WARNING: This is not a post about tactical information to improve your effectiveness like many of my others…
This is a brutally honest account of the parts of my life that I was unhappy with that were the driving forces for my relocation to Rio De Janeiro.
I want to share these truths and a transparent self-reflection after living here a month to inspire others, catalyze self-awareness, and reveal the fire-seeds of a proven approach to behavior change.
This is long post. It bleeds truth and many people will likely disagree with it because it challenges conventional views. I’m fine with that.
It will likely take you 10 minutes to read, but I think there are people that will read this and see truth they may not have seen before.
“It’s awesome that you’re doing the whole travel the world thing for a year.”
“Dude you’re going to be drinking Capirinha on the beach and looking at Brazilian girls all day.”
“6 months away is going to be amazing. What are you doing to do when you come back?”
As my friend Zach pointed out to me last week, most people have pre-constructed maps of reality in their head. Each person’s map is a unique product of their personal experience with the world.
One function of your map is to make sense of all the external stimuli you encounter.
We accomplish this by taking what reality gives us, reverting to our map, and dropping a pin that allows us to explain, understand, and justify reality.
From many comments like the ones above, I get the sense that many friends and acquaintances are pinning me on their reality map.
Today I want to suggest that their coordinates are wrong and share what I’ve learned over the past month about behavior change, personal development, and happiness.
The Truth: My primary reason for moving to Rio was to make changes in my life.
The desire to live abroad while going full time on my own business absolutely contributed to my decision to move to Rio…
But much deeper than these face aspirations was my yearning to throw myself into an environment that was conducive to becoming the man that I want to be. At all times.
Maybe I’m a bit hard on myself, but here are the areas of my life that I was not happy with and wanted to change when I made this decision.
Between work, friends, and dating, I’d have at least one drink around 4 nights a week in NYC. Many nights, I’ve had plenty more than one.
I found this to be the norm for an extroverted 25 year old.
Default activity amongst my circles = “Let’s grab a drink!”
The dependence on working out that being a college athlete cultivated always pushed me to maintain an above average fitness level. Still, I never had the “beach bod” I always wanted.
It wasn’t because I didn’t work out enough. It was because of my diet (and drinking). Abs are made in the kitchen yo!
The Failure Point of My Diet
We often make and evaluate our decisions using the lens of relativity.
This was definitely true of my eating habits. Most of the people I consistently spent time with ate less healthy than I wanted to. This made the benchmark I used to guide and evaluate my decisions suboptimal.
I’d end up eating healthier than the unhealthy eaters which produced a hollow sense of discipline and accomplishment.
In reality, I was eating far worse than I should have given the results I wanted for myself. Deep down I knew this.
I’d venture to guess that most people who know and meet me probably would say I am a confident guy. That’s because by typical standards, I am a very confident guy.
But the truth is that I’m not quite where I want to be within my definition of confidence.
Description of a truly confident person:
A truly confident person pursues their deepest desires without inhibition.
They never alter the words that come out of their mouth to gain approval from others because there is complete congruence between their values, interests, and what they actually say and do. This is true even in the face of extreme judgment.
They aggressively pursue their desires and embody complete congruence with total ease because they value themselves independently from what anyone else thinks about them besides those that they love. Hey Mom and Pop!
Are You A Truly Confident Person at This Moment? I’m not there yet.
I can count the number of truly confident people I know on one or two hands.
If you think this is a BS statement, ask yourself these questions to get a sense of what it means to be a truly confident person:
Do you aggressively hunt the things you want for your life the moment you know you want them?
Here are some concrete questions you can ask yourself to gauge the force at which you hunt your desires:
1. If you just read a book that changed your life, would you immediately find a way to contact the author because you determined that you want mentorship from that person? Would you go as far as calling this person’s office if that was the only way to get in touch with them?
2. Assuming your single, when you walk down the street and see someone that you’re attracted to, do you stop them to start a conversation in order to see what they’re like? Doing this once, vs. doing this every time this situation presents itself are very different things.
