The premise of Life Changers Project is to write letters to those who have made life-changing impacts on us. Acknowledging them is important. But it doesn’t mean we should sit around waiting for people to show up and help us.

As important as the letters (maybe more so) is our ability to create the lives we have imagined for ourselves. We are the architects. And we can draw our own blueprints. It will need support from others. It will require effort from us. And it will not be easy. But it can be done.

Most likely you’ve already experienced a life-changing moment. A new career. Marriage. The death of a loved one. The list goes on. Some life-changing events we welcome and others we do everything we can to avoid. Some we cause, others come whether we want them or not. The only common thread is that you’re a different person when you come out the other side.

This framework lays out the stages that most (if not all) self-initiated life-changing events will follow. It may not be accurate for every journey, but it has been true for me. By understanding the stages, we can better understand the power we have to affect the process. And we can affect the process.

But before we move into breaking down the stages, it’s best to begin by exploring the idea of a life-changing event some more. Let’s start by defining what exactly a life-changing moment is.

What is Life-Changing?

Depending on who you ask and when you ask them, you’ll get many different definitions. As a starting point, consider the Life Changers Project definition which assumes two things to be true:

  • It must have a positive impact on the person.
  • Whether in a large or small way, it must change the course of their life.

Yes, that’s a broad definition. It can cover pretty much anything, in fact. But that’s the idea.

Life changing moments can include anything from having a door held open for you to a stranger smiling at you as she walks past. They could be an email introduction that lands you a huge contract or a trusted friend talking you through a dark time in your life. It could be you making the decision to go back to school and chase the career you always knew you should have pursued.

If it positively impacts you and you are different afterward, that’s life-changing.

Some life-changing moments are initiated by us, and others occur incidentally, coincidentally, or at the whim of someone else.

For the sake of this blueprint, we want to focus on the things we are trying to create, the self-initiated. These are the things we can control, and as a result, are the only things we should fret over. Anything outside our sphere of control should also be kept outside our window of worry.

Let’s also narrow down our attention to those events that we would consider significant. Smiling at a stranger is great, but this framework is most useful when we’re navigating a major change.

So let’s talk about the stages.

Four Stages of the Life Changing Strategy

There are four main stages in a self-initiated life-changing experience. The four P’s. They are:

  • Purpose
  • Progress
  • Perseverance
  • Product

We’ll look at each in more detail in a moment, but first, it’s important to understand how they work together.

For example, as designed, the process tends to move through these stages linearly. Purpose first, then Progress, followed by Perseverance and Product.

But, real life is muddier than that. In reality, we might get to the Perseverance stage and be thrown right back into wondering what our Purpose is. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. It will all make more sense once we start breaking each stage down.

Like anything else, there are phases to the process of creating the life we want. Each is important in its own way and it’s rare that any can be skipped.

The better we understand them, the smoother the process of moving through them.

If the Life Changing Event is what you want to do/change/create/try in your life, the Purpose stage aims to determine why you want it.

The concept of identifying our “why” was made famous by Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why. Too often we focus on what we need to do and how we do it but don’t spend enough time understanding why we’re doing it.

Our purpose is our “why.” Sometimes that means a big-picture purpose like why we exist at all. Other times it might be a task-based meaning like why we should bother making our beds. (There are some good arguments for why we should, by the way.)

Regardless of whether we’re looking at it through a macro or micro lens, understanding the purpose before we begin will only help us along the way. And it should all tie back into supporting what it is we’re trying to do — our Life Changing Event.

What’s Your Passion?

Have you ever gotten so involved working on a project only to look up hours later and have no idea where the time went? But you’re not tired at all. In fact, you’re energized? That’s passion.

In the world of self-initiated Life Changing Events, identifying our passion will show us where to apply our focus. It provides a path to fulfilling our purpose. Passion and purpose are often closely aligned. And if they’re not, it could be an indicator that something’s not right.

There is a simple question to help identify your passion(s). If you could make a living doing anything in the world, what would you choose? Or another way of saying it: What is something you would gladly do, whether you got paid for it or not?

The answer to those questions is your passion. And identifying it is a critical step in moving through the Life Changing Process.

What Do You Want Most?

Dreams work in tandem with our passions, which tend to align with purpose. And purpose is the driving force behind the self-initiated Life Changing Event. Confused yet? Stay with me, it will all make sense at the end.

