The 3X Confidence and Authenticity Model explained

Yo guys, here is an upcoming excerpt on my next book, which will be all about creating authentic confidence through using this 3X Model. This is a long read, you might want to break it into sections and practice each one before moving on:

“The 3X model came into being as I worked to synergize two separate success-related concepts. The first being what I call Social Mastery, which is simply the ability to create an abundant and rewarding social life without sacrificing integrity or trying to be liked. The second is Valued Living, a concept I learned mostly through studies of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is all about identifying your core values and actively living by them in a psychologically flexible way. Both of these fall under the umbrella of Authenticity, or authentic living.

As I mapped Values onto different parts of an authentic conversation (where two people are open and honest with each other and speak without shame or fear), I noticed a pattern forming. It was triangular in nature; a three-part cyclic recurrence where a flow naturally built up over time. It appeared that a successful interaction flowed from three core values: curiosity (explore), honesty (engage), and respect (release).

If each person made an effort to explore themselves before they spoke – which is not the same as trying to think of something good to say – they tended to put aside judgments and fear. If each person then expressed what they had discovered as honestly and accurately as possible, then the message would often be well-received and would naturally build deep and intimate rapport, almost instantaneously. And lastly, if each person took the time to allow the other respond, and in fact chose not to invest any further into the conversation until the other person had contributed to an equal level, then the relative status between the two would dissolve and there would be a mutual respect.

The more I investigated and tested this concept, the more I understood it. There appeared a definite consistency when following a pattern of switching between different values of how this allowed a conversation to flow naturally, as well as having the added benefit of seemingly bringing out the best in each person.

Importantly, it also bought out the ‘worst’ in each person, their shame and fear, which to my surprise – and contrary to popular belief – increased the intimacy of the connection. I found quickly that shared sorrow and shame is equally as binding as shared enjoyment and success. Simply put; you tend to get along well with someone who gets pissed off at the same things you do. Alternatively, if two people had opposing values and beliefs, this flow of conversation would ensure that the conflict quickly become apparent. This would either end the connection (eliminate the possibility of a further ongoing relationship) or serve as a platform to work through differences, saving both people a lot of time and heartache by picking up on this early.

What really got me excited was when, like Pareto, I started applying the 3X Model to other situations and areas of life. It was able to accurately describe the cause of any problem in a system that was not working well (such as relationships, teamwork, exercise, wealth creation, and so many more). It seemed that if someone could flow through these values equally then they would gain ‘success’ quickly and efficiently, with measurable results. Conversely, if there was a break in the flow, if one or more of the values was over-done, neglected or missed, problems quickly arose which caused the system to get ‘stuck’ or break down completely.

What we will do now is explore each of the three aspects in the 3X Model, on a conceptual level, and start looking at how it maps onto real life. It’s important to understand that the model teaches you how to use the model. By this ironic statement I mean that you will only truly learn how to use this model by actually trying to use it!

EXPLORE (Living by the value of Curiosity)

It’s important to note that it’s arbitrary where I choose to start with this model, because there is no preferential starting point when you apply it in real life. So we will start with the Explore stage of the model only because I had to choose something to start with.

Exploration is about quiet and unbiased discovery, a search for truth amongst the chaos of distraction and deception. When we explore we live by the value of Curiosity, searching the evidence reality has provided to our senses, to try and decide what we can do with the information to improve our lives and the lives of others. There is no judgment attached to reality, we simply observe it as objectively as humanly possible. We allow reality to occur to us, rather than trying to find it, create it, or shape it ourselves.

The act of breathing is how we will often describe this model, as both a metaphorical and literal interpretation. Exploration therefore represents the inhalation; the consumption of resources to prepare for the exertion of effort. Breathing in is essentially like applying curiosity to oxygen. Without breathing in we cannot breathe out; without being curious we cannot be accurately prepared to take effective action.

Few people appear to be capable of true curiosity. Often, due to our cognitive biases, we are simply looking to prove something we think we already know, which is the opposite of curiosity – there is no open-mindedness in this approach. Real curiosity comes from a Socratic viewpoint; we assume we know nothing before we start observing, which allows us to be contradicted by reality if our assumptions and biases are incorrect.

