Tag Archives: Mindset

The Blog Post That the Self-Help Industry Doesn’t Want You to Read

I just read a blog post by Aytekin Tank about why self-help doesn’t work. There are some truths in that post. Yet, I wanted to publish a response to express my objections. Let’s discuss some of his arguments.

What works for everyone is different. Therefore, self-help content won’t work for you.

I partially agree with the first sentence. I completely disagree with the second sentence.

People are different. Their backgrounds are different. Their challenges are different. Therefore, you can’t come up with a solution that would apply to everyone in each situation.

Yet, people have similarities. There are strategies that work for the majority of people, if not most people. If that wasn’t the case, we had to throw all social sciences, including psychology out of the window.

I heard a prominent natural scientist saying that social sciences aren’t real science, and Aytekin’s post is going in the same direction. Needless to say, I disagree.

Here’s an example. Some people have the so-called photographic memory. Others are better off using the spaced repetition method to learn something for the long term. What’s the percentage of people with photographic memory? I bet sufficiently small so that they can be ignored.

Hiring a coach who listens to you and works with you to develop solutions together with you is much more beneficial than reading self-help content alone. Yet, if you can’t afford hiring a coach, consuming self-help content and actually applying the advice might be the next best thing.

Self-help doesn’t make any difference in your life.

After publishing 300+ self-help posts, I started to see some trends. Most people consume self-help content to distract themselves.

When you’re in stress, and you want to distract yourself for a while, you have two options. You distract yourself with something completely irrelevant like dancing cat videos, or you consume self-help content.

Conscientious people feel bad for distracting themselves with something completely irrelevant, but it’s an acceptable compromise for them to distract themselves with self-help material because they think that they’re doing something good for themselves.

Some people just rely on setting goals and consuming self-help content to feel good about themselves and their lives. Unfortunately, it ends there for them. They use their goals as a drug to medicate themselves.

If someone uses self-help content merely as a distraction and doesn’t follow up on what they consume, of course, that content won’t make the slightest difference in their life. Self-help isn’t a magic pill.

If you are that person, you’re better off knitting socks as Aytekin suggests or watching big cats showing affection to each other.

Aytekin mentions a scientific study that examined people who consumed self-help content and found out that it doesn’t make any difference in their lives.

I suggest another scientific study. Let’s study people who consumed self-help content and did the following.

  1. They summarized the lessons they learned from the content.
  2. They reviewed their summaries periodically, weekly, monthly, quarterly and so on.
  3. They did the exercises suggested in the content.
  4. They applied the ideas in their lives.

I’m really curious about how the results of such a study will be.

I get where Aytekin is coming from, but I don’t think it’s the self-help industry’s fault that their consumers don’t follow up on their advice.

Well, maybe self-help books should come with warning labels like cigarette packages.

“It won’t work unless you do the work.”

Help Me Help You

I’ve been blogging on a daily basis since December 2017. There are more than 300+ posts in my blog. Some of these posts received no views at all, others thousands of views. Yet, I have a burning question about my posts.

Did my posts make a positive impact in the life of a person? If yes, what was it? More important how can I make a greater positive impact in the lives of my readers?

To answer that last question, I need your input. How can I contribute more to your life? What kind of problems bother you? What kind of solutions do you want me to offer in my blog posts?

I tried to answer those questions via Quora. I answered quite some questions over there, but I didn’t receive much feedback.

I feel like people are posting a question on Quora not to find an answer, but just to vent off their frustrations. Once, they have done that, they move on and don’t check the answers they receive.

There’s another problem with Quora. People just post a single sentence questions without any context. Finding answers to self-help questions is usually a Q&A process.

Coaching isn’t about preaching to the coachee your point of view or your solutions. Coaching is about understanding the problem of the coachee thoroughly. It’s about understanding where they are coming from.

Only then, you can work out a solution in collaboration with the coachee. That isn’t possible when you try to answer a single sentence question on Quora.