When we think of dreams, we tend to think of big ideas, big goals, and top-of-the-mountain type achievements. But they don’t always have to be that big. If they align with your purpose, can leverage your passion, and move you further along in the Life Changer Process, that’s a pretty good thing to shoot for.

The dream phase is another way of saying when all is said and done, “Where do I want to end up? What does success look like for me?” More specifically, “What exactly is the life I’ve imagined?”

When we’re kids we have no problem coming up with big dreams for ourselves. There are no barriers to us achieving them, either. For a kid, becoming a teacher or a firefighter is just as possible as becoming an astronaut.

That was certainly how I approached my dream when I was little. Adults might laugh when they hear a child’s big idea, but the problem isn’t that the child has big ideas it’s that the adult has abandoned theirs.

If that’s you, if your dream has been buried in bills, stress, and other “grown-up” responsibilities, maybe it’s time to revisit it. To dust it off. To give it one more shot.

Who Will It Benefit And How?

The next step is to think about who else will this pursuit of our purpose impact.

How will your Life Changing Event matter, and will it affect anyone other than you? Is it possible that the thing you’re working toward will improve the lives of others too?

These questions help in a few different ways.

Pursuing Life Changing Events is not easy and having something to inspire you is crucial. There will be a point in your journey when you feel alone, but knowing someone is counting on you can serve as motivation to not give up.

By articulating who else will benefit from your pursuit, you’re also more likely to rally support behind your efforts. Whether it be emotional, financial, or physical support, we all need help from time to time. If people have some skin in the game or believe in your cause, they’ll do whatever they can to help.

Another benefit of understanding the impact early on is it can alert us to who might be hurt by what we’re trying to do. It’s not that we intend to hurt them, but the excitement of our dream can cause us to overlook who else is affected.

Having awareness early on allows us to correct as necessary to help more people than we hurt. And there’s a good chance what you discover will also support why you’re doing this in the first place.

Are You Capable Of Achieving This?

Believing in your pursuit is one thing. Believing in your ability to achieve it is a whole different story.

Following a path that will dramatically change your life and the lives of others will be challenging. And if you don’t believe, deep down, that you can do it, the road is going to be that much more difficult.

Some may believe that positive thinking has little impact on whether we succeed. I disagree. It has everything to do with it.

The times I’ve been successful I began with confidence that the outcome would be what I wanted. And those times when I came up short have usually been the result of me being uncertain from the beginning.

You might not know how you’re going to get there yet (that part will come later). First, you need to convince yourself that you can get there. Some of it is as simple as having faith in yourself, and believing that you will find a way.

But that’s not enough. You also need to put some thought into it. Be honest with yourself that you can see a path, or at least the potential for a path, that makes this possible.

Once you’re aware of why you’re chasing that Life Changing Event — and you’ve established it’s what you want and that you are capable of achieving it — the next stage covers making it a reality.

The Progress Stage has two major parts: creating the plan for how you’re going to it and then beginning to actually do it.

It’s also a high-energy stage. You’ve got the vision in your head, you can almost taste success!

This is typically when we’re at our most inspired. So ride that wave for as long as you can. Because there will be challenges.

We’ll tackle those in the third stage. But know they’re coming because it underscores the importance of the Progress phase. Namely, building out your plan and taking action toward it.

Understanding Where You’ve Been

Too often people decide what they want and where they’re headed without really understanding how they got where they are.

Before going too far down that road, it’s helpful to pause and consider the path we’ve already walked. Our present is the result of our own creation. Until we acknowledge our role in creating it, we can’t take responsibility for what comes next.

A Life Map is a helpful tool to understand, at a glance, how our life has gone up to that point. I like to use a line graph, with good experiences raised above the horizon line and difficult experiences beneath it.

When you connect the dots, you’ll notice a few things:

  • How up and down life can be
  • How much time you have spent in the down times
  • How much time you’ve spent in the happy times

The idea here is to raise our awareness of our past and call out some events that might be holding us back. It’s also to make it easier for us to visualize how the Life Changing Event we’re chasing will fit into our overall life.

How will it compare to some of our best days?

How Will You Measure Success?

To give ourselves the best chance for success, we should first determine some goals. Goals force us to articulate exactly what we want. They also create a roadmap to alert us when we’ve veered too far off course.

There are many different approaches when it comes to establishing goals. The SMART goals method is one popular technique, but there are others that will work, too. You just want to identify goals or outcomes and measure your progress against them.

One thing worth noting, is the importance of identifying ideal outcomes. This often gets lost in the rush to create goals, which are important to help keep us on track. But if we don’t know the specific outcomes we’re after, we risk setting misguided goals.