To give this a practical example; we are not really listening to someone if we believe we know that they are thinking, instead we are simply looking for evidence that what we assume is correct (and thanks to self-fulfilling prophecy, we often ‘confuse’ our reality by creating that evidence). It’s only when we assume we cannot read their minds that we pay genuine and focused attention to what they are saying, or how they are behaving.

Examples of what happens in the Explore stage:

– considering options
– planning your next move
– making a decision
– absorbing and considering new information (which is only one part of the overall concept of learning, yet we are taught in school this this is learning in it’s entirety)
– challenging your beliefs
– examining evidence

If we want the action we take to be meaningful and likely to generate positive results, then it must be action based on an examination of reality. When we take action based on misguided beliefs and assumptions, our best laid plans eventually unravel and become ineffective. Plans based on good, rational information, the best available at any given time, will always be more effective than a whimsical plan based on assumptions, stubborn beliefs and irrational fear. Such as the difference between someone who designs a career-path based on a careful exploration of their talents and passions, compared with someone who chooses a job because of their fearful reaction to the possibility not having enough money.

The importance of Exploration becomes obvious when it is not given the appropriate amount of your attention and energy. If you’re in a conversation that escalates into conflict, the most likely reason is that you or your antagonist are not understanding each other. Having different points of view is not a conflict in itself, but having an agitated emotional reaction to their points of view creates one. This emotional reaction will be triggered by assuming they have a harmful motive behind what they are trying to express. This assumption is almost always inaccurate, and this would be obvious to you if you took the time to try and empathetically understand the other person’s position. This goes both ways of course.

There is also the problem of overdoing exploration, which is equally as unhelpful as neglecting it. Often referred to as ‘over-thinking’ and ‘analysis-paralysis’, too much time spent in exploration leads to an overwhelming, crippling excess of information. In my work with people around self-development, this is the most likely cause of someone feeling stuck. They keep reading and watching videos and attending seminars but never really taking action to put the information into practice, or measuring how the information has affected their lives. Further information then becomes just another hindrance to success, and thanks to clever marketing there are unethical people and companies who claim to help others but basically just generate information overload to keep upselling their products.

We will go into this in more detail throughout the book, but for now here are some real-life examples of Exploration being applied successfully:

– Carefully and patiently considering how you feel and what you think, after hearing what someone has said, before you reply,
– Getting advice from a personal trainer and nutritionist prior to starting a new health regime,
– Comparing research from leading experts to prepare to write a book,
– Figuring out which sources generate the most profit for your business before designing a marketing strategy,
– Taking time to weigh up the costs and benefits objectively about a potentially life-changing decision,
– Taking the time to travel the world before buying a house.

We can now also see the first indications of the spectrum from micro- to macro-level in the application of this model. Exploration can be as small as deciding what to say next on a phone call, through to as big as learning how to fly a jet. It’s all relative to the overall focus, or goal, which we will dive into later.

ENGAGE (Living by the value of Honesty)

Once you have used curiosity to explore what the truth is within your mind, and in the external environment, the next logical step is to Engage this truth in some form. Another way to look at engaging with truth is that you move towards taking action that is authentic to your values. Therefore engagement is always a measurable action; while you may not always be able to see curiosity taking place (such as someone thinking deeply), you should always be able to see honesty as an expressed action. Exploration is breathing in, receiving the resources the world has to offer; Engagement therefore is the equally necessary act of breathing out, giving back to the world a synergy of what you have taken in.

When you express your version of the truth as honestly and accurately as possible, a number of benefits are made available for you to enjoy, dependent on the context. Engaging honestly in conversation, for example, will lead you to create quality relationships with people you are strongly aligned with, while simultaneously driving away those who are a bad fit (honesty becomes a polarizing pressure that forces people to choose quickly as to whether or not they enjoy your personality). Honesty encourages you to take actions which are aligned with the most accurate truth about yourself that you are capable of discovering, causing you to do more of the things you enjoy, are skilled at, and have the motivation to continue practicing to the level of mastery.

In simple terms, honesty requires you to do what is right (courage-based actions aimed at long-term lifestyle and confidence benefits) rather than what is easy (fear-based actions aimed at immediate emotional rewards).

