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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jon

How To Change Your Life in 3 Easy Steps

Updated: Mar 16

Man is asked to make of himself what he is supposed to become to fulfill his destiny. - Dr. Paul Tillich

Success in life is about asking the right question. There are lots of mildly helpful questions out there, but the really great ones are hidden. These great, life-changing questions are like the really smart but really shy person in your life: if you can get them to talk, what they say will be well worth listening to, but it’s getting them to open up that’s tricky.

The following 3-step process will help you understand why you do what you do.[1] Got your attention? Good. Here’s the steps for figuring out what life is all about for you. Now go grab a pen and pad of paper, you’ll need it.[2] But first, some rules:

1. Be brutally honest with yourself.

2. Don’t edit or “soften” your answers.

3. Write down whatever comes to mind – no matter how ugly you think it is.

Ready? Here we go:[3]

Step #1: What Is Life All About For You?

Ask yourself, “What has been most important to me in life?”

Most likely there will be more than one thing. Prioritize your list of values. After you get 5-7 values compare one value against all the others. Whichever one came out most important is what life is primarily about for you. What emotion is associated with your top value?

Maybe life is about giving for you. Maybe life is all about respect for you. Maybe life is about buying as much stuff as you can. Maybe your life is about achieving greatness. Maybe for you, life is all about being needed.

Life is about different things to different people. Because life is about different things for different people you will have a go-to emotion that you naturally gravitate toward most of the time.

Once you have your go-to emotion identified you’re ready for step two.[4]

Step #2: Discover Your Rules.

Ask yourself,“What has to happen in order for me to feel (or experience) ______?”

Whatever emotion you identified in step 1, write it in the blank. Be specific, because the devil's in the details: When? How often? Where? From whom? If you get stuck simply ask yourself, “What else has to happen in order for me to feel ______?”

Now write down the first 4-7 things that come to mind regarding this question. Again, be specific! Our emotional states are governed by unwritten rules. These rules reside in our subconscious, just beneath the surface of our waking lives.[5] The more honest you are with yourself about your rules, the more life-changing your answer will be – you get out what you put in.

Step #3: Make Your Rules Work For You.

Ask yourself, “How can I modify these rules to more accurately reflect reality and allow for flexibility in my thinking?”

This is the final step. Modify your rules.

After you get 5-7 rules written down read them back to yourself aloud. Do they sound realistic? Are they achievable? If you’ve been really honest with yourself, you’ll feel like most people do at this point: embarrassed and/or shocked. Resist the temptation to judge yourself – it won’t help you improve anything.[6] Set aside your self-pity and keep working! Like going to the gym, you’ll feel better by the end of the exercise.

Client Examples

Here are two examples of what this exercise looks like once completed. These are real-life examples, and I have been given permission from these people to share their rules.

Example #1:

“What has to happen in order for you to feel angry?”

1. If the outcome of a situation doesn’t turn out how I thought it would.

2. If things don’t turn out how I expected.

3. If I say something and the response isn’t what I wanted.

4. If I mentioned something I need and someone I love doesn’t do it.

5. I leave during fights and I get angry if someone doesn’t pursue me when we’re having a fight.

Corresponding rules that have been modified to more accurately reflect reality:

1. Sometimes situations don’t turn out how I want them to, but that doesn’t mean people are inconsiderate on purpose.

2. Not everyone thinks like me and that’s okay.

3. I need to respect people’s diversity of thought just like I respect their ethnic diversity.

4. It’s okay for me to be more direct and state my needs openly.

5. If I want people to comfort me when I’m upset, I need to not leave the situation.

Example #2:

“What has to happen in order for you to feel frustrated?”

1. When people don’t read my mind.

2. When expectations aren’t met by those around me.

3. If people don’t invest to the same level that I do.

4. When people don’t acknowledge the effort I put forth.

Corresponding rules that have been modified to more accurately reflect reality:

1. It’s nice when people get me, but I have to keep in mind not everyone will.

2. Not all of my expectations are reasonable or attainable.

3. It’s nice to surround myself with people who invest to the same level I do, but it’s not realistic to hold everyone to my crazy high standards.

4. I like being acknowledged, but not everyone will see my effort.

I want to live in a world where generosity is the norm.

These questions have helped change my life and how I see the world. They built much-needed flexibility into my thinking and behavior. I’ve been blessed to play a small part in helping many other people work through their rules. I hope this article has added value to your own life, and you will, in turn, be generous in helping the people you care about by offering this information to them in a loving way.


[1] “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways…” Proverbs 14:8.

[2] Growing comes from doing, cupcake, not talking about doing. Now put your big-kid pants on and go get a pen and pad of paper.

[3] The following 3-step process has been adapted from Tony Robbins and Dr. Cloé Madanes’ work on Strategic Intervention. It’s easy to understand and very effective.

[4] Don’t turn a minor boo-boo into brain surgery: don’t overthink it! It’s really not complicated, but if you’re sincerely having trouble identifying your go-to emotion ask your spouse or child – they’ve most likely already got it figured out.

[5] Don’t freak out on me. I’m not getting all Freudian on you just because I mentioned the subconscious. Have you ever seen five different people have five different reactions to the same thing? Their reactions are governed by different subconscious rules, hence the different reactions. What’s that, you thought they reacted differently because of their upbringing? Now who’s being Freudian…

[6] There’s a right time and place for judgments. Judgements can be helpful, but this isn’t one of those times.

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