Ben Fletcher at the Univer-sity of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom devised a study to get people to break their usual habits. Each day the subjects picked a different option from poles of contrasting behaviors—lively/quiet, introvert/extrovert, reactive/proactive—and behaved according to this assignment. An introverted person, for example, would act as an extrovert for an entire day. Additionally, twice weekly, they had to stretch to behave in a way outside their usual life pattern—eating or reading something they normally would never have done.

What do you think was the biggest change in the group?

The remarkable finding was that after four months, the subjects had lost an average of eleven pounds. And six months later, almost all had kept the weight off; in fact, some continued to lose weight. This was not a diet but a study focusing on change and its impact. The rationale: requiring people to change routine behavior makes them actually think about decisions rather than habitually choosing a default mode without consideration.

This is story-busting in an indirect way. In having to actually process decisions actively, they exercised their choice and decision-making abilities, extending to other choices such as what to eat and what not to. Once becoming aware of actively making choices, they could decide what was in their best interest, what would further their stories—and what wouldn’t.

The Proverbial Box

How do you get out of your story to revise it—or to write another one? How do you get out of the box? What is the box?

These questions assume the story is there, a given in the universe. The story—the proverbial box of the familiar and accepted—becomes the obstacle. Yet the truth is, it is not there until you create or accept it. And people are always free to change their minds, beliefs and core assumptions.

The box is 1) the result of programming and conditioning and 2) self-created in adulthood.

Listen to these different “boxes” to hear how very arbitrary and situational each box is, with its own intrinsic set of beliefs, behaviors and rules.

• You run while holding an inflated piece of tanned leather or throw it to someone else to cross a line to make points—sometimes two, sometimes six. (Football)

• It moves in and out of your life, varies daily. You usually want more but keep doing the same thing not to get it; two people can do the same thing and obtain different quantities. (Money)

Boxes are not a bad thing. They don’t have to be limiting. They can be defining. Guiding. Validating. And expandable. For example, “the box” may be thinking about how money will flow through traditional channels of business, of charging or working more, of investments, or of inheritance. Open yourself to possibilities you haven’t quite imagined yet. Scarcity is a rigid box. Abundance is expandable.

Recognizing yourself as the author, the creator of your story challenges an assumed model and leads to the deeper question, “How do I create something else instead?” And, “What will that ‘something else’ be?”

Twelve Principles of Change

Know that you are writing your own story:

1. Assess whether it’s working.

For each component (personal, business, relationship, money), what are the results? Honestly assess each of these storylines with the question: “Is it working?” Answer yes or no.

2. It takes the same energy to create any belief in your story.

The belief of scarcity takes just as much energy as that of abundance. Focus your energy on positive intentions.

3. Decide what you want.

Be clear about where you are now and where you want to be. Your brain, like nature, abhors a vacuum: it will conspire to close the gap between your vision and reality. If there were no barriers, what would your ideal life be?

4. Do you have specific, measurable goals?

Motivation increases as soon as you’re clear about the goal and the payoff.

5. Be consistent in your pursuit of your goals.

It takes thirty days to etch a new pathway in your brain and make it permanent.

6. Small changes lead to big transformations.

Divide up your work. Focus on and complete one thing at a time. There’s always something you can focus on.

7. Break out of your comfort zone.

Think of your comfort zone as your home thermostat. As the temperature increases or decreases, the thermostat signals the heater or air conditioner to turn on or off. It keeps the temperature in a narrow range of comfort.

8. Ask for feedback.

Ask your teammates, colleagues and spouse: “On a scale of one to ten, how am I doing?” Then, “How can I get to ten?”

9. Get success insurance.

Four of the most important reasons people maintain goals are ownership of the project; realistic assessments of time, difficulty and rewards; minimizing of distractions; and consistent maintenance of new behavior.

10. Take a chance.

You didn’t have a New York Times best-seller before you sent your manuscript to an agent. If you get it rejected, you still don’t. So what have you got to lose?

11. It’s never too late to start.

Don’t accept conventional wisdom or limiting assumptions. Find the story that will improve you and start believing that.

12. Everything is okay in the end.

If it’s not okay, it’s not the end!

Stories are the most powerful way we learn and communicate. Stories give birth to possibilities. Stories are a way that we resonate with our earlier selves, connect with others and create a road map with which to proceed.

DR. DAVID KRUEGER is CEO of MentorPath,
an executive coaching practice tailored to the needs
of executives, entrepreneurs and healing professionals.
Dr. Krueger is author of eleven books on
success, money, work and self-development.