God helps those who help themselves. God help those who don’t!

According to the eminent psychologist, professor, author, and philosopher, William James (1842 ~ 1910), “Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses power of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.”

You have no doubt heard many times that we use just a fraction of our resources. Buried deep within us is unlimited potential that rarely blossoms fully. Blessed with the capacity to bloom into magnificent creatures, we often fall far short of our potential. Why is that? It is not due to a lack of ideas, but a lack of follow-through, or action. Why do we fail to act? The biggest culprit appears to be self-doubt, a lack of faith in ourselves, a lack of confidence that we can achieve our dreams. William James agrees with this assessment for he wrote, “There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his true Self.”

Although we were born confident, competent, and fully capable of reaching our dreams, all that good stuff was knocked out of us in our childhood. And until we restore that confidence in ourselves, we are doomed to go on failing to live up to our potential. How can we restore our rightful inheritance of unshakable faith in ourselves? The purpose of this article is to answer that question.

Borrowing from the teachings of William James, I wish to share a powerful technique that has transformed the lives of countless men and women. It can do the same for you. The good and bad news is that the method is simple to carry out. Although I don’t have to explain why that is good news, you’ll want to know why I call that bad news. You see, we tend to doubt the value of anything that is cheap, easy to get, or easy to do. That is the danger. Once you learn how easy it is to follow the procedure, you may dismiss it as a silly gimmick with little value. To arrive at that conclusion would be a serious mistake. Now that you have been forewarned, I’m ready to share this life-altering technique.

It is simply this. Promise yourself for the next ten days you will start doing something you should be doing or stop doing something you should not be doing. For example, “For the next ten days I promise myself to wake up 30 minutes earlier to avoid arriving late at the office.” Or, “For the next ten days, I will stop eating fatty food for lunch.” Simple, isn’t it? Now, let’s look at the procedure in detail and follow that with an explanation of why it is so effective.

1) Promise yourself for the next ten days you will start doing something you should be doing or stop doing something you should not be doing. 2) Write the date and your promise on a small card and keep it in your purse or wallet so that every time you reach for money, you will see the card and be reminded of your promise. 3) Make a promise that is attainable. Don’t overreach. For example, if I want to stop biting my nails, it may be too difficult to try to stop completely. If that were the case, I could promise myself to stop biting them between the hours of 10 am and 12 noon, for example.

4) Keep your promise at all costs. Live up to your word. Failure to do so will lead to further erosion of your self-confidence! That’s why step #3 is so important. Because you are breaking from your normal routine, one day you may forget to carry out your promise. Don’t let that bother you, but you will have to start all over again, from the beginning, until you get it right.

5) Keep a log or journal. Nothing fancy is required. Just a couple of sentences will do. At the end of your day, write down the results of your promise and how you feel. Your journal will help to keep you focused on your goal and serve as a reminder of your accomplishments.

6) Keep your promise for ten days. After that period, you are under no obligation to continue the new behaviour. This is an important point for it is what makes the program so easy to follow. All you have to do is maintain your new behaviour for ten days!

7) Of course, if I wish to continue with my new behaviour, that’s perfectly fine. But if I wish to stop, that’s equally acceptable. However, if I stop, I then begin a 10-day program on something else. For instance, after I successfully stopped biting my nails between 10 am and 12 noon for ten days, I can terminate that program and start a new one, such as cutting back on my TV viewing by one hour a day for the next ten days.

Why is this procedure so valuable if all I have to do is maintain my new, desirable behavior for ten days? It is because every ten days I am a winner. Every ten days, I am successful. Every ten days, I have proven to myself that I have the power to change. Every ten days, I experience a surge in self-confidence. And the constant repetition of one ten-day program followed by another leads to the development of a new habit. I now have the habit of tackling what I have avoided in the past. I have acquired the habit of self-discipline and self-improvement.

With the completion of each ten day program, we make remarkable discoveries. We learn that positive action is much easier to accomplish than we had imagined. We experience the relief that follows doing something that was nagging us. We also experience the pride, pleasure, and the benefits that follow from taking action. And the discovery that we have the power to control our destiny is nothing less than thrilling. When we embark on a life of endless ten-day programs, we discover adventure and excitement, and we live life to the fullest by daring to tackle what we could fail in, for as William James said, “It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.” All of the above points motivate us to continue leading a life of endless growth. In other words, the rewards we reap propel us forward.

The program I am suggesting develops self-reliance. By living up to your promises, you discover you can rely on yourself. This is what Aesop was alluding to when he wrote twenty-six hundred years ago, “The gods help them that help themselves.” Let’s wrap up with some final words from William James, “Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms, if you only let them. Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second. Give your dreams all you’ve got and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.”

What ten-day program will you begin today? Before you answer, heed the warning of William James, “He who refuses to embrace a unique opportunity loses the prize as surely as if he had tried and failed.”