To learn more about the challenges of my followers, I used to offer free coaching sessions or conversations with me via Skype to my email newsletter subscribers, but no one took that offer yet.

Now, I want to make a similar offer. I’ll offer a free coaching session via Skype to the first ten people who subscribe to my email newsletter below and then reply to the email they received. This offer is limited to the first ten people who take advantage of it. The deadline is October 19, 2018.

Acknowledge Your Accomplishments

I remember buying my first iPhone, installing a to-do list app on it, and filling it with literally thousands of things to do.

Of course, I never had the time to do all of those things no matter how hard I worked and ended up uninstalling that app and deleting all the to-do items with it.

Maybe, this is my personal subjective perception, but I feel like we live in a society where we don’t acknowledge each other’s successes but only criticize and complain.

I can see why. If a boss had to acknowledge the accomplishments of an employee, the employee wouldn’t work as hard and ask for a raise.

If a teacher acknowledged a student, that student would slack off. If a parent acknowledged their child, that child would get spoiled.

As a result, we create a culture where the successes aren’t acknowledged, but the slightest failure is punished harshly.

The reality is the complete opposite. People work harder when their achievements are acknowledged. If you want to get your employees, students, and children to work hard, recognize their achievements. That’s the basic rule of leadership.

We don’t treat ourselves any different than we treat others. We don’t acknowledge our accomplishments, but we are too quick to find fault with ourselves. That erodes our self-esteem.

There’s a simple rule of communication, relationships, and leadership. It’s called the 5-to-1 rule. To maintain balance in our relationships, we need to give five times more positive feedback for each negative feedback we deliver.

Make no mistake, I don’t mean to play Pollyanna and never tell people what they did wrong. That’s unfair to you, to them, and to everybody. If you don’t give them constructive criticism, you’re robbing them of valuable growth opportunities.

However, every instance of constructive criticism needs to be balanced with five cases of positive feedback. Otherwise, your constructive criticism undermines the self-esteem of that person, and their performance degrades over time.

The 5-to-1 rule not only applies to your relationships with others but also to your relationship with yourself. If you don’t give yourself those five instances of positive feedback, no one else will give them to you. That’s the sad reality of our culture.

Especially, people who are ambitious and interested in personal development find a lot of faults with them. Yet, they don’t pay any attention to their achievements at all. For that reason, I recommend you an exercise.

Get yourself a notebook. Write down every task you have completed and everything you’ve done right throughout the day. Every time, you write an entry in this accomplishments log, take a moment to let that emotion of accomplishment sink in.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, feel the victory, no matter how small, and take a warm bath in those pleasant feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment. Do this every time you enter an item in your log as well as at the end of the day, week, month, quarter, and year. Do this every day for a decade and see what kind of a life you’ll have!

Don’t worry, you won’t be spoiled. On the contrary, you’ll be motivated to get even more of those feelings and attack the next task on your to-do list.

We think that if we keep a long to-do list and find a lot of faults with ourselves, we’ll grow a lot and we’ll get a lot done. That might sound rational on the surface, but in practice, that approach is a recipe for burnout.

You can come up with a point of improvement or two, but remember to come up with five accomplishments for each POI. The more you acknowledge your own accomplishments, the more accomplishments you’ll create in your life. Your success then will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Help Yourself First

Yesterday, I received a question from Quora that resonated with me. Here, it is.

“What should I do? I feel weak and dumb because I am a young computer scientist and I think I can’t help people in difficulty.”

The Messianic Stage

We all go through a developmental stage that Jordan Peterson calls the Messianic Stage. In that stage, we see the suffering in the world, and we think we can change it.

We dive into social causes and try to do whatever we can to make a change in the world. Unfortunately, we figure out that we don’t make a significant difference.

We try to involve others, but we realize that they don’t care. We get frustrated and heartbroken.

My Experience with the Messianic Stage

So far, I met only two people who stayed in their Messianic Stage. One of them is an extremely competent person who was able to build a charity and executed some remarkable projects in Africa.

