started on the path of building a personal development business, and I began with two different skill paths: blogging and speaking. On the lifestyle side, I wanted to explore personal growth very deeply, to conduct my own growth experiments, and to share what I learned along the way. It was the overall lifestyle that appealed to me most of all. I loved the idea of centering my life around personal growth for many years. That was an inspired idea that I could really commit to.

In order to make that a reality, I needed a flexible business model. That’s why I picked blogging and speaking for my work outlets — they’re both flexible and travel-friendly, and I enjoy doing them. But most of all, these outlets can support my desired lifestyle.

I knew that both of these skill paths could also be used to create a variety of income streams. I could write books, create info products, do paid speaking, do public workshops, etc. I like variety, so this seemed like a good overall strategy. If I stuck with these skill paths, I knew I’d eventually be able to monetize my work one way or another and make it financially sustainable. That was just a matter of time. But the real motivation was to support the lifestyle of being able to work on personal growth and to share what I learned with people.

As I went down this path, I tried to pick projects that aligned with it. Which projects would help me achieve my big picture lifestyle desires?

Some of those projects fizzled. Some succeeded. I tried a lot of different things to figure out what I liked doing most, what generated reliable income, and what provided value to people. Those projects were chosen because they fit the bigger framework — my long-term commitment to living a certain lifestyle centered around personal growth explorations and learning. You could say that these projects were stepping stones, but I didn’t always know which stones to step on and in which order. So in retrospect some of them may look like stepping stones, but when I originally picked those projects, it was usually because they looked like reasonable ideas that could support my lifestyle journey. I didn’t always know in advance how I might build upon them.

Here’s a quote from Steve Jobs that fits nicely here:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

I think you can also trust in some basic intelligence. If you take the time to get clear about the core of your desired lifestyle path, and then you choose skill paths that can support it, I think you’ll have an easier time picking good projects and not seeing them fizzle so often. Otherwise there’s a high risk of choosing projects that are very disjointed and incongruent.

If your main motivation for selecting a project is money, but you aren’t yet clear about what type of lifestyle that money is supposed to support, then your motivation will likely be unstable and inconsistent. Minor distractions will knock you off course.

You may also be trying to force your project forward, such as by pressuring yourself for financial reasons, but that approach probably won’t create the most inspired work. So even if you complete your project, you may have a hard time selling it. Much to your chagrin, you may discover that no one feels inspired to buy your project that was forced across the finish line just so you could make money from it.

When I started studying public speaking in 2004, it was part of my big picture lifestyle vision. I knew that if I got good at speaking, I could use it to share personal growth ideas, to meet wonderful people, and to generate income. So for the first few years, I picked speaking projects to enhance my skills, to experiment with different styles, to discover my most authentic ways of speaking, and to get really comfortable in front of an audience. I didn’t get into speaking just to make money or to “get something going.” I chose it because it was a good skill set for my desired lifestyle path. This gave me a lot more motivation to stick with it.

Many of the speaking projects I picked in those early years, such as doing a one-day workshop on blogging or speaking at Hay House’s I Can Do It! conference a couple times, were chosen because they aligned with my big picture lifestyle vision. I turned down a lot of other potential projects along the way because they didn’t align with my lifestyle path. I could have gotten into corporate speaking, but I didn’t go that route because speaking at corporate events doesn’t mesh with my lifestyle well enough. Public workshops, however, mesh beautifully with my lifestyle since I get to connect with people who are very enthusiastic about personal growth, and designing a workshop is a great way to delve deeply into a subject that interests me.

I think you’ll find that if you get clear about your desired lifestyle path — clear enough that you can make at least a 5-year commitment to it — you’ll be smarter about picking good short-term projects that align with your lifestyle and your desired skill paths. And you’ll be able to escape the dabbler’s fate of doing random projects that always fizzle.

I understand that it can be hard to take a step back and think about your big picture lifestyle vision, especially when you’re feeling a lot of pressure to get something going. But the get-something-going approach usually just punts the problem a few months forward. When you complete your project (or give up on it because it fizzled), you’ll be facing that same kind of pressure yet again. You’ll still be telling yourself that you need to get something going.

Looking back, haven’t you already been doing this to yourself for some number of years already? If so, then isn’t it fairly predictable that you’ll still be doing this to yourself a year from now… five years from now… ten years from now? Of course you will, unless you choose a different path now.

The people I know who are happiest in life almost invariably put lifestyle first. Yes, they do work they love too, but a big reason for their chosen work is that it supports their desired lifestyle journey.

I really enjoy writing and speaking, but I especially love that these skills support my lifestyle. It’s more accurate to say that I love writing and speaking about personal growth. If these skills didn’t support my lifestyle, my interest in writing and speaking would fizzle — I just don’t care to write and speak about other topics as much. The same goes for other creative projects. It’s the “about personal growth” aspect of those projects that makes them fulfilling and that motivates me to eventually complete them.

What’s your version of the “about personal growth” qualifier that suits your desired lifestyle journey? I think that once you identify it, you’ll find it easier to know which projects fit your qualifier (and your lifestyle) and which aren’t worth your time.

Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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