By Robert Pagliarini

I'm a little embarrassed. Over the weekend, I dug into a fantastic book titled "Handbook of Motivation Science," and I had an epiphany. For a guy that is obsessed with progress and creating the best life possible for myself and others, what I read should have been obvious. For whatever reason, it wasn't. I've written, lectured and counseled individuals on how they can close the gap between where they are and where they want to be in order to create a better life, but what I read hit me at my core and invigorated and inspired me. I'm hoping it has the same effect on you.

The concept I read about was "alternative selves." It's the idea that the "future you" has not been determined, and there is an unlimited number of versions of yourself that could come to fruition. Not just a slightly healthier, compassionate or financially secure version of yourself, but a radically different you.

This is probably one of the most important realizations you could ever have. Who you are right now may be the same person you are tomorrow, or next week, next year or even next decade ... or this "future you" can be someone completely different. It can be difficult to imagine a better alternative self if you feel stuck or are unhappy with your job, health, finances or relationships. But, regardless of your present situation, there are a vast number of potential yous out there waiting to come forward. And here's the gift. It doesn't matter how old you are, what you've previously experienced (or suffered), or who you are today, the future is both created and negotiated.

Not buying it? Let's take this to the extreme. Imagine a young girl who lives in poverty and suffers physical and sexual abuse. Peers constantly mock her and tease her. She runs away from home and does drugs. What is her future? Her path looks clear -- drug abuse, homelessness, desperation and probably premature death. But don't count her out just yet. Remember, her future is both created and negotiated. This little girl has an unlimited number of alternative selves before her, but there's a problem and it's one we all face. It's called the path of least resistance.

The path of least resistance is the path you are currently on. For this girl, it looks like more of the same -- more drugs, abuse and crime. Regardless of how unfulfilling this path may be, it is still the path you know and are familiar with. The path of least resistance feels safe and comfortable. And this is why your today looks an awful lot like your yesterday. For your life to change, your path needs to change. But here's the good news: Don't worry about changing yourself -- that's too hard. Simply change your path, and you will automatically change.

What does it mean to change your path? It means doing something different. To create an alternative self, you need to do something that might feel foreign or uncomfortable. It might take you out of your comfort zone and it might be scary. Changing your path means making one small change. That change could be waking up 20 minutes early every morning to start that book you've always talked about. It could mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It could mean reading a book to your son before bed every night. To engage your alternative selves, it could mean doing something -- anything -- different than the path you are on.

It's easy to assume that tomorrow you'll be the same person that you are today, and for many people that would be just fine. But is there an alternative self you'd rather become? Fortunately for that little girl, and for millions of others, she changed her path and blossomed into the Oprah Winfrey we all know today. Now it's your turn. If you were the main character in a novel you were writing, how would your story end?

Available at

Handbook of Motivation Science


Careers - Why You're Stuck: Change Your Path to Change Your Life

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