I acknowledge and appreciate his work, but he is more of an exception than a rule. So, I wouldn’t call myself weak and dumb if I cannot replicate his success.

The second person I met followed the academic path. I expect her to become an academician or a career politician. Again, she is more of an exception than a rule.

All the other friends of mine who were serious about social issues eventually got regular jobs or started small businesses and carried on with their lives. That includes me.

I must admit that I was super fast realizing that I cannot make any significant change as a high school student and got over my Messianic Stage pretty quick.

My Case for Outgrowing Your Messianic Stage

Does outgrowing our Messianic Stage make us weak and dumb? I don’t believe it does, and here’s my case. There are different job descriptions in the society, and everybody has a job. Social work is a job in itself and requires a certain skill set.

I don’t agree that you can’t become a social worker. I believe in growth mindset, and that means that you can become a great social worker if you put in the time and effort necessary. The question is, do you want to commit to this path? Or do you see it as a second job, a side hustle, or a hobby?

You might work as a volunteer in a charity for a year to get the experience, but if you don’t commit to that path full time, you’ll likely not make the kind of impact you’re aiming for.

How to Really Help People in Need

Here’s the twist. You don’t need to commit your life to social work to make a positive impact in the world. You’ll make the most positive impact in the world by becoming your best version.

If your best version isn’t a social worker but a computer scientist, then you becoming the best computer scientist you can be has a much greater positive impact on the lives of the people you are trying to help.

Let that last sentence sink in, because I know it’s hard to grab. We live in a tightly connected world where you help the humanity the most by helping yourself. Or in other words, you cannot help yourself without helping the humanity.

Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, but they are exceptions. For average people like you and me that rule holds.

Creating Wealth for Yourself is Creating Welfare for Humanity

In today’s society, you create wealth for yourself by creating value for others. By doing that, you increase the welfare of humanity as a whole. Not only by all the value you contribute to the humanity, but also with every dollar you spend and all the taxes you pay.

When you believe that you have created sufficient wealth for yourself and for your family, you can retire and commit yourself to charity work as Bill Gates did. You don’t have to be a billionaire to do that. Reaching financial freedom for your retirement is sufficient.

Moreover, you can build more wealth than you and your family can spend, and then donate a portion of it to charity like Warren Buffet.

If you read the biography of Warren Buffet, The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein, you’ll see that he didn’t distract himself with social issues. He was focused 100% on his own business.

Buffet had the urge to do something good for the society, but he procrastinated on it until he realized that he could trust Bill Gates with his money on that front.

Now, think about it. What would provide greater value to society? Warren Buffet focusing on his business for his entire life and then donating most of his wealth to charity? Or Warren Buffet going back and forth between his business and charity work?

Put Your Goals and Life in Perspective

Again, you don’t need to become a billionaire to make a significant donation to charity at the end of your life. Just look at the big picture of your life and put your goals into perspective.

Maybe, the first milestone of helping people in hardship is you becoming the best computer scientist you can, and the rest of the path will reveal itself once you reach that milestone.


The Messianic Stage is a developmental stage that we go through. In that stage, we think that we have to save people in need.

After a while, we figure out that we can’t make much difference in the lives of people in need, and we carry on with our lives. This doesn’t make us dumb or weak.

There’s one thing that we can do for the people in need. That’s becoming the best version of ourselves in our chosen profession.

That way, we’ll add value to humanity in general and pay taxes. A portion of the taxes we pay will be spent on welfare projects.

When we reach retirement, we can always dedicate the rest of our lives to helping people in need like Bill Gates did. Or we can allocate a portion of our wealth to charities as Warren Buffet did.

Maximum Motivation

Sentient beings, including humans, are mostly motivated by the principle of pain and pleasure. I want to add two variables to that formula, the belief in one’s capability and the perceived pain of taking action.

Motivation = Actual or Anticipation of Pain + Anticipation of Pleasure + Belief in One’s Capability – The Perceived Pain of Taking Action

If the amount of motivation exceeds the threshold of resistance to take action, the person takes action.

