How to Make Radically Different Changes


If you were to compare my diet today to what it was six years ago, you’d be surprised. I ate a lot of candy, cookies, soda pop and fast food. To put it mildly, I ate a lot of garbage.

Then one day I realized just how bad I was eating. So I decided to make some radical changes to my diet. I took a garbage bag and threw out everything that was bad for me and stocked up on good foods like fruits and vegetables. To this day, I still eat healthy and rarely consume cookies or soda pop.

Taking One Day to Change

That day with the garbage bag was a defining moment for me. It marks the spot where I started making more conscious decisions about what positive changes to make in my life. Since then I’ve made many more. Many of them are just as big a shift as the one I made for cutting out sugary foods.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve changed over the years:

• I went from being very inactive to going to the gym regularly. Currently I’m in the best shape of my life.

• My soda pop drinking was cut from 2-3 cans a day to nothing.

• I used to watch 3-4 hours of TV a day until I disconnected my service completely and lived without it for six months.

• I was extremely introverted and shy especially around women. Now I am able to talk to anyone. I could even approach beautiful women on the street to initiate conversations (before I was married).

The only change that took me awhile was changing myself from introverted to extroverted which lasted a couple of months. Otherwise the changes happened pretty quickly. One day I had one habit and a couple weeks later I was doing something completely different.

So what did I do to bring about these changes?

I’ve narrowed how I made my changes to three things that work well for me. I’m saying ‘for me’ because I don’t know if these three things will work for everyone.

I tend to think of changing habits and lifestyle as rather complex. People decide to make changes and use different motivations to do things. While I think this could be a good system for most people, it won’t necessarily work for everyone. But you can decide that for yourself.

Here are those three things:

1. Turn the change into your identity

The sooner you accept the change as who you are, the easier it will be to do it. You can’t identify yourself as a soda drinker and not drink soda at the same time. It doesn’t work.

See yourself in the change you want to become and integrate it into yourself as deeply and quickly as possible. You have to honestly believe the change has become who you are. If you see yourself as someone who doesn’t drink soda, it’s easier to not drink it.

2. Find the purpose or “why” behind the change

If you can’t tell yourself why you want to make the change then how are you going to continue motivating yourself to do it? Find a really good reason why you want to make the change and the change becomes much easier.

And it has to be a really good and powerful reason. Powerful enough to get you to avoid reverting back to the way you were before making the change. The more good reasons you have, the better.

Something that works really well for me is to turn your purpose for the change into a picture in your head. So when you’re tempted to slack off on the change, you can just think of that image to remind you to stay on track. For example, I used a mental picture of myself with a better physique to remind myself of how good I’ll feel once I reach my goal.

3. One radical change at a time

Making a big change can be difficult, but if you do more than one at a time it can be overwhelming. Try to keep radical changes to one at a time. Just imagine trying to cut out TV and smoking while implementing a workout regimen from scratch.

All the changes I listed above were done one at a time. I made sure I integrated the change fully into my life before I moved on to the next one. Doing one huge change at a time means you can focus more on doing it right.

Make Your Big Radical Change

So far this system has worked really well for me. Not all changes I make stick, but usually I can trace the problem back to poor implementation of one of these three things. Currently I’m using it to make myself a much better swimmer. I’ve always had terrible form so it will take some practice to get better.

I think everyone has it in them to figure out what changes they want to make and do what is necessary to achieve them. It’s always a good time to make a positive radical change.

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  1. Steve,
    I can certainly relate to being introverted. I still am very introverted but no one would believe it… It takes so much effort to carry on a conversation when you are self conscious.

    I liked all your tips in creating change. Only focusing on one change at a time is crucial as you mentioned it can be overwhelming to do more than one at a time. Sometimes it takes all your might to make that change happen and spreading yourself to thin can really thwart your efforts.

    The other thing that helps me maintain any changes and goals is repetition. Studies show that it takes 66 days for something to become a habit. I’ve always adhered to this rule of thumb. If i want some new habit to become permanent, than i do it full force for as long as i can until it becomes as natural as walking and talking. usually longer than a month and then i ease up on it a bit.. But not so much so that i lose momentum.

    • Annie, you’re just like me when it comes to being introverted. At parties or bars you’d see me talking to everyone, but honestly I’m more of an introverted person. You wouldn’t believe it with me either. It’s something I’ve had to overcome when I want to meet new people.

      I agree that you need repetition to make change more permanent. I thought it was more along the lines of 30 days for a habit to become permanent, but of course the longer you do it the more likely you’ll keep going at it. So it certainly is important to get that momentum and keep your change going.