3. If you find yourself in a job that is by other people’s standards “good,” but maybe imperfect for what you want, do ypu swiftly take the initiative to create change?
A truly confident person consistently hunts their desires without inhibition. They do not wait for permission. They are not situationally proactive.
Do you ever find yourself talking about things that you don’t actually care about just to be cordial?
Maybe even you’ve even verbally agreed with something that isn’t truly in alignment with your values.
Why would anyone do this? Perhaps to get a quick dose of acceptance or avoid rocking the status quo. That’s why I did.
Here is a concrete example a 25 year old guy might encounter that depicts this behavior:
You enter a group conversation where a new acquaintance is describing getting wasted and making out with some girl at a bar. He brags about the fact that they barely even talked before kissing because they were both drunk.
If a truly confident person believes that it’s sad that their generation relies on social lubricants to pursue their true desires, they’d either say nothing or boldly voice their opinion (if provoked).
They definitely would not say “that’s awesome” with a lukewarm grin just because everyone was laughing and they craved acceptance.
I have vivid pictures of myself responding to situations like this in my head.
Because a truly confident person values themselves independently of external validation, they don’t care about turning a new acquaintance off if it means verbally compromising their ideals and beliefs.
I can hear people lying to themselves right now that they never do things like this, so let’s dig deeper into the extent that external validation can drive human action.
Do you ever find yourself in a group conversation wanting to chime in, talk, or be heard?
I see this a lot with seemingly “confident” extroverts…again, I saw it in myself.
Why do we feel stronger urges to talk in group settings? Is it because achieving something you truly desire is contingent upon the words coming out of your mouth…or is it because you crave some type of reaction like agreement or laughter that reinforces your self-worth.
I’ve definitely been guilty of the latter motivation.
Regardless if a true confident person is more inclined to be chatty vs. reserved, the primary force of their behavior is never external validation. Rather, it is seeing their desires become reality.
I could continue to ask questions to inspire more self-awareness, but hopefully this paints a picture of what true confidence is and what it is not.
*I have only encountered a few people that possess this degree of immovable and consistent love, respect and comfort with themselves. It is particular scarce amongst young people.
What is the purpose of productivity?
I believe it’s to increase output and create more time for other things.
Productivity can be an amazing source of happiness because of the positive feelings we derive from achievement. However, if not managed properly, our desire to be productive can spiral out to become an intense source of unhappiness.
This is ironic because for many people the end goal of personal productivity is happiness.
More productive -> More output -> More resources ($$) to eventually obtain more freedom/time -> More time spent doing what you actually want -> More happiness
Then why the heck are some of the most productive people so unhappy?
The rift between productivity and sustainable happiness is partially caused by what people do with the extra time their productivity frees up.
Many people, including myself, were using productivity to create more time to work.
“I got done that blog post way earlier than I thought I would. Sick!
Now I can clean my inbox tonight instead of tomorrow morning. Then tomorrow morning I can begin working on that new class…and then maybe one day after I’ve achieved an insane amount of accomplishments which people have told me means I’m successful I can dedicate more time pursuing the fundamental pillars of happiness like love and contribution…instead of squeezing them in when I have time”
I realized my productive inclinations needed to be tempered if I wanted them to contribute to sustainable happiness. Instead of allocating majority of my new time for more work, I needed to channel some of it towards the sources of fun and aliveness in my life. Things like love, friendship, health, and experiences with others.
My desire for achievement also messed with the level of awareness and connection I embodied each day.
The classic example: I’d be conversing with people that I really care about, but instead of listening, I’d nod my head and smile while I thought about what I had to do next.
I did this all the time…
A life spent living in the future is not a recipe for a happy, rich life. It’s also not the path to being the most thoughtful son, friend, and colleague.
It’s ironic that we do this. We sacrifice a rich experience with reality (the end) to focus on the means that we think will get us a rich experience reality (more output).