The interpretation of this formula in humans is more complicated than animals because unlike animals, we can feel pain and pleasure from abstract concepts.

A person can make great effort to work on a piece of art or play a musical instrument because they derive pleasure from them. They can also sacrifice their life for their country because of the pain they feel when they perceive their country to be in danger.

Pain Is a Greater Source of Motivation than Pleasure

Pain is a greater source of motivation than pleasure, and the exact ratio seems to be 5-to-1. This is reported in multiple areas of applied psychology.

An average investor feels five times more pain when they lose a certain amount compared to the pleasure they derive from the profit of the same amount. A basic leadership rule is that an instance of critical feedback has to be balanced with five instances of positive feedback to offset its effects.

The 5-to-1 ratio stems from our negativity bias. We tend to see the world as more negative than it actually is. This helped our ancestors to survive in the wilderness, but it doesn’t serve us anymore. We can overcome our negativity bias by training our mind to be more optimistic.

When you look at the formula, and when you consider the 5-to-1 rule, you’ll reach an interesting conclusion. Increasing your perception of pain will increase your motivation much more than increasing your anticipation of pleasure. This is the dark side of motivation.

The Belief in One’s Capabilities

In some cases, the pain or pleasure might not be sufficient to trigger someone to take action. A person also needs to believe that they are capable of avoiding the pain or accomplishing the goal that would give them pleasure.

I might know that building a successful business would give me pleasure, but if I don’t believe in my capability of achieving that goal, I won’t tolerate the pain of taking action toward it.

We can cultivate a belief in our capabilities by setting realistic goals and actually achieving them, or by breaking down our big hairy audacious goals into milestones and achieving those milestones, in other words, by putting our goals into perspective.

The Connection between Pain and Pleasure

Even though pain and pleasure seem to be distinct phenomena, they are tightly connected to each other. The absence of something that gives you pleasure can give you great pain. That might be something inessential like alcohol or recreational drugs. The alleviation of a certain pain can give you pleasure.

I’d say be careful of which pleasures you allow to your life because they can easily turn into pain. Don’t be too afraid of pain because it can lead you to greater pleasure, or more accurately to greater satisfaction.


When our sensations of pain and pleasure and our belief in our capabilities exceed the pain of taking action, we take action. This is the formula of motivation.

In the formula of motivation, pain plays five times greater role than pleasure due to our negativity bias. Therefore, anticipating or feeling pain is a greater motivation than the anticipation of pleasure.

Believing in our capability of achieving our goals to alleviate our pain or to reach pleasure also increases our motivation. We can cultivate that belief by setting goals that we can achieve and actually achieving them.

Pain and pleasure are tightly connected to each other. The lack of what gives us pleasure gives us pain. Acting despite the perceived pain and reaching our goals gives us satisfaction.

In a nutshell, we can optimize our motivation by regulating or perception and anticipation of pain and pleasure, and by maximizing our belief in our capabilities.

Turn a Loss into a Life-Time Win

The basic premise of economics is that we have unlimited desires but limited resources. That means we will experience the pain of failure, disappointment, or rejection sooner or later if we haven’t already done so.

How do you deal with the pain of failure, disappointment, or rejection when you experience it?

  • Do you deny it and act as if it never happened?
  • Do you give up, withdraw, and never try again?
  • Do you escape it by distracting yourself with something else?

When you experience failure, disappointment, or rejection, you have another option to turn this challenge into an opportunity. That option is to face it, accept it, and embrace it.

Sink into the Pain of Failure

The first step is to accept that you failed. Accept the defeat. Denial only makes things worse. Feel the pain of the defeat fully. Sink into it. Go toward the eye of the emotional storm instead of trying to escape it by distracting yourself with something else.

What happens when you allow yourself to feel the pain of failure fully? You’ll experience that it diminishes over time and eventually disappears.

There’s a caveat though. Embracing your pain doesn’t mean beating yourself up. The difference is simple. Focus on the emotions and not on the thoughts. This is the essence of the letting go method.

