Updated: Nov 29, 2022
The most effective way to create positive change in our lives is to modify the internal blueprints that actually drive our behaviors, moment to moment, in various dimensions of our experience.
What do I mean by blueprints? These blueprints are sets of standards that modulate our behaviors and act as a thermostat to keep these behaviors in a certain acceptable range. When we get out of that range, which could be likened to being out of our comfort zone (vis-a-vis that dimension of our life), the thermostat triggers mechanisms to bring us back into that comfort zone.
For example, we all have standards about how neat and tidy we keep our environment--our kitchen, our garage, our basement, and so on. Whenever it gets messier than that, we get motivated to do a little cleaning, restoring the situation to a sufficient state of tidiness to satisfy our standards. If our partner or spouse were to become a “neat freak” and kept the house immaculate--much cleaner than our standards require--we might purposefully go around and mess things up a little, because we're not comfortable. Sounds familiar?
We have similar blueprints or standards for the quality of our relationships with our spouse, children, parents, coworkers, etc. We also have standards regarding our personal health, our career, our financial health, as well as our overall wealth and the current lifestyle that our financial situation can afford. These blueprints are very powerful drivers of behavior.
There might be several aspects of our life we are not quite satisfied with. For example, we may have gained weight, stopped going to the gym, maxed out our credit cards, neglected our primary relationship, or any other behaviors that are detrimental to our well-being. As a result, we may come up with this or that strategy to modify our behaviors, which can work to some degree. However, in the long run, these various attempts to address the situation turn out to be rather ineffective.
What I’m offering here is a different kind of approach that actually goes deeper: Doing the reflective work to determine “What is my blueprint in any area of my life? What is my physical health blueprint? What is my financial health blueprint? What is my lifestyle blueprint?”
METHOD FOR IDENTIFYING BLUEPRINTS
One of the best ways to identify our blueprints is through journaling. The exercise has several steps. You begin by choosing one aspect of your life you want to work with. Let’s say we start with your current blueprint for the financial domain of your life.
Your current financial capacity: Start by writing about your current financial capacity--your ability to have enough money to live in a manner consistent with your values and interests. Write about the kind of house you live in or could afford, the kind of car you drive or could purchase, the vacations you’re able to take, what you’re able to do for important people in your life, how you’re able to contribute to causes that are important to you. What is your current financial capacity?
Your wildest dreams: Next, start journaling about what you really want in this dimension of your life. Remove all tendencies to edit yourself and just get totally outrageous. Dare to dream big. Things, like, "I want a private jet," are fine. Give yourself permission to be materialistic and remove any barriers about what you really want in terms of lifestyle and so on. Just get wild and imagine this perfect life, without censoring. As if you had won the lottery, and there were no limits.
Re-visiting and cleaning up your dreams list Then pause for a few hours or days, and come back to reflect on what you wrote. As you read you will notice that some of what you wrote really inspires you. And, perhaps, some of it doesn’t really resonate, even if you had limitless resources at your disposal. Avoid the “shoulds” though. Give yourself complete permission to dream of and have the life you want.
Discovering your current blueprint Now reflect on what you consider reasonable and realistic to aspire to? Right there, your current unconscious blueprint--around your lifestyle, financial wealth, financial resources, financial security--is going to start kicking in and you will see it in play. You will probably notice all kinds of judgments coming into your brain about what is acceptable to want and have, which originate from inherited conditioning, beliefs, and values from your childhood. Maybe you were taught that money is bad; that being non-materialistic makes you a good person; or that it takes too much work to generate financial security and abundance. By trying to come to some reasonable vision to aspire to, all those beliefs and judgments, which you have internalized mostly from childhood influences, will resurface; just keep writing them down in your journal. Gradually, you will notice thoughts with actual numbers, pinpointing where your current blueprint is, numerically. Pay attention to those numbers. You have an actual blueprint or internalized standard in terms of your annual salary, how much you make an hour, how much money you can have in the bank, the value of the home we own, and so forth.
Before we move on to the last part of the exercise, I would like to clarify one thing:
WHERE DO BLUEPRINTS COME FROM? Our internal blueprints are ingrained in us from our childhood, our upbringing, the culture we were raised in, and various other influences. We didn't really decide any of it. It is all conditioning and consists of various influences, prejudices and biases, some of which may be positive, and some of which might not be that helpful. What is crucial to realize is that our current blueprint is not really ours. So, at some point in our life, it makes sense to recreate a blueprint that we actually choose, based on our own values. We can determine what feels good to us, and through our own conscious process, develop an internal blueprint that is actually our own, not just an inherited one. So once we decide where we could be, and we get clear about the blueprint we currently have (which keeps holding us back), then we can work to create that new blueprint.
5. Creating the new blueprint This last step requires that we determine how the new blueprint will align with our values. This means that we will probably need to reflect and contemplate what our core values are, independent of the old blueprint, around the specific area we are working with, in this case, money and wealth. What is truly meaningful to us, what do we really believe in, and why. Of course, this exploration can evolve over time. But the point is to make sure that this new internalized blueprint we are creating is inspiring to us, lines up with our values, and ideally has a purpose larger than just us. Because it’s not only about us! What we aspire to will impact our family, our community, how we're able to contribute to life. This step requires a lot of writing and reflecting, and finding some way to keep these questions in the forefront of our mind, which will eventually allow us to replace the old blueprint. In fact, it will literally change the wiring in our brain, such that we have a new thermostat and we will be motivated to do whatever it takes to actualize that new standard of financial capacity. And then, once we get there, that thermostat will keep us in that range. It works like clockwork and is actually quite a mechanical and powerful driver. Of course, we all aspire to live more conscious lives and not simply be driven by our conditioning and our neurobiology, but to think that these inner standards are not going to influence us is naive. So we might as well ingrain blueprints that are in accord with our deepest values and genuine aspirations in order to take advantage of our neurobiology, and in doing so, re-tuning the neural pathways, re-tuning our brain’s wiring, so it actually supports where we want to go. Instead of having to swim upstream all the time, we'll be supported by our blueprints ingrained as neural pathways in our brain.
So this process of examining our financial blueprint was just one example; and, of course, we could use many other examples. We might decide to focus on the quality of our primary relationship, on our physical health, or any other areas of our life we want to improve.
Among the many strategies we can use to create positive change, I highly recommend this one. It empowers us to successfully identify the blueprints that are holding us back, do the work to envision new blueprints, and firmly establish them. This will really support the change we're looking for, and the appropriate behaviors to reinforce the blueprints will follow automatically. I wish you the best with that exploration!