  2. I’m an introvert myself, especially around people I don’t know. And even around people I do know, I tend to keep to myself. I’m the kind of person who does best in one-on-one situations where I can have a conversation. Trying to bullshit with a group of people tends to be difficult for me, and I usually end up being an observer, maybe casually tossing in a comment here or there. It’s something I wish I could change, but it’s HARD!!! Those group conversations are usually pretty superficial (which I’m not into…)

    • I know what you mean when you say group conversations can be superficial. I’ve noticed those kind of conversations in work situations or family gatherings where people are more reserved about what they say. I have a hard time getting into those conversations too since I find them just so boring.

      Like most things, conversation starting comes with practice. I’ve gone into groups of 5-6 people where I knew no one and started up conversations. It’s challenging, but it can be done. And that’s coming from someone who is naturally an introvert.

  3. Great advice, Steve, especially since it comes first hand. Change is hard, but one you MAKE the change you wonder how you did what you did before. And it does not happen quickly. As Ann commented, it can take 66 days, or at least several months until it becomes “you.” The extro/invert relationship is another issue. I’m a Gemini, so straddle the line between being very “to myself” and “very out there.” I don’t know if you can make a 100% change in either direction, but overcoming shyness IS an attainable goal.

    • I know what you mean about looking back and wondering how you did what you did before. That’s the way I look back on my soda pop drinking. I can’t even imagine what I was thinking by drinking 2-3 cans a day. I could never go back now.

  4. Nah, it’s not 66 days to change a habit – it’s more like a month. I heard 21, but let’s say a month to be on the safe side.

    I am obsessed with habit forming and using this to improve and get results – it’s really powerful stuff.

    Do anything for 30 days in a consistent way EVERY day (preferably in the same way and at the same time) and it will become a habit and then a bahaviour. You don’t need to time it though, maybe it will take you 66 days – you will know when it becomes subconcious and you do whatever it is on auto-pilot (e.g. think of a lot of the things you do when you drive a car – like changing gears – experienced drivers do these on auto-pilot – it needs less concious effort because it’s a well-formed habit).

    Steve this post is awesome.

    I like the part about the waste bag. Personally I have to work with rules – I can’t just say ‘only a little’ of something – it’s either in or out – so I can relate to what you say here and have a lot of similar experiences.

    Plus your post also talks a little about taking action. Just do it. Awesome stuff. Kudos to you for that.

    Let me ask you one thing though – interesting experiment to switch off the TV for 6 months, I bet that was really liberating. After though, do you now subscribe to less channels? I’m assuming you have the TV back – do you now watch it but just a lot less (just curious as we switched to the bare minimum channels and find it’s more than enough – instead of something like 900 channels like we had before we now have less than 10 and only watch 4 or 5 of those).

    • I can’t just say “only a little” of something either. I make changes much easier when I do extremes. Personally I think making slight changes is harder since you can always make room for more of your bad habit. It’s like when I cut out soda pop drinking. You can always tell yourself that one more can won’t hurt you. Eventually you talk yourself back to where you started and no progress was made at all.

      As for the TV subscription, I do have one again. When I had cancelled it, I was living by myself in an apartment, but moving in with my wife into her house brought it back into my life again. We recently reduced the number of channels to just the main ones. I still don’t really watch that much of it, but I do catch a few shows here and there.

  5. Awesome post, Steve! I especially like the advice about making 1 big change at a time. Every New Years, I get so motivated to make all these changes, and then I feel overwhelmed easily. It’s way more successful to focus on one.

    I also like what you said about making the change your new identity. This really resonated with me, and I think it’s a great way to motivate yourself when you’re feeling like you want to revert back to old habits.

    • New Years resolutions can be overwhelming when you have too many things to focus on. I think that’s part of the problem with why so many people never finish them. It really is easier to just do one at a time since you can completely integrate the change into your life before moving on to the next one.

  6. I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart . I have recently been through a lot and for almost a year I have hardly been alive . And just hitting this site randomly , has convinced me to be back on my track and shape up my life . In past 1 year I lost almost each positive piece of my personality , and had given up on hope and optimism . I have been unfair to myself , and I deserve better . So I am back on my feet again .
    Now im gonna have everything back , and would definitely add more to it . I would read books , go swimming , work out at gym , hangout with ppl , learn french , play basketball , and most importantly , wouldnt be scared of the obstacles that make my life look blurry and impossible .
    I would like to start blogging as well

    p.s This is the first time that I have written something in response to an article

    • Thanks for sharing this, Ali. It’s a great feeling to know that something I’ve written has moved someone like this.

      It can be really hard when you’ve lost hope and optimism. But I’m glad you’re getting back on your feet and starting to live again. Just keep positive and overcoming those obstacles and good things will come to you.

      I hope you take on all those goals and achieve all those things you want to do. I’m glad I could be your first comment to a post.


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