Don’t reinforce your feelings of pain by expressing them or dwelling in thoughts triggered by those emotions.

The Difference between Thoughts and Emotions

You can distinguish between emotions and thoughts with a simple heuristic. Focus your attention on your body to feel your emotions. Your thoughts reside in your head, and they are expressed with language.

If you feel a knot in your stomach, that’s your emotions. Stay with it and breathe into it without thinking. If you catch yourself thinking thoughts like “I’m useless. I failed again.” Let them go. Don’t pay any more attention or invest any more mental energy into them.

When you stay with the pain of failure, disappointment, and rejection long enough, something magical happens. That pain and associated fears subside and eventually disappear.

Lose Your Fear of Failure, Disappointment, and Rejection

When you lose your fear of failure, disappointment, and rejection, you approach life and other people with a lighter, playful, non-attached attitude. When you come from that place, life and other people respond to you more positively.

Even your relationship with yourself becomes more positive, which is the most important relationship that you have anyway.

You start taking calculated risks, making more offers, and getting things done effortlessly because you aren’t attached to the results anymore. As a result, you receive more yesses and accomplish more.

By going through the pain of failure, disappointment, and rejection, you come out the other side as a successful, happy, playful person.


We all have or will experience the pain of failure, disappointment, or rejection because we have unlimited desires and there are limited resources.

When you experience a defeat, you can turn that experience into an opportunity by embracing the pain it causes thoroughly.

Once you do that and process the pain of failure entirely, you become immune to it. When you reach that immunity, you lose your fear of failure, disappointment, and rejection.

You adopt an attitude of non-attachment. Other people resonate with you better and respond to your requests more positively.

Your relationship with life gets much better, and you adopt a playful attitude, which makes you happier and more successful.

From Despair, Lethargy, and Mental Fog to Bliss, High Energy, and Mental Clarity

When I observe myself, I recognize two states. The first state involves productivity, happiness, bliss, joy, peace of mind, and mental clarity. The second state involves negative thoughts and emotions, feeling down and depressed, lack of energy, lethargy, and mental fog.

As you see, both of those states involve physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. In my experience, those three components are tightly integrated. Of course, I’d like to be in the first state all the time and avoid the second state to the extent possible.


When I observe my own experience, I realize that the quality of my sleep determines in which state I will be. I’ve read in multiple resources that sleep drains the toxins out of our brains, and I can testify that. When I had a quality sleep, I feel much better mentally, emotionally, and physically.

I aim for eight hours every day. Sometimes, I feel the need for extra napping on the weekends. When I do that, I enjoy peace of mind, mental clarity, and the absence of negative thoughts and emotions. The difference is significant.


If sleep is so important, it only makes sense to let go of what interferes with it. In my experience, the biggest enemy of a long, quality, deep sleep is caffeine.

I’m addicted to delicious coffee, but I make an extra effort to keep my caffeine intake limited and early in the day. Green or white tea is a good replacement later in the day.


I’m lucky that I don’t enjoy alcohol at all. I become sluggish when I drink, and I don’t enjoy that zombie-like mental state. I enjoy staying aware and awake as much as possible, hence the inclination to drink excess coffee.

If you consume alcohol or other recreational drugs regularly and you feel lethargic, depressed, and foggy in your head, you might want to remove them from your life for thirty days and see what the effects are on your body, mind, and emotions.


Exposure to distractions like noise, TV, radio, pop music, and social media moves me from the first state to the second state. So, I try to avoid them to the extent possible.


A good cardio session in the open air changes my mental and emotional state entirely. I return home in a state of bliss after a cardio session even if I left home in a grumpy mood after a working day.

I used to enjoy weight training in the gym, but I’m in the process of giving up on that due to the lack of fresh air, fluorescent lighting, and constant, loud pop music in the background.

Letting Go

A spiritual practice can also help you move from the second state to the first state. I prefer the letting go method. It helps me with letting go of addictions, distractions, and other negative thoughts and emotions.

