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From Hope to Change

By Adam Khan

According to the International Listening Association, within twenty-four hours, we forget half of any information we've heard. Forty-eight hours later, we've forgotten 75 percent of it. And we don't grasp everything we hear in the first place. But these numbers change when what we hear is repeated. And the more it's repeated, the better the numbers look.

All this has a huge bearing on how you make changes in your life. You change your behavior by changing the way you think. But the way you think is as ingrained and habitual and as resistant to change as any physical habit.

So learning new ways of thinking and behaving — and learning them well enough to actually make a difference — requires repetition. If, for example, you find a book that really makes a difference to you, read it again and again. Make it an annual event. Every time you read it, you'll come across things you'd forgotten about. Audiotapes are ideal for repetition. Listen to tapes in your car and traffic jams will be transformed from an annoyance to an extended opportunity to improve the quality of your life.

Telling your friends about something you've learned helps cement the new information in your mind. The more you share it, the better you learn it. The effort and concentration it requires to explain something to someone makes it clearer in your own mind and more permanent.

There are always so many new books, new tapes, new seminars, new ideas, new information - we know we'll never get to it all, but our curiosity constantly pulls us toward it. But keep this in mind: most of that new stuff isn't very good. And even less applies to your situation. So when you come across something that is good and does apply to your situation, hold onto it. Reread it. When you come across a good chapter in this book that applies to you, read it again in a month. Write a letter to someone and explain the idea to them and how you used it and how it worked. Post it on your refrigerator. Read it onto a tape and listen to it in your car. Keep it in your life. Repetition makes a difference.

With repetition you can take a fleeting hope sparked by a good idea and turn it into an actual change in your life. Instead of that possibility fading with your memory, it can grow stronger and stronger until your life is changed for the better. The distance between hope and actuality is crossed by this kind of disciplined application.

(Adam Khan is the author of 'Self-Help Stuff That Works,' a collection of 120 short chapters on taking your attitude and your effectiveness to new heights. Check out reviews and a sample chapter at

P.S. from Peter Shepherd
I would add that our behavior and habit patterns, and our belief systems, have been imprinted through three factors:

  1. Frequency - if an idea is repeated over and over, or a behavior is persistently followed, then we will become accustomed to it.
  2. Intensity - if an imprint is enforced upon you, perhaps at a time of duress or trauma, or if it comes from an authority figure, it will be more readily embedded.
  3. Duration - if the influence continues over a long period of time, then again, it is more likely to sink in and be accepted.

When we reverse this imprint or conditioning, the realization of it usually has some intensity. We then need to remain mindful and frequently and continuously apply the realization, until all traces of the imprint are eradicated. And also to bear in mind that the new realization may, at a time of greater awareness, again need to be revised.

"Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer injury to our self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their self-importance, learn so easily; and why older people, especially if vain or arrogant, cannot learn at all." — Thomas Szasz.

We live in a fast-changing world. Smart, tough people learn to adapt and drop excess baggage. The ones full of fear, those who need to protect the status quo, are the people who are no longer young at heart, will not adapt to change and so get left behind. Put simply, to get ahead, you have to open up, learn some new things and be willing to start over.

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