Examples of what happens in the Engage stage:

– saying what you want to say, statements and questions, as well as body-language communication
– trying new things, making attempts, experimentation and testing through action
– behavior that can be measured objectively
– acts of giving

In terms of building confidence, or re-discovering confidence as I like to think of it, the most important benefit you will receive through honest expression is the dissolution of shame. I’d like to point out something that many of my coaching clients have discovered: shame dissolves and eventually disappears completely the more often it is voluntarily exposed to the external world. Shame is – in my opinion – the single greatest barrier between a human and their potential for achievement. It disguises itself as confusion (”I don’t know how to do it”) and danger (”It’s too hard”), but in reality represents only one thing: Low Self-Worth. Shame is:

“The concept of wrong being attached to something that is true about you”.

Earlier, I mentioned the concept of accuracy. It is this factor within honesty that can make all the difference, and is actually in the curiosity/exploration stage that accuracy is predicted. During the Explore stage as we are deciding what to say or do, we consider how accurate our supposed truth is, and in the final Release stage we can reflect on this ‘truth’ once more with the benefit of hindsight, as a measurement of how honest our voice or actions turned out to be. Accuracy plays a part throughout this entire model, but most people struggle with it’s link to honesty, so we’ll explore it here.

As you increase accuracy you will also increase your rewards, while simultaneously reducing your costs. Accuracy eliminates harmful saboteurs such as stereotyping (vague categorical assumptions), limiting-beliefs, reactive emotional states, and cognitive biases. Accuracy is a concept that is difficult to grasp as conjectural theory, so let’s look at a realistic example to explain this more.

Imagine you and I are living together (don’t worry, it’s just hypothetical), and I am annoyed at you for not contributing enough to the housework. Instead of getting curious and exploring how this makes me think and feel, I just give in to my surface-level frustration and call you a ‘useless loser’. At a high-level perspective this is my ‘honest’ opinion, but is it accurate?

By saying that you are ‘useless’ I am implying that you have no measurable skill or reliability at all. Now if that was accurate then we wouldn’t be having this problem, because you would not be alive. Someone who is actually ‘without any use’ whatsoever would be unable to finish a meal, shower to completion, dress themselves etc. In fact, if a person was completely ‘useless’, they would die of starvation, exposure, illness, or be killed by external forces.

So my judgment is not actually true or accurate. In a sense it is honest because that’s one way of engaging in how I feel, but in comparison with objective reality it is totally inaccurate, so therefore is essentially dishonest. Not only is it dishonest, we can see that by calling you a ‘useless loser’ I have most likely damaged the relationship. Because I have given you no guidance or specific feedback, you will probably repeat the behavior that bothered me in the first place. A clear example of how dishonesty leads to less rewards and more costs.

You’ll no doubt be able to think of many other real-life examples that follow this pattern of someone failing to identify the accurate truth before giving feedback, and how damaging this is to relationships. I’ve spoken to a number of relationship coaches and counselors, and I agree with them that the most harmful behavior you can bring to a relationship (of any kind) is criticism, by which I mean harmful, judgmental and inaccurate (dishonest) ‘feedback’.

We can see how being inaccurate takes us away from results and rewards in this example, but does being accurate take us towards them? Let’s see what happens in a different scenario where I take the time to be curious enough to find the accurate cause of my distress prior to giving you feedback. Imagine if instead of calling you a ‘useless loser’ I said something more like this:

“Last week you didn’t do your share of the cleaning housework for Monday, Thursday and Saturday. I felt quite annoyed when this happened, and because I can’t stand a dirty house this created extra work for me. From now on I’d like you to match the efforts of the rest of the housemates, by doing your share of the dishes and vacuuming once per week. How do you feel about that?”

Do you see how much more accurate it sounds? I’m still expressing my honesty, but now it is specific and targeted towards a single concept of behavior, whereas calling you a ‘loser’ was vague and implied you have a total personality problem. I have also accepted the evidence in front of me, which is that how I feel is my responsibility and that these behaviors you engaged in were the only things bothering me. You as an entire person is in fact something impossible to give accurate and honest feedback on.

You will not always know what the accurate truth is, and in fact from a Socratic philosophical point of view we will never know the ‘truth’. But we can see that the closer we try to get to objective, accurate honesty, the more we are rewarded in the long term. Dishonest expression through actions, such as pretending you agree with someone or staying with a job you hate, only ever brings short term rewards, which are always then offset by long term suffering. You might stick with your unsatisfying job for ‘the money’, yet years down the track you end up hating your entire life and losing your partner because of mood swings. As always when using the 3X Model, the short term reward is simply a disguise for an inevitable and eventually devastating punishment.

