Lasting Change

How to make lasting changes in your life. Defining a goal may spark the desire to work for it.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published November 1, 2002 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

The route to lasting change and getting what you really want in life is through a sustained vision of the future. When you assemble a detailed vision of the future you want, and visit it regularly, it becomes an ongoing source of motivation to get there.

The biggest obstacle that people face in getting what they want in life is their failure to define what it is they really want. The next biggest hurdles are your own fears and doubts. Having a clear vision of a wonderful future is absolutely necessary—but it typically stirs up a set of emotional roadblocks. These come at us in the form of fears both of failing and of succeeding, and in doubts about our own worthiness for success.

The fears and doubts make their presence felt in "negative" emotions. We fear that we can't really get what we want, that we will fail at losing weight because it has proved too difficult in the past, or that we'll never figure out how to get where we want to go.

The fears and doubts cluster around a few kinds of issues. All of them are false conclusions from past experiences that limit our future. And all are hooked to beliefs about ourselves—that we don't deserve love and success and a wonderful future, that we are not good enough, that we do not have the power to create the solutions to our problems—or beliefs about the nature of the world—that life really requires struggling and even suffering.

Society, our parents, our religions and even psychology and our movies teach us that life is a struggle. As long as that is what we believe then that is what we will get, because we are powerful enough to create it. As Henry Ford said, "Whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you are right."

Fears and doubts are so unpleasant that most people go to considerable lengths to cover them up or banish them. "We use alcohol, cigarettes, food, drugs, overwork and even 'positive thinking' to distract ourselves from feeling them," observes Ti Caine, hypnotherapist and life coach from Sherman Oaks, California.

But that is like calling your smoke alarm "negative" and attacking it with a baseball bat. Their purpose is to warn us that there are specific underlying beliefs that are endangering us, holding us back. Instead of squelching the smoke alarm we need to fix the fire.

"It's imperative to look at the roadblocks as a friend," says Caine. "If you follow them to the core belief below the surface and then change that belief, your whole life can open up."

Caine goes so far as to say that all our emotions are positive, even sadness and fear. They all serve a positive purpose. "They exist to help us move forward in life," he says. "They are your very best friends, trying to call your attention to what is holding you back."

Attacking the smoke alarm is the simple fix, and like all simple fixes it never works. Dealing with the underlying beliefs is honoring life's complexity; the irony is that if you work with the complexity life can actually get easier.

The beliefs that limit people are different for everyone: "I am afraid that I will never really get the love I want." "I can't get what I want because I am not powerful enough." But they all boil down to one bottom line: "There's something wrong with me."

Here is how to make your life more successful right now:

  • Imagine, as clearly as you can, your ideal future.
  • Feel the excitement, but pay attention to the doubts and fears that arise. Write them down.
  • Look under the fears and doubts to find the beliefs they are stemming from. Write those beliefs down.
  • Once you have identified the core belief that is sabotaging success, write out a new set of beliefs that you want to live by. Connect with the basic human truth that you are a valuable person, that you deserve love and success, that you are powerful enough to create your life.
  • Then connect with the feelings those new belief generate: that success feels great, that love feels terrific, and there is lots of it out there.
  • Visualize a future that incorporates those new beliefs. You don't do it just once. You keep on doing it. That will continually motivate you to go through the process of peeling back the curtains on your core self until you tackle every belief that is holding you back.

As you get closer to the core you tap the source of all change and success—self-love, and forgiveness for past failures.