This article is going to be about the actual mechanics of personal change. It's a topic that's very close to my heart, and one that I've studied in various guises over the years.

So the other day, I went for dinner at my parents' place, where they've lived for over a decade now. Recently they changed their locks -- and by recently, I mean almost a year ago.

Now these new locks are just like the old ones, except that instead of locking clockwise and unlocking counterclockwise, it's the other way around. You understand what I'm talking about? Confusing as crap. Now every time I walk out of their place, I end up fiddling with the doorknob and lock because I'm so used to it turning the other way. The kicker is that my dad actually wrote a little note on the lock saying 'Turn this way to open' -- and I *still* turn it the wrong way when I first get to it. A whole YEAR later.

Now am I dumb? I hope not. Do I not understand how to operate a door lock? Do I just enjoy jamming my hand painfully against an immovable object? Of course not.

There's something else operating here, and it's called *habit*. You can think of habits as the large-scale manifestation of Hebb's Rule from neuroscience, which basically says that the more a synapse fires, the more efficient that synapse becomes. Basically, the more you use a neural pathway, the stronger it becomes.

The Taoist idea of water taking the path of least resistance manifests in all of nature and is embodied in the laws of thermodynamics, which tells us that the natural world is designed to minimize its energy state and do things the easiest possible way.

Your brain is no exception. Basically, your habits are like a 12-lane superhighway that's really easy to get on and has no traffic. It trumps all other pathways of doing things, especially all those wispy little side-roads that we put up every once in a while called change.

Additionally, there is a very strong drive in all biological beings towards homeostasis, or maintaining a steady state of things. This manifests in your body temperature, blood pH, body weight, diet -- as well as your concept of self and everything that flows from that, especially your relationships.

Every time you decide to affect some kind of change, you're bucking up against the formidable forces of homeostasis and habit. And believe me, if I'm still turning that knob clockwise even when there's a note on it telling me not to, this is a force to be reckoned with.

Great. So we've set out the problem and an understanding of where it comes from. Now, in true Tao of Dating fashion, we must answer the question: What do we do about it?

Again, consistent with Taoism as well as Neurolinguistic Programming, it's useful to observe how other people have experienced real change and then apply it to our own lives. Here are some examples I can think of:

1) Change your identity fundamentally.

Story: Steve was one of my best friends in college and a world-class pianist. He was a bon-vivant of the highest order -- the man who introduced me to scotch, cigars and many other refined vices that are best not mentioned here. Steve was a smoker, and wanted to quit. One day, Steve fell in love with a Mormon girl. In order to marry her, he had to convert. He did. Steve no longer smokes. He also doesn't drink, and is generally a lot more boring than he used to be.

Application: If you're overweight, become a triathlete. Triathletes aren't fat. If you want to be a ladies' man, start a modeling agency or pageant or something. Hugh Hefner was just a 25yr old whippersnapper with a crazy concept without a penny to his name when he started his infamous publishing empire, so it can be done.

Difficulty: this is the method of maximal difficulty -- and maximal effectiveness. Prepare to invest at least 5 years of life to have any chance of success.

2) Undergo a cataclysmic life event.

There is such a thing as instant change. It's called imprinting. If you get sick after eating at a certain restaurant, chances are you will never go back there again in your lifetime. People have had such events visiting holy sites, going on pilgrimages, or ingesting psychedelics. Application: You can't plan the accidental epiphanies, but you can engineer peak experiences such as trips that are conducive to the occurrence of such life-changing events.

3) Replace the old habit with new ones over time.

Story: I had spoken American English all my life until enrolling at Cambridge University. In spite of my resistance, bits of the British English gradually permeated into my own speech. As a result of that year in England, to this day I sometimes say 'cheers' instead of 'thank you' and have a funny inflection of the word 'no'.

Application: You can deliberately put yourself in an environment where you are surrounded by a new behavior you'd like to emulate. Over time, you'll engage in the new behavior so often that it will establish itself as a habit. Want to quit eating meat? Date a vegetarian. Want to stop being wimpy around women? Hang out with guys who are really good with women.

4) Therapeutic intervention.

People with depression actually have different brain chemistry. One of the safest, most effective ways of treating depression is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in spite of the uncomplimentary depiction in the movie 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.' I'm not necessarily saying that you're bound to get more dates if you get strapped to a bed and get shocked. What I am saying is that this is an example of a specific, effective intervention that fundamentally changes your brain chemistry.

Are there other things that do that? Yup. Diet, exercise, and sleep are three of the cheapest ones. Hypnotherapy alters brain physiology at the cellular level and can accelerate permanent change. A regular meditative practice, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture -- these things all affect you at a deep unconscious level.

I've mentioned four things that work. Here's what definitely does NOT work:

-- Willing yourself into it. Habits operate at an unconscious level. Will is conscious activity, and will basically lose 99.9% of the time. Don't even try; you'll get frustrated and start thinking you're an awful, weak person, which doesn't do you any good.

-- Understanding the problem. So you underwent psychotherapy. Or you read a good book that gave you insight. Or you went to a good seminar. Now you get it! You know what's wrong! And you know how to fix it! Uh, not nearly good enough, my friend. Once again, you have insight at level of cerebral cortex, of conscious thought, which is not going to touch the underlying unconscious structures. Back to square one, buddy.

There are many resources available to help you along the way: audio courses, live seminars, books. I urge you to seek out quality products that pertain to your particular area of growth and actively apply their principles.

The power is within you,
Dr Alex

PS: Can you think of two friends who would also find this article useful? Then send it to them! They'll thank you for it.

PPS: I'm interested in your questions and comments regarding dating, persuasion and networking, so please do send them to me. I can be reached at

Author's Bio: 

And if you enjoyed this article, I have many more useful tips for you like this one. To get a free copy of the special report 'The 9 Top-Secret Goldmines for Meeting Quality Women', visit To learn more about the scientific basis for success in dating and business, visit

Dr Alex Benzer is the author of 'The Tao of Dating: The Thinking Man's Guide to Success with Women', the companion booklets 'The Tao of Sexual Mastery' and 'The Tao of Social Networking', and the audio course 'The Tao of Persuasion'. He has an MD from UC San Diego Medical School, an MPhil from Cambridge University and an AB from Harvard College. He is a certified clinical hypnotherapist and NLP Master Practitioner based in Los Angeles. For a free download of one of his hypnosis audios, visit