The 3 Reasons we Change

There are 3 reasons why a human being makes a change in their habits. If you want to effect a change in your life, or help another with a change that they say they want to make in their life – there are 3 levers that can increase the likelihood that change happens.

The 3 Reasons we Change

  1. Pain – When my perception of current pain is visceral, then I will make the effort required to change. Someone can be in great pain but be unaware of the degree to which they are suffering. If I help myself or other become fully aware of the current pain, change can begin.
  2. Vision – When I can see with extreme clarity where I want to get to, it is more likely that changes will happen. If I have a vague sense of where I want to go, nothing will change. As I make that vision clearer and clearer, more and more believable… change will begin to happen.
  3. Fear of Future Consequences – When I can see the future pain that is coming if I do not change, and I feel it viscerally as if it was a current pain, change can begin to happen. Often I know that there are future consequences, but I haven’t truly taken the time to visualise and feel how bad it will be.

If you want someone to change, including yourself, don’t tell them what to do. Help them feel the current pain, see clearly the vision or feel the future consequences. This is how we help change happen.

Are you motivated by Pain or motivated by Gain?

Pain or Gain?

There are two fundamental drives to human action:

  1. Avoidance of Pain
  2. Seeking of Gain.

This is how we work.

There are no other external causes of action.

We take action when we truly believe:

  1. It will avoid a Pain, or
  2. We truly believe it will deliver a Gain.

If I am not taking action, it is often because I do not truly believe that the action will achieve the end goal of pain avoidance, or deliver the gain.

The Pain Avoidance Driven Life

There are a set of things we do because we “have” to.  These tend to be actions driven by pain avoidance.

  • It is not hard to get a sick person to take painkillers.  They directly remove a current, real pain.
  • It is not hard to get a hungry person to eat.  The food directly removes a current, real pain.
  • It is not hard to get a scuba diver to come to the surface when they run out of air.
  • It is not hard to get myself to sleep when I am tired.
  • It is not hard to get myself to go to the toilet when I need to pee.

I don’t need any boss or discipline to do these tasks because the environment will just ramp up the pain steadily until I have no choice but to take action.

An entirely pain-avoidance driven life will inevitably leave a growing feeling of overwhelm.

The Gain Driven Life

“The things that will bring you the greatest results in your life don’t have a deadline.” Steve McClatchy

Perhaps the greatest positive of gain driven action is that it is entirely discretionary.  It is driven by choice.  It is the tool by which I change my fate.  It is the set of actions that define what type of human being I have chosen to be.

There is no need to take these actions.

In many cases, I live an internal fantasy life based on “I could do this, I could do that” that allows me to feel like I am the type of person I intend to be…  but only in my own inner life.  Not to the world.  Not in any meaningful way.

Anybody could write a blog post.

Anybody could go for a walk.

Anybody could eat 10% less calories for lunch today.

…and the fact that I know that I could is often my own barrier to actually doing.  I can maintain my inner image of myself as the highest potential version of me…  without seeing that my daily actions are not reaching this potential.



7 Letters To Write Before you Turn 70

Email has almost completely replaced the written letter.  This creates an opportunity.  Written letters are so rare that they really stand out.  You can really benefit from this special attention, but maybe nobody ever taught you the art of good letter writing.  Here is a short guide…

The blog “The Art of Manliness” has some comic takes on the art of being a “man”.  I find it funny.  They had a recent series that was really helpful:  templates for letters that we each should know how to write.  Their template for a letter of condolence was a real help for me recently as I couldn’t think of how to start writing a letter to a friend who had faced a tragic loss.

7 Letters to Write Before You Turn 70

The 7 Letters are:

  1. A Letter of Congratulations – (check out this guide)
  2. A Letter to Your Father – (see this article)
  3. A Letter of Condolence/Sympathy – (see this article)
  4. A Letter to Your Future Self – (No guide, but here is my own version of a letter to my future self from 2008)
  5. A Love Letter – (check out this guide)
  6. A Letter of Gratitude – (How to write thank you notes)
  7. A Letter of Encouragement – No guide, some tips given below…

How many of these letters have you’ve already written?  Which types of letters are your favourite to write and to receive?

How (and Why) to Write A Letter of Encouragement


I often forget the power of a few of my words of encouragement for the people around me.  I make it a habit to write thank you letters, but have decided to add encouragement letters to this habit.

I know many people who have faced hard economic times over the last 5 years as Europe faces the continuing fallout after the financial crash of 2008.

A letter of encouragement tells someone in the midst of a hard time that you’ve got their back and have faith in their ability to continue on or find a way out.

A letter can be more powerful than a phone call or a face to face talk.  Letters are so rare as to be special these days.  The power of the letter is in its permanence.  It can continue to give motivation days, months and years later because the words are always available.  The letter form often allows me to express clearly emotions that I might avoid in a face to face meeting.

The format for encouragement is the praise format that Ken Blanchard first shared with me.  Create a distinct separation between the quality of the person and the state of the project.  First, acknowledge that not all is going to plan and it must feel heartbreaking.  Second, let the person know the important qualities you recognise in them.  That’s all.  Sign your name and put it in the post.

I think this letter can be short.  In my past, it was the thought that mattered.  The fact that someone cared enough to reach out.

