By John Sonmez May 18, 2016

How to Change Your Life

What is it that you've always dreamed of becoming?

Who is it that you've envied?

How would your life change if you suddenly gained the power to do what you thought was impossible and really got what you wanted out of life?

Today, I'm going to give you that power—well, I'm not going to give it to you, but I'm going to show you how to get it—if you are willing to do what it takes.

Right now, you very likely don't even believe that it’s possible for your life to change drastically… so it doesn’t.

But every time you see someone with what you want, living the life you want, being the person you wish you could be, you should be asking yourself, “Why not me?”

Why Not Me?

It's a powerful, essential question.

Other than some very small genetic and environmental differences, there is no reason why it shouldn'twhy it couldn'tbe you.

I know the gap might seem large, but it isn't.

Yes, we are all different. Yes, we are physically and mentally not the same. Yes, some of us had so called economic or social advantages. Some of us might have even had parents who didn't completely screw us up.

But the biggest difference—the most consequential difference that really matters and answers the question, “Why not me?”—is how we choose to perceive the world, which ultimately defines how we interact with it.

All the mental barriers, fears, and limitations we place on ourselves are what stop us from becoming what we are capable of.

Combine these with a lack of self-discipline and an unwillingness to be uncomfortable, and we often fail to really dig in, grit our teeth, and do what it takes to get the job done and change ourselves for the better.

Most of us would be willing to put in the work, if we knew we could achieve the outcome we desired, but many of us aren't. Many of us know what it would take to get to where we want to go, and we are simply unwilling to do it.

Well, I can neither guarantee you an outcome, nor can I force your feet down the path, but what I can do is show you the way—at least the way I've discovered.

Change Your Life

Start with an Honest Assessment of Where You Are

Take a good, hard, honest look in the mirror and really see yourself for the first time.

Take off the wig, take off the mask, and stand there naked, without sucking your stomach in.

Most people do one of two things when confronted with the truth about themselves: they either bury their head in the sand and ignore reality, or they tell themselves lies in order to make themselves feel better.

Ignorance may be bliss, and lies may keep you from feeling the cold, harsh truth of reality, but it won't help you grow or find what you’re looking for.

You can have a perfect map, but if you don't know where you are starting, you can't know the path to get to where you are going. And to some degree, you can't even know what that destination should be.

That's why it's important to be completely honest with yourself—to realize that reality is reality and no amount of wishful thinking or ignorance will change it. Some truths are difficult, but they still need to be faced.

Most people will never face the truth; they won't even look for it. They are afraid of what they might find. They'd rather live their lives blissfully unaware—asleep.

You have to fight this urge. You have to pull off the band-aid, be willing to open those locked doors and face whatever demons are behind them, no matter how horrible they may be.

You have to be willing to admit your greatest fears, see your greatest failures, and shatter any illusions that keep you from observing reality.

It WILL be painful.

It will hurt like hell!

Nevertheless, it's a necessary first step to becoming what you are capable of, to transforming and changing your life. To answering the question, “Why not me?” with a resounding “why not?”

Now that you've taken a good hard look in the mirror, it's time to change what you see.

Acting “As If”

Depositphotos_1676007_l-2015 (1)This isn't a popular viewpoint. Plenty of people will tell you to be yourself and not try to be something you're not.

Plenty of people will call you fake and tell you to accept yourself as you are.

They are half right. You do need to accept yourself before you can become something more—before you can reach the potential you are capable of—but if you've taken a real good, hard look in the mirror, you've already done that.

Close your eyes right now; I want you to see the person who you'd like to be.

What is the idealized version of yourself? Do you wish you were a little more confident, perhaps a little more charming? Do you wish you looked better, had more personality, maybe more money, better clothes, a sense of style and fashion?

Perhaps you wish you were more intelligent, or famous. Or perhaps you just want success, however you define it, or even more money.

Let your imagination run wild. Picture that perfect you.

Or if you have trouble doing that, picture the perfect someone else. Your ultimate role model. The person you'd like to be, but think you could never become.

Now, I want you to try something for a bit.

Imagine that you are that person. Pretend to be that person.

I want you to actually see yourself walking, talking, even eating lunch just like that person would.

This is the key to lasting change: acting as if.

It's an extremely powerful concept. It's faking it until you make it.

It's choosing to play the role until you become the role.

And it works.

I know.

It might not seem like it now, but I used to be an extremely shy, introverted, lazy, and fearful person.

I used to be completely unathletic.

I used to completely lack confidence.

But then one day, I woke up in the morning, and for whatever reason the universe decided to plant an idea in my head—the same idea I'm sharing with you today.

The Life-Changing Idea

The idea that changed my life was that I could literally become anything I wanted. Why not me?

I realized that there was no fundamental reason that I couldn't be exactly the kind of person I wanted to be.

I realized that the only thing stopping me from becoming what I wanted to become was taking the simple step of doing it.

I realized that, if I acted like the person I wanted to become, then at some point, I'd stop acting and I'd simply be that person.

It didn't happen all at once.

I'm still growing and becoming more and more of the person I want to be. Even that very definition is changing as I'm discovering deeper truths about myself and the world at large.