The idea is to stay with those cravings, urges, or other negative emotions without acting on them or trying to change them with other distractions. After a while, they subside. If you go through this cycle enough times, they stop bothering you.

Our modern lives test us with new challenges constantly. So, I won’t argue that you can let go of all of your negative thoughts and emotions, but it definitely helps you in reducing them to a pleasant level.

1% Improvements

When reading this post, you might have recognized some improvement points in your daily routine to move from the second state to the first state.

You might be tempted to make all the changes in a single day. In my case, that doesn’t work.

What works for me is the 1% improvements method. That is defining where I am now, where I want to be in an ideal case, and then making baby steps toward the ideal every day.


When I observe my body, mind, and emotions, I recognize two states. The first state is energetic, peaceful, and has mental clarity. The second state is lethargic, depressed, and has mental fog.

The difference between both states is the quality of sleep, caffeine and alcohol consumption, distractions, physical exercise, and a spiritual practice like the letting go method.

I pay attention to those variables because I want to stay in the first state to the extent possible. Sometimes, I realize that I’m far from the ideal. In such, cases I’m using the 1% improvements method to make baby steps toward ideal every day.

Self-Coaching on Multiple Levels

Once in a while, you might come across a challenge that has solutions on different levels. Moreover, this challenge might point to a bigger problem on a deeper level.

Today, I’m going to work on a challenge that I had recently to give you an idea of how to process issues on multiple levels.

Last week, I started to answer self-help questions on Quora. My motivation was twofold. First, I wanted to learn what type of challenges people had so that I can produce relevant content for them. Second, I wanted to promote my blog there.

As a part of my second purpose, I included a link to my blog in my credentials. After a week, Quora warned me that my credentials weren’t displayed and I had to edit them. This didn’t land well with me.

The Mental Level

On the mental level, Quora removing my credentials was a minor issue. Maybe, not even that. Sure, not having a link to my blog in my credentials could impact the traffic to my blog, but how much? One person a week? Was that really such a big problem?

Quora had all the rights to impose whatever rules they wanted on their service. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t use it. It was as simple as that.

I believe that their service provided value to me even if I didn’t promote my blog there or answered a single question. It was a goldmine to understand the challenges of people and to produce content to address those challenges.

Can an obstacle actually be an advantage? I believe it can. In this case, I can use my creativity and embed persuasive links to my blog posts in my Quora answers. That practice might result in greater subscriber acquisition than a dry link in my credentials.

Long story short, there’s no need to be upset about Quora removing my credentials. On the contrary, I can use my creativity and turn this constraint into an advantage. That’s my conclusion on the mental level, but there’s a deeper level that I have to work on.

The Emotional Level

If I didn’t work on this issue on an emotional level and left my reflection on the mental level, I’d miss an opportunity. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth, and I believe I have a room for growth here.

How do I feel about this event? I feel upset because I feel like I’ve been punished. That means I made a mistake.

I don’t like to be punished, and I don’t want to make any mistakes.

That’s a deep belief I carry with me that regulates my behavior. You might say that no one likes to be punished or make any mistakes. But if you take that to an extreme, it might result in passivity, not taking any risks, and dwelling in your comfort zone.

How do I process this problem on the emotional level? The first step is to use the letting go method. Stay with the intense emotions that are triggered until they subside. Embrace the fact that I made a mistake and got punished.

The second step is to allow myself to make mistakes. I don’t need to be perfect. As a matter of fact, I can’t be perfect. It’s human to make mistakes and get punished by reality.

I can see how I adopted my limiting belief of perfection. When I was a child, I was expected to behave perfectly, and I was punished harshly when I didn’t. It’s time to let go of this irrational belief.

The benefits of letting go of my limiting belief are to be more relaxed going through life, taking more risks, and not being tormented when I make a mistake. It’s a liberating process that would contribute to my success and satisfaction in life.


Once in a while, you might come across a challenge that you can solve easily on the mental level, but the issue might still impact you on an emotional level.