To avoid getting stuck in the Explore stage we must at some point decide to make a decision and act on it; we must Engage in it. This is done through understanding that you cannot know the accurate truth until after action is taken. The Engage stage is basically an experiment; a hands-on learning activity that tests what you think is true. You may not know what the absolute truth of how you think and feel actually is, but you can express what you do know as a test of the information you have available.

This relieves the pressure most of us feel of being emotionally attached to outcomes. The reason we get stressed is because we see action as a final commitment, one last do-or-die attempt. Once you start to see all action as merely another test (that you will measure in the Release stage), the issue caused by the toxic desire to ‘get’ results dissolves. For example, rather than trying to ‘get a dream job’, you are merely ‘testing a potential dream job’.

As with the other two stages, there are problems that arise when you over-do or neglect the Engage stage.

You’ll know that you are spending too much time and energy in the Engage stage when things are not improving over time. Constant action feels busy, therefore it can create an illusion of progress, however if you are not putting equal effort into learning new things (Explore) as well as measuring the efficacy of your actions (Release), you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again – popularly known as Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. In simple terms, if you are doing lots of stuff and not getting results, then you are overdoing the Engage stage, giving it more than a third of your time, energy and focus.

Lack of improvement can also be a symptom of neglecting the Engage stage, because without taking honest accurate action you cannot create results. There is myth that results just happen to us, with dangerous cliches such as “good things come to those who wait” being thrown around by people who haven’t tested them properly to see if they are accurate. As discussed earlier, sitting around thinking and planning does not actually do anything in terms of bringing rewards into your life.

Without action, thinking is useless.

The difference between this and over-doing the Engage stage is that at least when you’re over-doing it there is something to measure. Stop and look at the area you’re focusing on; what actions, attempts and experiments have you taken that you can measure? If the answer is “very few/none” then you know the issue is lack of engagement, whereas if there is plenty going on but no results, then there’s too much uninterrupted engagement.

Here are some examples of the Engage stage being successfully applied:

– Matching every hour of planning time with three hours of action, before stopping to reflect,
– Waiting for someone to finish speaking, then making a statement that matches the intimacy and investment levels of what they had said,
– Trying something new to see if you like it, such as attending a dance class,
– Calling your first potential client as a way of honestly expressing an interest in starting a business,
– Doing a workout at the gym to see if the program you read about online feels right for you.

Engaging can be as small and simple as speaking your mind to a friend, or as epic and life-changing as taking the action that starts a business. What we also see is that the macro-level is still only ever going to be a micro-level action when you express it. ‘Starting a business’ is not a single massive action, it’s a combination of tiny actions, just like anything else.

RELEASE (Living by the value of Respect)

In my work with clients, indeed in my conversations with anyone who has a recurring problem, the most likely cause is going to be a lack of reflection, followed closely by over-thinking. A lack of reflection is when someone does not create the space to measure results, rest, or reflect. The Release stage describes this often neglected but equally crucial part of the 3X Model.

When we pause after letting out a breath, our body prepares to absorb the next inhalation; in a sense this is the eye of the storm. Most people get trapped in a thought-to-action sequence, as even highly reputable self-development resources are often based on just planning and taking action, without adequate time and energy going into the space between action and thought.

We use the value of Respect to guide this part of the model because it conveniently describes the state of mind where space occurs. Respect for yourself is when you allow yourself to rest, where you accept who you are and what your circumstances have become, and when you encourage the Universe to invest equally towards your goals (note: this is not a reference to Law of Attraction, which I believe is complete rubbish, but instead a space of time created to allow environmental factors to react to you). Respect for others is when you give them the time to think and react to what you have said or done, and respect for the world is where you sit back and allow reality to provide you with evidence to work with.

Examples of Release in action:

– going silent during a conversation, after making a statement, asking a question, or using a body language cue to encourage a response,
– vacations and other forms of taking time off,
– writing in a journal, and other forms of active reflection,
– meditation,
– receiving anything, particularly feedback, from someone else,
– measuring results,
– taking time out to contemplate your situation after feeling an unpleasant emotional reaction,
– resting your body and mind,
– changing to a new activity to take a break (such as going for a walk after writing for two hours… see ya later!),
– allowing yourself to experience pain (e.g. realisations, growth, etc.)