But I'm on the path. I'm a completely different person than I was 20 years ago. I'm completely different than I was five years ago, even, to a larger degree, one year ago.

I'm doing things I never thought possible before. I'm living a life I never thought possible all due to one simple idea: why not me?

Ah, but if only it were that easy.

Sure, we can look into the mirror and get a nasty dose of reality.

Sure, we can imagine our ideal selves, and we can even pretend to be those people in our heads.

But there's still a big gap between that dream and making it reality.

And That Gap Is Fear

Yes, fear.Fear

Fear is what holds us back more in life than anything else.

Fear is the guardian on the road to self-improvement, who holds the flaming sword, banishing us from paradise.

Fear takes many forms, from the physical fear of our own destruction or pain, to the mental fear of failure, hardship, or rejection, and to the very real fear of fear itself.

We can't act like the person we want to become because we are afraid. We are afraid what other people will think or say about us. We are afraid of being rejected, of outright failing.

We are afraid of moving out of our comfort zones and doing the things that make us uncomfortable.

I used to think fear would just eventually go away on its own. I used to think that some day I'd just become confident or courageous, and I'd be able to conquer fear outright.

I used to think that I could appease fear. That I could let it have a little piece of my life here or there—I'll drive instead of fly, for instance—and that it wouldn't want the rest.

Fear doesn't work that way. When you give fear the smallest foothold, it grows and grows and takes more and more of your life.

You can't appease it.

You can't ignore it.

It won't go away. It won't eventually disappear.

It must be confronted.

It must be felt, and faced, and overcome.

I want to tell you about how I learned to overcome my fears.

How I Overcame My Fears

I used to be a very scared person. I used to completely lack courage.

I remember running out of the doctor's or dentist’s office and locking myself in the car as a kid when I was told I was going to get a shot or have a tooth drilled.

I was afraid to ride the Dumbo ride at Disney World. Even the Peter Pan ride terrified me.

I was scared to talk to people. I was scared of the dark. I was scared that aliens were going to take me in the middle of the night while I was sleeping.

I was especially scared to talk to girls.

As an adult my fears only increased. I would never go on a roller-coaster. I developed a fear of airplanes so bad that I would dread trips for months before I was supposed to go on them and would use every excuse known to man to get out of them. I'd often cancel a trip on the day I was supposed to fly and eat the ticket cost.

Then one day, it all culminated in a series of panic attacks.

I was at work, and I suddenly felt like I had trouble breathing.

It didn't go away. I felt a constant need to get a deeper breath, to cough invisible phlegm out of my lungs.

I felt like I was going to die—and I was scared.

For two weeks I pretty much persisted in this state. I barely dragged myself to work, and then I spent most of the time sitting on a toilet in the bathroom, waiting for the time to tick by, so that I could go home and go to sleep—the only relief from my fear.

I thought my entire life was going to be destroyed. I was going to lose my job, my marriage, and my sanity.

I tried all kinds of things to get over the fear. First, I tried to ignore it, pretend like it wasn't happening to me, or distract myself with something else, so I couldn't focus on it.

That didn't work. The more I tried to ignore it, the worse it got.

Then, I tried to rationalize it away. I had all kinds of tests done on my lung capacity and breathing. I came out in perfect health, but that still didn't make me feel any better.

One day I ran across a video on the web talking about how to deal with panic attacks, and the author talked about this exercise where, instead of trying to block out the fear, you choose to experience it fully.

The idea was that you just sit there and turn up the intensity as high as you can and not block any of it out.

You force yourself to feel every wave of fear, every rapid heartbeat, every breath. You embrace it.

I had nothing to lose, so I tried it.

It worked almost instantly.

As soon as I allowed myself to fully experience the fear and face it head on, I realized that it couldn't get any worse than this, and this wasn't even so bad.

My Life Completely Changed

I started applying this technique to all of my fears.

First, I started talking to people and putting myself out there.

Then, I started flying airplanes. I stopped putting on headphones and trying to distract myself from turbulence, and I got a window seat and forced myself to feel the undistracted, unmitigated fear of taking off while I looked out the window.

Just a few weeks ago, I drove up to Six Flags Magic Mountain, and I rode the eight scariest roller-coasters in the park.

And I'm not stopping there. I'm conquering new fears every day.

I used to think courage was the absence of fear, but now I realize it's acting in spite of fear.

Bear-Fight

What About You?

So now it's time to ask yourself: what are your fears?

What is holding you back?

You know where you are. You know where you want to be, but what does the dragon on the bridge that's holding you back look like?

Are you afraid that you'll fail?

Are you afraid that you'll look like an idiot, or embarrass yourself?

Are you afraid that you'll be rejected—that you'll be told no?

Are you afraid you aren't good enough?

Maybe you are just afraid of the amount of work involved. Maybe you're afraid of the pain you'll have to experience, physically or mentally.

Whatever that fear is, you have to be willing to face it. Not tomorrow, not next week, not when it goes away or when you are ready, but right now.

This isn't a dress rehearsal.

Right now, right in this moment, you are living your life—quite likely the only one you'll ever have.

So it's up to you to decide to live it to its fullest.

I used to be afraid of dying, but then I realized how many people die before they've even had a chance to really live.

Don't let that be you.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."