There are certainly other changes I want to make in my life, but these are definitely at the core.
Why Do You Want these Things?
Why do I want to be healthier as well embody greater confidence, balance, and present-mindedness?
Because I think it will make me happier, improve my relationships with the people that I care about, and help me to become a better leader/member in society. That’s it.
I believe the path to reaching these goals starts with becoming the person I want to be. This is why I want to focus on making these changes in my life NOW…yes, even at the cost of some slight career advancement. It’s a crazy idea, I know.
I love this quote from Margaret Young that speaks to the urgency of this pursuit:
[quote style=”1″]Often people attempt to live their lives backwards, they try to have more things or more money in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are then do what you need to do in order to have what you want. [/quote]
Ejecting From NYC
Actualizing these changes in my personal NYC environment was not impossible for me to do, but it was going to be much harder than it had to be.
I felt like many people in NYC were trying to get A’s on other people’s report cards.
“If I sell my company, I’ll be successful! Then I’ll have made it. I’ll be happy then.”
Originally, my reality map tempted me to think this perception was New York thing. I quickly realized there is people who think like this everywhere! Even in my little hometown of Newtown, PA.
The truth is that the environment I had crafted for myself within NYC is what made changing difficult. Not the general population or city itself. It was the habits and expectations of everyone I surrounded myself with that made changing an uphill climb:
- Most of my friends and co-workers drank, a lot.
- Many people in my life weren’t always supportive of my personal development, “self help” ambitions. It required them to evaluate and potentially change themselves.
- Most of the people I hung out with weren’t eating as healthy as I wanted to. This made me likely to conform.
- Many people that I spent time with were enthralled by some artificial success that they believed would make them happy. This bred a productivity-obsessed environment that was less than ideal for balance and present-mindedness.
This is the terrain I was fighting on. I’m very guilty of why this environment was this way and embodied many of the traits of my surroundings. Heck, too many people I’m the 30+ lifehacks guy!
Can you see how making these changes in my life would be harder than they had to be in NYC?
The Winning Recipe for Change
If I wanted the best chance of making these changes, I needed to insert myself into a container that made them easier to accomplish.
Considering that the number one thing that drives humans is other humans, the most important ingredient in this container would be other people.
The ideal container for behavior change contains people:
- with similar aspirations that are highly motivated to achieve them
- that are supportive
- that will provide accountability, even at the cost of being harsh
- that are step closer to where you want to be so they can show you the way
- that are completely transparent and authentic
- that embrace failure because it means you actually tried and that you’re pushing yourself
Now I could have changed all my friends and colleagues to craft a more conducive container in New York City, but quite frankly I love these people and did not want to do that.
“Hey guys, I love you an all, but I want to change certain parts about my life and it’s actually harder for me to make these changes because of the way you’ve decided to live. So we need to stop hanging out while I take care of this. I hope that’s cool with you. Thanks!”
Some people serious about behavior change actually take this approach. I didn’t want to.
Instead, I opted to put myself with the right people in a new location that would make these changes easier to accomplish.
Well…What Happened? Did You Change?
I left NYC 5 weeks ago with the hopes that this adventure with Charlie, Ben, Dilan, Benji, and Henry, would be the perfect environment to make these changes a reality.
So far it’s actually happening.
Below I’m going to share some results to demonstrate what’s possible if you put yourself in the right environment. Again, the goal of this post inspire others, catalyze self-awareness, and reveal the fire-seeds of a proven approach to behavior change. It is NOT to give myself a public pat on the back. That’s the truth.
Three days after arriving I adopted intermittent fasting, an eating regimen that we now all follow.
If you want a detailed explanation, there’s this thing called google, but the main tenant is restricting your eating window to 8 hours a day. I eat from 2pm-10pm.