Let’s talk about that last point, because I believe pain is the reason that the Release stage is so neglected by most people. When we stop what we are doing and allow ourselves to absorb the feedback the Universe is giving us, we put ourselves at risk of experiencing pain. This is something we are taught to avoid, yet have you ever really stopped to consider (reflect on) why we think pain is bad?

How does a child learn about gravity? Is it through textbooks, stories from his parents, or dropping things to see if they hit the ground? No. He learns about gravity when he falls out of a tree and breaks his arm – no other lesson hits home harder than that. His curiosity led him to want to climb the tree, his honesty led him to actually climb past where he was comfortable, and eventually he exceeded her skill limit, causing her to fall. And as he sits in the Release stage, giving respect to the pain in his arm, he learns what gravity does to a falling mass more clearly than any textbook could have hoped to have done.

Children are often completely at peace with the concept of pain, until we start to teach them that it is wrong and must be avoided. A child will hurt themselves considerably, and the parent who allows this to happen to a helpful degree will ensure that the child grows up with an experimental approach to learning, which is far more productive than simple information absorption (e.g. school) or blind unquestioning action (e.g. employment).

When we do not take time to create a reflective space, we build up the pain in the background. Take the person who is in a conflicted and unfit personal relationship. They are so committed to the future fiction of a happy relationship (this is known as future-tripping) they refuse to stop and honestly measure what is happening; ignoring all the clearly obvious signs that the relationship doesn’t work. They get stuck bouncing back and forth between Explore and Engage, constantly looking for new ways to make it work, but never stopping long enough to ask What does the evidence show me? Even a brief glance at a relationship that has not worked for years is all you need to see your efforts are unhelpful, yet when we avoid reflecting for too long the pain builds to an almost unmanageable level, and all along we could have been voluntarily accepting pain in smaller, helpful, and more tolerable doses.

This raises what I call the fear of wrongful investment. When we get stuck in a loop between Explore and Engage, we feel like we are making progress because there’s lots of thinking and plenty of action. In fact it feels like such a massive effort we start to assume that it must produce results eventually, through sheer force of will. Due to our neglect of consistent and equal attention to the Release stage, we lose track of what works and what doesn’t, leaving us doomed to repeat and exacerbate mistakes.

The longer we do this, the more resistance we feel towards the idea of stopping and measuring results. Deep down we are scared that we will find proof that our efforts did not produce results. Little do we realize that if we had taken regular time-outs to process our results, we would have made much better-informed decisions, taken more effective action, and therefore had a much safer investment!

It is never too late to stop and reflect.

On a personal note, I was stunned by the changes that occurred in my life when I started to live more by the value of respect and bring Release into my life, particularly when I eventually increased it’s status to match Explore and Engage. I’m a born action-taker and over-thinker, which means I was always busy but not making much internal progress. Then I made an active decision to do two new things: allow myself time to rest, and welcome the concept of growth through pain. Once I started experimenting with these two concepts, I also began to see that they were really about receiving feedback and healing.

Respect should not be confused with curiosity, yet it appears they often are. People believe that if they are constantly thinking about what to do next then they are reflecting, but this is not the case. Release is an open space, a blank slate, an empty cup, where you allow yourself to see, hear and feel what the Universe has to say. For example, in a conversation, curiosity is when you think of what to honestly say next, but before this can happen you have to allow the other person to contribute. You create a silent space, and once they’ve said or done something in that space then, and only then, you decide on what to say or do next.

Examples of successful applications of the Release stage:

– for every two hours work, taking a 15min break to allow your mind to ‘catch up’,
– listening to what someone has to say without judgment, and waiting until they are completely finished before deciding what you will do next,
– taking three days off training after stressing a particularly muscle group, or switching to alternative muscle groups to allow for this gap between work-outs for each,
– taking 30 minutes each day to journal about what took place that day, without trying to understand it, just purely downloading your thoughts,
– waiting for someone to invest equal time, energy and money into a partnership as you have, before going any further with them,
– going for a walk in the morning to allow ideas to occur to you (one of my favorites),
– spending one day apart from your partner every week without any contact whatsoever, to allow you both to assess how things are going.

You can apply the Release stage at the micro-level, such as going silent during a conversation, and of course at the macro-level, such as taking three months off work every year. The key to emphasize here is that Release gets equal attention, time and energy as the other stages. This will feel wrong at first, as you have likely been trained otherwise, but do some research into the most successful people – you’ll often find that their biggest gains came after choosing to do less.