If that’s the case, you need to go deeper into your psyche and ask yourself why you’re triggered by such a simple problem.

When you explore your psyche, you might come across a limiting belief that you picked up when you were a child.

Now is the time to let go of that limiting belief and replace it with a rational one to function better in the world and to improve your success and satisfaction in life.

Pain, Pleasure, Satisfaction, Mental Toughness, Success

We, humans, are hardwired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. This simple principle was a wise rule of thumb before the civilization. Our environment provided us with sufficient challenges to deal with. This is not the case anymore.

Civilization brought us abundance and removed pain from our daily lives. This is good news on the surface, but there’s a flip side. We don’t know how to deal with abundance and the lack of pain.

If we follow our instincts, we can sink deep into pleasure and have no pain at all in the short-term. Such behavior is guaranteed to bring pain in the long term, either the pain of sickness, or the psychological pain of emptiness, or both.

Pleasure vs. Satisfaction

Satisfaction is a different feeling than pleasure. It requires our effort. That effort can be mental, emotional, physical, or a combination of them. When we reach a goal after an extended period of hard work, the emotion that we feel isn’t pleasure. It’s satisfaction.

Pleasure is a bad heuristic for success. Following pleasure rarely leads to success. Following satisfaction does.

The Formula of Mental Toughness

Success requires effort. After a certain threshold, effort feels painful. If we used our instincts, we would avoid the pain of extensive effort. That means we need to go against our instincts to succeed in life.

In other words, we need to invert the pain, pleasure principle. We need to avoid pleasure and go toward the pain to the extent possible. This is the formula of mental toughness that leads to success and satisfaction in life.

The Pain that Stimulates Growth

The pain I’m talking about here isn’t harming yourself physically. It’s the psychological pain of making the effort necessary and facing your fears. In other words, it’s the pain of self-discipline and courage.

You don’t need to become the toughest person overnight. It’s a process. All you have to do is to put one step in front of the other in the right direction. This is the principle of 1% improvements. By making 1% daily improvements, you make significant changes in your life over time.

When you go toward the eye of the storm, you’ll inevitably fail. That’s good. Every failure is an opportunity for personal growth and progress. Ray Dalio, an American billionaire investor, defines progress as pain + reflection in his book Principles.


Our default behavior is to avoid pain and seek pleasure. That instinct worked back in the day for our ancestors because their environment provided them with sufficient challenges. That’s rarely the case for us now.

To reach success and satisfaction in life, we need to invert our default instinct. We need to seek pain and avoid pleasure. That new heuristic improves our mental toughness and results in success and satisfaction in life.

Eliminating Self-Sabotage from Your Life

Yesterday, I shared the dynamics of self-sabotage. Self-sabotage occurs when our deep-seated beliefs are challenged by the reality.

Unconsciously, we’d rather experience loss, failure, and pain than to see our beliefs invalidated. If you think that you don’t deserve a promotion, you’ll set yourself up for failure when you receive one.

Self-sabotage is an unconscious process. Sometimes, we realize we are undermining ourselves and ask ourselves why we are doing that.

Sometimes, we aren’t even aware that it is us that is causing the same losses, failures, and pain over and over. We wonder what’s wrong with us and why we are attracting the same unpleasant experiences over and over.

When you come across a persistent problem, you can go over the following steps to find and change the underlying, negative, limiting beliefs.

  1. Determine your contribution to the problem.
  2. Discover your motivation to your contribution to the problem.
  3. Find out how you acquired the limiting belief that motivated you to sabotage yourself.
  4. Come up with an alternative, empowering belief.
  5. Repeat the new empowering belief until you internalize it.

Determine Your Contribution to the Problem

Some random events cause loss and pain. If you’re driving safely within legal speed limits and a truck hits you, I won’t go as far as to say that you have attracted this reality to your life.

However, if you’re experiencing the same difficulties over and over in a particular area of your life, you might want to look at your own contribution to the problem.

If you’re getting fired within the first year of every job you start, or if your relationships always end up prematurely in a breakup, you might be contributing to this problem as well.

