Many people dream about living well in the future, but they don’t look at how they live now. They dream about treating people well, but they don’t observe how they treat them now.

You’ve got to hold the new way and observe how you are now, simultaneously. That creates the natural process for correction inside you. You cause yourself to correct and change in the direction of the strongest image. If you don’t change the image in your mind first and make it the strongest image, you’ll only create more anxiety. You will then likely solve the problem by giving up on your vision or goal and going back to the way things are because you’re always working to maintain sanity inside yourself. So you correct backwards. Your goal is to get rid of the problem, to get rid of the tension, not to reach the goal.

Don’t make the mistake of correcting back to old behavior just to relieve the tension that comes naturally when you set a standard or target in your mind. You may even correct back past your old behavior to a new low. “Your marriage is going too well; screw it up a little bit. Your golf game is better than you, so blow it in the next few holes.” See, if life is going too well for you, you correct backwards.

One of my sons was badly abused as a child, before Diane and I adopted him. We placed him in a good environment, treated him very well; but the better we treated him, the more difficult, even dangerous, he was. If you know you’re abused and now people are treating you well, you correct for the “mistake.” This boy was so badly abused and confused that at age four he tried to murder the man who was living with his mother. He tried to kill him when he was asleep.

how to correct yourself

Diane and I were trying to be the best mother and father anybody could be. But the kid started fires; every day was a crisis. We’d say, “What’s the matter with you? Why can’t you behave yourself?” Well, we now understand that his self-image was, “I’m not a good person, so don’t you treat me that way.”

Self-sabotage occurs inside of you and me if we don’t improve our image of what we deserve, which is part of our self-esteem. Why do I keep talking about improving self-esteem? Because if you don’t make that change in your inner self, then even though opportunity comes to you, you’ll push it away. You will correct for the “mistake” of too much business. You’ll correct for the “mistake” of too much wealth. You’ll correct for the “mistake” of things going too well for you. It happens to you, to me, to my adopted kids, to athletes.

Of the feedback you receive, you only accept, affirm and assimilate that which corresponds to your idea of how good you are. When things go better or worse than you think they should, you correct. And you don’t do it consciously; it’s a constant subconscious correction. But it’s easy to see in athletics, in commissioned salespeople, in everyone. When you’re doing “too well,” you say to yourself, “This is too good. I’m performing well above my capability.”

Your self-conscious says, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.” And over the next few weeks, you’ll screw up. Your subconscious will handle it. You don’t need to worry about doing “too well” when you fail to change your image of how well you can perform.

You and I will self-correct and self-regulate around the dominant image of who we are and where we belong. If you want continuous improvement in yourself or your organization, change the picture on the inside first, then let your behavior catch up to the picture. Don’t throw your behavior out in front of the picture. Change the picture on the inside first to create the appetite, and then grow into the picture.

The other way is to hire muscle, an intimidator, somebody who bullies you out of your comfort zone into the next plateau. Using fear and intimidation mixed with motivation, this bully may get you to use more of your potential at a higher level, at least for the time you are in his presence. He hopes that he can keep you performing at that level long enough for your inner picture to adjust to where you are. But the moment he lets go, you fall back.

The way I was trained to coach people was to intimidate them, bully them, coerce them, put fear into them, drive them past what they were capable of doing, and hold them at that mark until their image changed. I found that they might even stay at that level, but they wouldn’t go to a higher one unless you applied more external force, pushing, motivating, and correcting people.

If you were raised that way, you don’t know how to correct yourself. You wait for the minister to correct you, or the manager to correct you, or the coach to correct you because you got caught in the trap of having external motivation and correction.

What I’m saying in this post is that as you learn to self-correct by seeking objective feedback and correcting course, you won’t be dependent on any other person for your continued growth, progress, and happiness.