As you start applying equal energy to each stage of the model, the flow will begin to build. The 3X Model follows the laws of centrifugal force, which means if all parts are equally balanced it will spin evenly and easily build up speed (efficacy and efficiency). If one or more of the parts are unequally weighted, the increase in speed will eventually lead to dramatic imbalance and it’s only a matter of time before it destabilizes completely and falls apart.

When balanced flow is achieved interesting events start to happen, also known as results. Desirable outcomes as well as unexpected benefits will start to occur (and ‘results’ include getting proof that something does not work or is not worth the effort). But before we can hope to achieve balance and results, we first need to understand why we are spinning the wheel in the first place. What is the focus of this effort, and what are we flowing towards?

With the core 3X Model at it’s highest level, in it’s purest form you might say, we have the three key values of Curiosity, Honesty and Respect, spinning around a central focus of Authenticity. When you apply equal measures of curiosity, honesty and respect, you will create a situation that is authentic to whatever the hell it is that YOU are. When you give equal attention to absorbing new information, testing it, and reflecting on the process, then you will generate the results that suit you the best.

At all times for this model to be effective you need to ensure that the Focus in the center is based on your authentic self. But what is this esoteric concept of authentic self? The word authenticity has become a buzz-word in the new millennium and ruined by marketing idiots trying to scavenge money from self-development fans.

The good news is, you don’t need to know what your authentic self is! The 3X Model will help you figure it out, as using the model will cause you to live authentically while simultaneously further developing your understanding of what authenticity is for you. Rather than trying to figure out what the ‘right’ focus is, you can choose an arbitrary starting point and allow the model to give you the feedback you need to assess the accuracy of your guess.

To make this more tangible, imagine you are using the 3X Model to improve your career. In the middle of the model you put the word Money, as a representation of the focus for your career. Now you can’t be sure that pursuing money is authentic for you, but by giving it a go and allowing the model to give equality to curiosity, honesty and respect, you will quickly find out. As you go about pursuing money you may notice that your happiness is not increasing and you’re finding it harder and harder to keep the wheel spinning. You then use the model to explore, test and reflect on other reasons to drive your career, and perhaps you discover that the real reason you want money is because you want to feel freedom. You then change the focus to Freedom and all of a sudden the wheel starts spinning effortlessly while providing rewards. You have now discovered that freedom is authentic to you, while money was simply a distraction.

I use this example because I see it all the time; people mistaking money as being the end-goal, when in reality it is simply one of many available resources that can be used to pursue an authentic life. It’s the same as using Marriage as the focus in the relationship sphere, when in fact Love is the real value-based outcome you are pursuing. Marriage becomes a distraction that steers you away from a more direct and effective path to what you actually want deep down inside. Likewise, putting Religion as the focus on your spiritual journey when what you actually want is Peace or Understanding.

To aide you in determining your Focus, keep asking yourself “Why do I want this?” and “What will this get me?” until you can answer it no more, which occurs when you reach the deepest and most authentic reasoning you are currently capable of. Check out this example of a coaching conversation where I explored one of my client’s focus points:

Me: “What do you want?”
Client: “Mmm… I think in the end I just want a girlfriend.”
Me: “OK, so why do you want a girlfriend?”
Client: “Wow, I dunno… I guess because then I’ll be happy.”
Me: “Cool, well it sounds to me like what you really want is happiness. Tell me, how does having a girlfriend relate to happiness?”
Client: “It would just be really nice to come home to someone who I could talk to, you know, openly and honestly. Someone who supports me and gives me a reason to be excited about life in general, I guess. If you’ve got a great girlfriend, everything just feels better.”
Me: “If I’m hearing you right, what you’re saying is that happiness comes from being able to express yourself openly and honestly, feeling supported, and being excited about life…”
Client: “Yeah… pretty much.”
Me: “Let me just check in with you here. Are you saying it’s not possible to experience open honesty, support and excitement without having a girlfriend?”
Client: “Well, of course you don’t need a girlfriend for that stuff.”
Me: “Go on…”
Client: “Umm… well in the end those are all just internal feelings… I guess I’m in control of those. But I don’t know how to feel that way without having a girlfriend.”
Me: “Perhaps. Or perhaps you’ve used your energy to pursue getting a girlfriend, rather than directly pursuing the internal rewards of openness, honesty, support and excitement. Let’s try something here: imagine a world without women. What would it look like if you were to try and bring these things into your life in that world?”
Client: “Well, I could learn how to be honest with myself, like, I dunno, exploring my mind and things like that. And actually the support thing is something that I shouldn’t need someone else for. My previous relationships were based on holding each other up, and that shit never works!”
Me: “And what about excitement?”
Client: “I would have to find some hobbies or something, put some real effort into figuring what my purpose is. Huh… I see what you’re trying to say. I suppose technically I could get those things without needing a girl. I’ve never really thought about that before.”
Me: “I’m not saying one way or the other. I guess what I’m asking you is which is more helpful: trying to get a girlfriend who might bring you satisfaction, or directly pursuing satisfaction itself, in it’s purest form?”
Client: “Yeah… the second one”.