The first step to solve such persistent problems is to acknowledge your part in it and find out exactly what you have or haven’t done to cause the failure or loss.

Maybe, you don’t give 100% at your job, or you make unrealistic demands from your partners. Whatever it is, find your contribution to the problem first.

Discover Your Motivation to Contribute to the Problem

This is the hardest and most critical part. We’re looking for the underlying negative belief here. Sometimes, this belief can be conscious, but most of the time, it is unconscious.

If you don’t give 100% at your job, ask yourself why you don’t do that? If you make unrealistic demands from your partners, ask yourself why you do that?

You might think that you’ve failed so many times before and probably fail in this job as well. So, why give 100%? If this is your approach to your job, your limiting belief will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you’ll lose your job.

You might feel like your partners aren’t loving you enough, and you might be making unrealistic demands to make them show you that they genuinely love you. The underlying limiting belief there could be that you’re unlovable.

Apply the Letting Go Method to the Unpleasant Emotions that Come Up

When you discover your limiting belief, you’ll feel a surge of unpleasant emotions. That’s good because those emotions have been trapped in your body. They have been fueling your limiting belief and your self-sabotaging behavior that create your persistent problems over and over.

Apply the letting go technique to the unpleasant emotions. Stay with them without trying to change them, suppressing them, expressing them, or escaping them. If you do that long enough, those emotions will subside.

If those emotions come up again, their energy will be lower. If you keep applying the letting go method, they’ll eventually vanish from your system.

Find Out How You Acquired the Limiting Belief

Most of the time, we acquire our limiting beliefs early in our lives. Look at your past and try to find the incident that caused the limiting belief.

Maybe, your dad was distant to you when you were a child, and you interpreted that as you being unlovable. That was one of the explanations of your dad’s distant behavior. Which other explanations are there?

Maybe, your dad thought he had to be strict with this children to raise them as disciplined individuals. Maybe, his parents were distant to their children as well, and he didn’t think about it. Maybe, he was a busy professional. Maybe, he had his own problems he had to deal with.

One or more of those explanations are probably more valid than your explanation of being unlovable. That explanation made sense to the young child that you were, but isn’t it time you drop it?

Yes, it’s hard, and it stirs up some heavy emotions, but isn’t it time to process those emotions now, release them from your body, and start a new joyful, happy, fulfilling life now?

Come Up with an Alternative, Empowering Belief

At this step, you have found your limiting belief, figured out how you acquired it, and let go of it and associated emotions. Wouldn’t it be cool to come up with an alternative, empowering belief?

If your limiting belief is that you’re unlovable, the alternative is that you’re lovable. If your limiting belief is that you’re incapable, the alternative is that you’re capable.

If you’re limiting belief is more complicated than that, use your creativity to come up with an alternative, empowering belief.

Internalize Your New Empowering Belief

Repeat your new belief as much as possible. Post it on different places where you can see it often. Record it on your phone and listen to it on auto-repeat. Find proofs of it. Act it out in your life.

Give your 100% at your job even if you’re guaranteed to fail. In the worst case scenario, you’ll get fired, but you’ll have learned a brand new skill set. That’ll be the cherry on top. Or your boss might recognize your efforts and move you to a more appropriate position.


If you’re experiencing the same problems over and over, you might be contributing to the problem with your self-sabotaging behavior. The first step to resolve the dynamic of self-sabotage is to acknowledge and recognize your contribution to the problem.

In the second step, ask yourself what your motivation was to act in a self-defeating manner. Your answer will be a deep-seated limiting belief. When you discover that belief, intense, unpleasant emotions might come up. Letting those emotions go is a part of the healing process.

Find out how you acquired that limiting belief and find an alternative explanation to the event or events that caused it.

Come with a new, alternative, empowering belief. Internalize your new belief by repeating it often, looking for proofs of it, and by acting it out.

Once you go through these five steps, you’ll be free from that particular self-sabotaging behavior, and end up with an empowering belief for the rest of your life.