I’m also taking L-Arginine at meals thanks to the one and only Chris Keller. I have no idea what it does, but Chris claims six pack protrusion and I trust his advice : )
I have pretty much cut out drinking. In my first 4 weeks, I had 3 glasses of wine over the course of 2 nights.
*I did just go to Chile for a week where I deviated slightly by having some wine and pisco. I happily called it quits after 3 drinks though because of my new normal.
Three drinks was what I’d have before going out on a Friday night in New York.
I lift 5 days a week using a program Benji got from bodybuilding.com. It’s nothing fancy.
According to my trusty body-fat scale that I use to benchmark progress, over the past month I’ve:
- Cut my bodyfat 2.1%
- Increased my percentage muscle 2.4%
- Forgotten what it feels like to be hungover.
Here are before and after pictures.
To be transparent, the before picture comes a few days after a 10 day family vacation where I ate drank like a King. Still, the before picture is not that far off from my typical Sam Adams Octoberfest seasonal physique.
Why was I able to do things that previously felt impossible for me? Things like:
- going out to clubs 4 nights a week without drinking
- waiting till 2pm to have my first meal
- completely avoiding carbs for 2 weeks
Because everyone I was with was living that way. In fact, if I acted any other way, it’d be weird.
The container made it easy.
There’s no question I’ve gotten closer to true confidence since moving down here. I attribute this to the fact that:
- I’m in an intentional headspace that’s focused on this ambition
- Everyone I live with is working towards this and supportive
- Ben and Charlie are two of the only people I’ve met in my life that embody true confidence. Being around them is very conducive to growth. They’re also two of the most morally sound and congruent people I know. This is partially because they are so confident.
Reporting an increase in confidence is very challenging because the congruence of acting out what you desire in your head is so personal.
However, here are some things I can point to that are indicative of my progress.
I go out 4 nights a week and don’t drink.
I’m probably more fun totally sober now than I was when I drank. I don’t need to lower my inhibitions to be “fun” due to a strengthened sense of true confidence.
I have way more conviction in my conversations.
I’m less timid about stating my opinion and gravitate much more towards saying the things I want instead of “protecting myself.”
I was in a group conversation the other day where someone asked me to do something that originally seemed a bit off-putting. Instead of just going with the flow with everyone else, I confronted the person in front of everyone about their motivation for the ask.
This made everyone feel awkward, but because I actually spoke up, I got some clarity that helped me feel better about the interaction.
Short term pain, long term gain.
I’ve started charging people for my time.
I guess because I blog more than most, a lot of people reach out to me asking for advice. I’ll spare you with specific numbers that I’ve recorded, but many days the number of advice emails I answer from people that I don’t know are in the double digits.
I want to personally help everyone and anyone, but if I did this, I’d never be able to achieve and honor the goals I’ve set for myself.
I could continue to answer advice emails and commit to calls from people I don’t know all day. The cost would just be limiting my ability to create content that helps people at scale, providing less attention to people that have invested in my products, and failing to lead a life away from my computer.
I don’t think that’s fair to anyone.
Though I’ve always understood the challenge this dynamic presents, I was hesitant to tell someone that I’ve never met that I can’t get on a call with them or have a lengthy email dialogue unless they paid me. It’s ironic because information and expertise is how I now support myself as a self-employed entrepreneur.
When it comes down to it, this hesitation to flat out tell people that I don’t know that they need to pay for my time was due to a lack of confidence.
If I asked people to pay me, I’d risk turning them off. I was attached to this because the opinion of others, even people that I had never met, contributed to my self worth. I wanted everyone to like me.
Everyday I’m moving further away from this mindset due to a strengthened sense of confidence. My comfort with the decision to start charging certain people for my time is a testament to this.
I’ve started running at my desires with much greater regularity.
Many people spend a lifetime protecting themselves instead of actually doing what they want. #truth
- Instead of asking their boss for a raise, they’ll create reasons why it’s a bad idea and do nothing.
- Instead of going and talking to someone they’re incredibly attracted to, they’ll come up with a silly reason not to.