You see in this conversation that we dug until we not only got to the core of what my client actually wants out of life – satisfaction – but we also opened up the possibility that there were other ways to create it besides the one and only method he was aware of. When you are trying to figure out what your focus is, it can be really helpful to try and remove reliance on any other person or situation. Try to focus on what is directly under your control; your internal state, made of thoughts, emotions, and most importantly, actions.

To help you get started, here are some potential focus points that I have found are effective in achieving goals:

– Goal of increasing money for building a business = focus on creating relationships
– Goal of improving fitness and diet for health = focus on increasing energy
– Goal of finding love = focus on having fun
– Goal of creating a more interesting lifestyle = focus on trying new things
– Goal of building up self-confidence = focus on choosing discomfort

The Universe runs on a very basic system; energy in equals energy out. For you to have energy to create the flow, you’ll need to supply yourself with the most appropriate and effective fuel sources you can find. The upside to having a misguided focus, like money, is that you may have instead identified a good source of fuel.

The important thing is that you see fuel as an expendable resource to be burned for energy, rather than an end-goal. That’s the difference between, say, money and a girlfriend; you can burn money to achieve satisfaction while living by your values, but burning a girl for the same reason is a massive step away from the value of respect. Whenever you create distance between your actions and your values, you imbalance the wheel and it’s only a matter of time before you pay a price. I call this the authenticity gap; a measurable distance between who you are (your current behavior) and who you wish you were (a person living by your values).

In the Explore stage you can hypothesize which fuels are the best source of energy for your goals. In the Engage stage, you can split-test and otherwise experiment with the different fuel ideas you came up with. And finally, in the Release stage, you can try to accurately measure the energy efficiency of those fuel sources, to help you decide whether you should change or stay the same. Again, here we see the model being used to help learn how to use the model!

It becomes important to start carefully examining where you are burning much-needed fuel in other, less important areas of your life as well. If you are blowing money on shoes, then you are causing harm to the goals that benefit from financial investment; if you are spending lots of time in front of the television, then you are depriving time available to other areas of your life; if you don’t eat a healthy diet you are robbing yourself of physical energy to complete other tasks.

Quite often I see my clients failing in one area without any awareness that they have robbed that area of resources elsewhere. One client I had said he kept feeling his confidence fluctuate, and when we explored it we found this coincided with days where he skipped going to the gym. We often compartmentalize the areas of our life – particularly the harmful belief that mind and body are separate entities – and therefore overlook the links that lead to failure. Everything you do affects everything else you do, so the more positive points you can rack up in any part of your life has benefits all round.


5 Responses

  1. Great post! I was quite intrigued with the conversation you had with a client. Because internally I feel that I want a girlfriend for a different reason – I already have my friends to have open conversations with. No, the real internal reason is that I don’t want to feel like the bald bespectacled loser that I sometimes feel I am. And having success with women feels like it would validate me in front of my friends. I really think that most of the success that I acquired in life, was done to get a girlfriend that would impress my friends. What do you suggest I should do with myself to feel happier?

  2. Hi Dan:

    I absolutely love your book Nothing to Lose. I heard it 3 times already and I am making a chart to make it easier to practice . 🙂

    I was hoping you would tell me where to get this book in Spanish. I want to send it to my sister in Spain.

    Thank you!!

    Maria Lopez

    1. Thanks for the very kind words Maria! Unfortunately, I don’t have it translated into other languages as yet, but I’ll make sure Espanol is on the list

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