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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Affirming the Challenge

Now that I've convinced you to be totally honest with your family, I need to teach you to lie to yourself. Self-improvement books talk at length about setting goals, affirming changes that you desire, visualizing your future, and being the master of your own destiny. What all of these concepts have in common gets down to a simple little technique: lying.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. You're taught from a very early age that lying is wrong. Many times, the punishment for crimes is not as great as the punishment for lying about the crimes. We all watched Nixon get into more trouble for trying to cover up a wrongdoing than for the trouble he would have experienced for the initial crime. Lie detector tests are based on the premise that your body behaves differently on a physiological level when you're lying. Your heart pounds faster, your temperature rises, and your breathing speeds up. In a word, lying makes us uncomfortable. Hold on to that thought for just a minute.

Let's talk a little more about change. At the beginning of the book, we acknowledged that change is something we naturally avoid. We don't like it when others impose change on us when we're not ready. And change that is generated from within is normally in response to some feeling of being uncomfortable. If the room is too hot, we change the thermostat. It the car is running a little loud, we change the muffler. If our clothes are all sweaty after a workout, we shower and change them.

So far we've got this: Lying makes us uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable is a motivator to change. Next, we need to talk about how our brains work in a simple way. Over our lifetime we receive messages. We begin with messages from our parents and we add messages from many other people in our lives, our cultural institutions, and our media. Think of your brain as a very complicated computer, and all of these messages are like little programs that make it run.

But wait! Some of them are like viruses. They got into the hard drive of our brains without us even knowing it. Now, they're controlling the function of our brain from behind the scenes. Sometimes our brains don't respond logically to situations. We might step back and wonder, "Where did that come from?"

If your computer starts behaving illogically, you look for programs that might be performing incorrectly. And sometimes you might even find a virus. The solution is to rewrite or re-install those programs that were infected.

The messages from your previous employer, when they laid you off, will behave like a virus in your brain. It will take some deliberate reprogramming to override those messages that may cause irrational thoughts. This will be necessary in order for you to move forward and regain normal functioning.

So now we know the following:

  1. Lying makes you uncomfortable.

  2. Being uncomfortable leads to change.

  3. Your brain relies on stored messages to determine its functioning.

  4. You currently have a message acting like a computer virus running around in your brain.

Let me show you how to use all this to your advantage. The message from your employer when they sent you out the door was a very clean and simple message:

    You're a person without a job.

But as your brain absorbed that message and its viral tendencies took over, it may have been converted into one of these messages:

    You're a person who doesn't deserve a job.

    You're a person not worthy of a job.

    You're a person who will never have a job again.

Now try this. Reprogram those thoughts to, instead, be this:

    I am a person with a job.

You will immediately interpret that message as a lie. You don't have a job. How can you tell yourself you're a person with a job? The interesting part about our brain computers is that if you program this in and get it in there deep enough, then you will begin behaving as though you have told a lie. The uncomfortable feeling that erupts from that will cause you to make sure that you're not lying and you will find a job.

I have watched people set financial goals and personal goals for many years. Their initial inclination is to state the goal as something that will happen in the future. This fails our test for effectiveness because it is not a lie. I can state or predict that anything will happen and no one can call me a liar. As soon as I state it in the present, it becomes a lie. Because, if it's already true, it's not a goal. It's just a statement of my current condition.

Another tendency that I've seen is for people to state goals in the negative. They will list things they don't want to do or be anymore. For instance, they won't be in debt or they won't be behind on their bills. Just like computers, our brains have to be told what to do, not what not to do. So instead of giving it an instruction to not be in debt, we might instead give the instruction to have sufficient emergency savings.

Another common tendency is for people to want to set goals for those around them more than for themselves. People around you may choose to change but it won't be for your reasons, it will be for their own reasons. You may be the catalyst for change, especially if you're the one making them uncomfortable, but their decisions to resolve that uncomfortable feeling will be their own. How they do it will be their own choice.

The best time to reprogram your most personal computer, your brain, is early in the morning and late in the evening when you're alone with your thoughts and your brain is more relaxed. Start by choosing a simple statement that speaks only about yourself, speaks in the positive, and speaks of the present. Fill in the blank:

    I enjoy the financial stability that working as a _______ affords me.

This fits all of our criteria. The subject is "I," the verb is in the present, and it's a very positive statement. But more than that, it's a bold-faced lie! You're not working, you're not enjoying a thing right now, and you feel as though you have no financial stability. Perfect! As you reprogram your brain to adapt this message, you will overwrite the current predominant message programmed in by your previous employer.

It's important that you don't share this lie with others around you. They will see it as a lie and might even feel compelled to argue with you. You need time to program it in without any interruptions. Estimates are that it takes about three weeks of concentrating on a single message to actually program it in. Imagine if it took that long to make one change in your computer. You'd go crazy. We're a little more impatient than that when we become uncomfortable.

When I first learned of these theories about 20 years ago, my initial reaction was one of fear. If this really works, then I have no one else but myself to blame for changes that don't happen for me. And the next set of thoughts that came over me told me that I really needed to decide what I wanted to happen next and go do it. For a kid just out of college whose whole life had been mostly programmed for her, that was a pretty scary notion. You may be in a position right now where things have been mostly programmed for you for quite some time, and this is the first time that you've had the freedom and the opportunity to make choices all for yourself. You will have a lot of well-wishers imposing their ideas of what your life should look like next, but it's really your choice. With that comes responsibility to make that choice.


Choose a really good lie. Make it yours, make it positive, and make it now. Repeat it to yourself each morning and evening as you prepare for and reflect on your day. Watch what happens!

What You Should Know by Now

  1. How you are going to schedule the work of managing your financial well-being and your emotional well-being.

  2. That you are grieving and whether or not you are finishing your grieving for earlier losses as well.

  3. How long you will allow yourself to remain in denial.

  4. A system for identifying your feelings and your needs on a regular basis.

  5. How you will be defining your identity from now on.

  6. Which family members you need to inform and how you will tell them.

  7. How will you engage your family members in your job search process to help them feel involved?

  8. What lie you will tell yourself each morning and evening as you erase the viral messages installed by your previous employer.

Next Steps

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