Hundreds of success coaches offer very good advice and valuable insights about how to become more productive, prosperous, and successful. But the standard approach to personal change simply doesn’t work for many people. They leap from one coach to another, one method to another, one book to another, because nothing seems to work for them over the long term.

The fact is we can receive the best advice in the world but it won’t do much good if we remain victims of our existing negative patterns and self-defeating habits. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

People tend to be fairly comfortable with their current array of habits – even those that don’t serve any useful purpose or actually hold them back from achieving their true potential. A person’s existing inventory of habits – both empowering and disempowering – make that person who and what they are at any given moment.

In my humble opinion, the standard, success-first approach to personal change puts the cart before the horse. Before we can carry out the success strategies that will propel us forward, we have to recognize and reject the engrained, habitual FAILURE traps that currently hold us back.

Consider the basic principle of physics that states, “Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.” The same principle applies to personal change. You can’t fill your toolbox with new SUCCESS skills if it’s already brimming with FAILURE habits.

FAILURE-Proof Your Life™
Keep in mind that the FAILURE habits I’m talking about take place mostly between the ears. They find expression in a disempowering internal dialogue. These FAILURE Traps are negative, macro-level thought-habits, mindsets, and attitudes that cause people to fall short of their potential.

I advocate a Fix FAILURE First approach to personal change because it takes into account that most people fall short of their potential for one simple reason: they’re generally comfortable with the person they are right now – FAILURE habits and all. Introducing a set of new SUCCESS habits might stretch the rubber band for a while, but eventually the band will snap back to its previous, tension-free, habit-formed configuration.

In my “How to FAILURE-Proof Your Life™ and Become a SUCCESS Magnet™” workshops, I talk about the Six Axioms of Personal Empowerment. I don’t have time to discuss all six in this short article. But I do want to outline the fourth axiom because it’s so critical to the issue of Fixing FAILURE First.

The fourth axiom states: You can’t change what you don’t realize.
Self-awareness is key to the personal change process. You simply can’t implement the Three Rs unless you spend time in personal reflection and meditation. You must get very clear about the specific patterns that are holding you back and undermining your success. The change process can only begin when you manage to bring your negative internal dialogue—that nagging little voice in the back of your head—up to conscious awareness. Once you become aware of the habitual, negative messages you’re sending to yourself, you’re in a much better position to change those messages from disempowering to empowering.

It’s worth recalling what Napoleon Hill says about the concept he refers to as Cosmic Habitforce in his book Keys to Success: The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement.

Hill believes we are all “ruled by habits” and that these habits are “fastened upon us by repeated thoughts and experiences.” The empowering thing about these habits, according to Hill, is that we all have complete control over our thoughts. We’re able to create certain patterns of thought “by repeating certain ideas or behavior until the Law of Cosmic Habitforce takes over these patterns and makes them more or less permanent unless or until you consciously rearrange them.” Hill believes—and I agree—that each of these habits “can be developed and neutralized or changed at will through the proper use of your mind. You have the power. You are ruled by your habits. It takes a habit to replace a habit.”

That is a very empowering idea, one that I refer to as reprogramming your HabitForce so it works for you, not against you. This ability to reprogram or replace habits forms the basis of my FAILURE to SUCCESS system (see my book HabitForce!) in which each disempowering habit of FAILURE gets replaced by its SUCCESS counterpart. By recognizing and rejecting your FAILURE habits first, you’re able to clean out your toolbox and make room for new methods of dealing with the challenges and opportunities that arise day-to-day.

Recognize, Reject, and Replace
The Fix FAILURE First approach offers a systematic, three-step process that you can begin immediately. I refer to these three simple steps as The Three Rs: Recognize, Reject, and Replace.

You start the process by Recognizing the specific disempowering mindset or pattern you want to change. Simply becoming aware of each FAILURE trap is a tremendously empowering experience. It shatters the notion that you are being held back by forces beyond your control.

Once you begin to recognize the seven major FAILURE traps (spelled out in detail in my book HabitForce!), you’re ready to take the next step—to actively, consciously Reject them. Instead of reacting to a situation or problem as you normally would—out of HabitForce—you consciously reject that impulse.

The third step is to Replace each of your FAILURE traps with the corresponding SUCCESS track. Each FAILURE habit has an equal and opposite, mutually exclusive SUCCESS habit. In other words, the first FAILURE habit cannot coexist with the first SUCCESS habit. By recognizing, rejecting, and replacing the FAILURE habits with the corresponding SUCCESS habits, you will reprogram your HabitForce for success.

Personal Change You Can Believe In!
The kind of personal empowerment I’m talking about is also about personal fulfillment, even happiness. Paraphrasing Aristotle, John F. Kennedy liked to say, “The ancient Greek definition of happiness was the full use of your powers along lines of excellence.” In this sense, I would say being able to reprogram your HabitForce so it works for you is essential to being able to make “the full use of your powers along lines of excellence.”

Put another way, when you go through life holding back, falling short of your potential, by definition you’re not making the full use of your powers along lines of excellence. As a result, I believe your personal power and your happiness are diminished.

Following the Three Rs is critical to personal empowerment. They’re key to reprogramming your HabitForce so it works for you and not against you and making long-lasting, positive changes in your life. What’s more, they open the door to a whole new way of creating success and happiness—not only for yourself but for those around you.

Failure is not inevitable. We all have the right to fulfill our potential. We’re all capable of true success. It isn’t just the birthright of a privileged few. In fact, success can be our destiny. By Fixing FAILURE First and FAILURE-Proofing our lives, each and every one of us can take a giant step toward fulfilling our potential and living the life of our dreams.

That’s personal change you can believe in.

Author's Bio: 

About Matthew Cossolotto (aka “The Empowerment Pro™") is the author of HabitForce! and All The World’s A Podium is founder and president of New York-based Ovations International. A member of the National Speakers Association, he conducts Podium Power! and “How to FAILURE-Proof Your Life™ and Become a SUCCESS Magnet™” programs for corporations, associations, nonprofit organizations, schools and community groups.