- Instead of contacting someone they know they want to reconnect with, they’ll let some limiting belief prevent action.
Our desire to preserve our egos is one of the strongest forces that exists. It’s why people fabricate rationales to protect themselves and hate rejection.
Here is clip of an interaction with a girl I ran about 30 yards to stop and talk to because I was attracted to her and wanted to know if she was cool.
I occasionally did things like this in New York, but not with the consistency that I do now or wanted to then.
Six weeks ago I’d usually do what pretty much every other guy I know does: point out that there was an attractive girl across the street and keep walking instead of actually doing the thing I wanted to do…talk to her.
**And dudes, I’m not sharing this to look cool or brag about a stronger sense of courage. I share it to drive awareness that you can take steps to take control of your desires if you’re not already.
I also dislike broad claims that lack verifiable results.
Not too long ago, consistently embodying all of these behaviors felt very unnatural to me.
But transforming the unnatural into the natural has been very attainable due to the container that supports these changes.
I’d say of the four core behaviors I want to strengthen in Rio, Balance is the one that I’ve made the least progress on – I continue to work a ton on my business and “squeeze in” time for other things when its convenient.
Still, I’ve made some good progress by making sure to etch out time for a few activities that contribute to other parts of my life. For example, I start each day by stretching and meditating.
Old Scott wanted to do these things, but put them in the “if I have time bucket.” The result was that I’d rarely do them with consistency.
I’ve also made time to read books which is something I didn’t really do unless I was on vacation. I literally think I read 5 books last year.
Again, I can’t really measure this, but I have noticed an improvement in being present.
Generally, I feel way more engaged in the conversations I have with others. I maintain better eye contact and really try to understand what people are trying to communicate to me instead of focusing on what the minimal information I need to take in is in order to put on an attentive façade.
This behavior shift has also been manifested on skype calls. I’m much better about being attentive to the call instead of checking email and social media while I’m talking to someone.
I think my ability to move in the right direction stems from the fact that I’m very cognizant of the desire to make this change. It also helps that understanding a language I started learning 5 weeks ago which requires my full attention : )
So Are You Happier?
Absolutely. I can feel it in my demeanor and the way I approach every single day. My parents have even noticed it!
The important distinction I want to make is that the main reason I’m happier is not because I live 3 blocks from the beach, have total control of my time, and the women here are easy on the eyes. These rationale are what most of my friends would point to if I told them I am happier than ever before.
I’m happier because I’m much closer to being the man I want to be and getting closer everyday.
Happiness does not come from the accruement of assets, experiences, and success (external validation). It comes from truly becoming the person you want to be. When you become that person, all of those other things follow which makes this ordering imperative.
When I started writing this, I planned on getting into all of the specific tactics of how making these changes was possible as well as providing detailed accounts of how we’ve been able to surmount personal growth bottlenecks. But doing this properly would be way too long for a blog post.
So…I’m considering creating a short ebook on “Cracking the Code to Behavior Change” based on the personal account of my journey and the 5 guys I’m sharing it with.
The book will likely cost a small sum of money (probs 9.99 or something) so people actually read it and will not be ready for a bit. I think that it will bring a fresh perspective on behavior change by prescribing very actionable guidance vs. the fluffy thematic content that you typically encounter.
If this post spoke to you, taught you something new, or you’re simply fascinated by behavior change – let me know if you’d be interested in a book like this by entering your email here.
If enough people show interest, I’ll probably start working on this.
If you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope that it brought you some fresh ideas, inspiration, and a greater sense of self-awareness.
I’d love to hear anything in the comments, but specifically, it’d be cool to get some dialogue going around behavior change.
What challenges do you face with behavior change?
What type of things have you done to accomplish behavior changes?
Why do you think society generally encourages us to focus on career ambitions instead of becoming the people we want to be? Do you believe a greater emphasis on the latter would result in a far more impactful, transcendent career?