A 4-Step Strategy to Develop Any Quality You Want
It has helped me develop every quality I've ever admired
What we really mean when we say we admire someone is that we admire some quality of theirs.
Qualities form the crux of our character and dictate what we think and how we act. The good news is that qualities aren’t only innate as most think but can also be developed.
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take anyone at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select — doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.
You don’t have to be stuck admiring someone, you can become that person itself. Every good quality I possess I’ve stolen from someone I’ve admired and the same strategy has helped me every single time.
I want to share this simple 4-step strategy with you so that even you can use it to develop whatever quality you admire.
Tilt the Scales of Your Brain
A couple of years ago, binge-watching and binge-eating took up the lion’s share of my life. I was overweight, there were deep bags under my eyes and my face had an unhealthy pallor. Overall, I looked and felt like shit.
I tried to make a change many times but failed until a particular incident happened.
I was alone at home and taking a shower when the bell rang. Muttering a curse and hastily wrapping a towel around my waist, I open the door.
“You have a letter uncle.”, says the postboy, a lad around my age. In silent shock, I shut the door and head to the mirror.
With my half-wet hair, paunch pouring out of the towel, fat face, and shaggy beard, I indeed looked like an uncle. This made me contemplate my life as I had never done before.
This time, I actually succeeded in changing my life — I lost weight, achieved a visible six-pack, participated in a bodybuilding competition, got rid of my anime addiction, and made discipline a cornerstone of my life.
The Insane Power of A Strong “Why”
Our brain is always performing a cost-benefit analysis and we do something only when we believe the benefits outweigh the costs.
Developing a new quality is a lot of work and only a strong enough reason can tilt the scales. The incident with the postboy succeeded where motivational YouTube videos, inspiring articles, or random spurts of inspiration failed.
Austrian Neurologist Frankl was taken prisoner during the Nazi Holocaust and he observed that among his fellow prisoners — the ones with even the slightest sense of purpose survived while the ones with even the strongest willpower didn’t. Nietzsche has rightly said,
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear almost any ‘how.’”
So when you want to develop a quality, ask yourself “Why?”, mull over it, and find a reason strong enough to tilt the scales.
Start Small and Expand Outwards
When I finally decided to change my lifestyle, I didn’t cease watching anime altogether or jump right into a strict diet plan.
I gradually reduced my binge-watch time, started being more consistent with my workouts, and swapped out unhealthy food items for healthier ones. It was only after I got my life under some sort of control did I start a dedicated fitness plan.
It was the same when I decided to become genuine. Being bullied in school had made me portray myself as an arrogant tough prick. And getting rid of the mask right away felt intimidating.
So I started being real with my closest friends. As they noticed and appreciated the change, I started doing the same with acquaintances. And finally strangers.
There’s a 2-prong benefit to this — by starting small, you are more motivated and less intimidated. And by building up slowly, the process seems effortless.
So whenever you want to develop a new quality, start with small acts and your innermost circle. And gradually build your way up and out.
Ingrain It Into Your Identity
This is probably the strongest hack when it comes to imbibing a quality. Let’s take honesty, making it part of your identity means — a shift from, “I am trying to be honest” to “I am a honest person”.
What makes this so powerful is that you go from viewing the quality as something external to an integral part of you. Since it’s part of you, you feel a sense of pride and are much more motivated to stick to it.
And since your identity is linked to your self-esteem, you also feel accountable and responsible to stick to it.
“Since it’s part of you, you feel a sense of pride and are much more motivated to stick to it.”
But you cannot do this right away. You need to have stuck to it for enough time to comfortably make it a part of you — it wasn’t until a couple of months into overhauling my lifestyle that I started calling myself a disciplined person.
To further strengthen this, tell others. When you tell someone that you’re honest or disciplined, there's an additional pressure to stick to being honest or disciplined. In other words, you make yourself accountable to the other person as well!
By ingraining a quality into your identity, you’re tricking your brain into believing that it’s a part of you. And in due time, this actually becomes true — a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Practice. Practice. Practice
It’s not enough to say, “I’m honest” or “I’m compassionate.” You need to back your statements up with actions.
Our brains work on the basis of evidence so the more “evidence” you gather in favor of the quality, the stronger will it be rooted into your brain. Similarly, opposing evidence can weaken it.
So this is what practice is — performing actions that align with the specific quality and refraining from ones that don’t.
When I became a genuine person, I felt the urge to fake many times, especially with strangers to make a better first impression. But every time I refrained from doing so and bared my real self, it got easier.
Similarly, the temptation to take a day off from the gym, have a cheat day, or stay up late at night cropped up from time to time. But I was a disciplined person so I had to be.
“The more “evidence” you gather in favor of the quality, the stronger will it be rooted into your brain.”
With time, the qualities get rooted deep within and it becomes effortless to stick to them. In fact, so much so that wavering from them actually makes you uncomfortable.
Every person you admire is an opportunity to develop an admirable quality. And it’s by lapping up these opportunities that you can rapidly grow as a person.
Developing a quality isn’t easy but it’s simple. To recap, here’s the 4-step strategy:
Find strong enough reasons to firmly believe that the benefits of possessing the quality outweigh the cost of developing it.
Start with your innermost circle and with small actions. Gradually expand up and out. Small incremental steps >> Huge leaps.
Make it a part of your identity. Say and think, “I am X”, instead of “I am trying to become X” or “I’m trying to develop X quality.”
Practice. Perform actions that align with the quality and refrain from ones that don’t. The more you do this, the deeper the quality will get rooted into you.
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