I have had times where I have struggled with setbacks and doubt, times when I was tempted to abandon the path.  I have been lucky in that friends, mentors and family members have stepped in with words, emails or letters of encouragement at important moments.  (Thanks friends… you know who you are!).

Who will you encourage today?

Maybe a friend has lost their job and is starting to lose hope of ever finding another good position.  Maybe an entrepreneur has recently been rejected from an accelerator program and is not sure whether they are good enough.  Maybe a friend is going through a tough time in their relationship, or is facing a family health challenge that is starting to tire them out.

Who do you know who is facing a real challenge and could really benefit from a couple of words of encouragement from you? 

On Running 22 Marathons in 30 days (in Winter)

This is a guest post by Luca Rossini. Luca ran home. This is a big deal when you live in Paris and your family home is near Milan.  This post shares how he kept the journey going day after day after day... 

Over to Luca…

How I found the Strength to Run 900 kilometers through the Winter roads of France and Italy

I would like to share something I learnt in the winter of 2012 on the French roads of Bourgogne, on my 900 km run home to Italy.

It was the year when I lost my father, and my brother had been diagnosed with leukaemia. I had always loved running as an amateur, and so, despite hesitations and perplexities, I decided to take a month off from work and find the energy that I wanted for myself and my family, by running all the way from Paris, France (where I live) to Pavia, Italy (my hometown, close to Milan).

Luca’s planning for his 900km run from Paris to Pavia (Milan)

Starting my Days Slowly

On an evening two years ago, I listened to Conor’s speech ( in my apartment in Paris. He talks about the advice coming directly from Kenneth Blanchard, author of ‘The One Minute Manager’.

Conor had asked him if Blanchard had ever had that black day, the last after a month of efforts, that 30th when one feels that one’s leadership, the energy hoisting one’s organisation or project, isn’t there anymore; and if he did, what does or would he do on such a day.

After a pause, Blanchard replied, suggesting that you ‘start your day slowly’.

In practice, it implies that when you wake up in the mornings, take a moment to reflect on the reality of life. Take the time to feel your presence, consider where you are and why, and the reasons that will enable you to execute the endeavour that lies ahead, before you dive in and invest the energy in the whirlpool of life.

Learn to Spend Time with Yourself

As I closed my laptop after watching the video, I was reminded of something my father told me on a winter night when we were staying at a monastery, which also serves as a mountain hut, in the snow-capped Swiss Alps. After dinner, the monks requested ten minutes of silence, for them and us, bunch of ski-mountaineers in colourful fleeces and boots.

Ten minutes is a long time. I remember my father telling me that a few minutes into the silent reflection, he started asking himself, “Why am I here? What brought me to this point? What is the deeper meaning, the underlying reason that has brought us up here, now?”

Start your day slow. Ask yourself why.

I was quite surprised to arrive at the same answer, or more precisely, the same question, during my long run through France and Italy. It was my beacon through the cloudy, freezing December mornings that led me home.

In fact, as I progressed through the run, I began suffering from tendonitis and inflammation due to lack of training to cope with the intense pace of about 40 kms a day. Some days, I would wake up from the bunk beds of the hostel where I spent the night, feeling cramps as soon as I put my feet to the ground. It would make me wonder if that would be my 30th day, the day when I stop.

But then, I clearly remember, and remind myself ever since, something happened, every morning.

I would start walking early in the wintry morning lights, one stiff leg after another, feet cold in my running shows, and looking probably odd. After a few hundred meters, rain or shine, the walk softened, my dear Achilles tendon warmed up, realising this was anyway a great ride to do.

A kilometer or so later, I could risk running a few steps, often realising with pain that it was too early to do so.

The important thing was that, sooner or later in the morning, and every morning, I found myself, legs warm, feet in the air, round movement in the knees, running as I love to, headed to my destination behind the Alps.

Finding the Source of Inner Strength

Luca arrives home

I am not a professional, neither do I run regularly. My only preparation for the run consisted of my rucksack, spare t-shirts and socks, a smartphone for maps and a duvet. I reached my hometown with no fanfare, finishing alone on my usual training loop leading to the door of my childhood’s house, for a warm shower, just before Christmas.

One might wonder what such a lonely wolf experience would give you. I didn’t articulate it in words until now – what I can say is that it made me conscious of the fact that the reservoir of energy we can tap on is virtually infinite, because is constantly refuelled by the meaning we assign to it.

This is the well of inner strength, and it is something I will always bring with me. I hope it also inspires some amongst you.

About the Author

Luca has a blog that followed his run day by day The Long Run Home.  Luca has started the Bruno Rossini Marathon in memory of his father each year in Pavia.

7 Signs that People are Engaged in Your Business

Are your people engaged?

  1. People consistently put in extra effort beyond what is expected.
  2. People are highly motivated to contribute to the success of the organisation.
  3. People consistently look for more efficient and effective ways of getting the job done.
  4. People have a strong sense of personal accomplishment from their work.
  5. People understand how their roles help the organisation meet its goals.
  6. People always have a positive attitude when performing their duties at work.
  7. Leaders do a good job of recognising contributions.

From the book The Carrot Principle.  Read the page here.

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