Understanding the difference between Life Changing Events, outcomes, and goals can be confusing. Where does one end and another begin? Here’s an example to show the hierarchy:

Let’s say the Life Changing Event you’re after is to be a New York Times Bestselling Author. You can’t do that without having published a book, right? So that would be your top line outcome. To write the book, you’ll need to hit certain milestones. Those milestones would be your goals.




NYT Bestseller

Publish a popular book

-Establish book outline by end of the month

-Complete 1st draft by the end of the year

-Develop and execute marketing plan before publishing

Were this a real example, there would likely be more goals and outcomes, but you get the idea. The further you can break down the work, the easier it will be to see the end of the road. And the easier it will be to start taking action.

We’re going to talk about taking action in the next section. But if you haven’t already, you can start listing the outcomes you’ll need and the goals associated with them.

Nothing Happens Without The Doing

Dreams are fantastic. Ideas are great. But without action, they never become more than dreams or ideas. Action is what makes them real. It’s also the hardest part because that’s where the work comes in. Up until now, it’s all make-believe and planning.

Whenever I’ve worked on a large project chasing a big idea, this stage always seems to be a pain point. Usually, it’s not because I don’t want to do the work (though that might happen to some). My challenge comes because I struggle with deciding where to start.

Anything worth considering as a Life Changing Event is likely a major undertaking. And as a result, it’s going to be overwhelming. Do you even know all the items you need to tackle? How do you know which item to tackle first? Can’t I just put my head down and plow through?

Let’s tackle each of those questions by themselves. First, do you even know all the items you need to tackle? If you don’t, you need to. This is an easy though, especially if you know your desired outcomes and the associated goals.

Now, attach specific actions to each of the goals. That chart might look something like this:





NYT Bestseller

Publish a popular book

Establish book outline by end of the month

Interview target readers to learn their pain points


Complete 1st draft by the end of the year

Write 500 words per day


Develop and execute marketing plan before publishing

– Hire author PR specialists

– Determine marketing budget

– Identify value marketing channels

The next question was How do you know which item to tackle first?

In some cases, the order doesn’t matter at all. In others, the order is critical. This is why it’s smart to map out your plan before you begin taking any action. List all the tasks or actions you need to complete and prioritize them. Then, start at the top of your list and begin moving through them one by one.

This brings us to the last question: Can’t I put my head down and plow through?

The answer to this one is yes and no. For best results, the planning and prioritization parts are necessary. But once you have the actions determined and ranked, then yes, it’s time to put your head down and get to work.

Who Can I Model My Process After?

The fastest and most effective way to reach your goals (and ultimately achieve your Life Changing Event) is to model someone who has already achieved what you want.

Modeling has been around forever and we use it in hundreds of ways every day. It saves us time, it reduces the likelihood of failure, and it allows more people to realize success.

For example, if you’ve ever cooked using a recipe, that’s following a model. Somewhere along the way, a baker recorded her process for baking a cake and shared it with others. Over time, she eliminated the parts that didn’t work, adjusted the ingredients to deliver the perfect taste, and altered the steps so everything happens in the proper order.

Thanks to that person leveraging their experience (which has now become expertise), the rest of us can bake a cake that looks great, tastes great, and doesn’t burn the house down. It’s like a roadmap to a successful cake.

That same approach can be used in pretty much every scenario. Find someone doing the thing you want to do and learn how they got there. Go straight to them if you can. If not, find the most thorough and credible sources available, ask the right questions, and reverse engineer their success. When you’re finished, what you’ll have will be the foundation of your plan for progress.

Perfect, right?

Up to now, things have been mostly fun. We’ve identified what you want. We’ve mapped out a path to get there. And we have begun taking the first steps on our journey. But like any good adventure movie, it won’t take long before your first big challenge pops up. It’s inevitable in the movies, and it’s the same in real life, only less entertaining.

The key isn’t in avoiding the challenges, it’s in figuring out how to overcome them. They will show up in different ways. Some will distract us. Some will steal our motivation. Others might slow us down. But they all carry the same risk — derailing our progress toward that Life Changing Event.

Most of the time they fall into three big buckets: obstacles, failures, and anxiety. Let’s take a look at the specifics.

Working Through The Challenges

Obstacles are challenges that will occur no matter how bulletproof our plans are.

They range from annoying to catastrophic, such tools breaking down or family emergencies. They also include our own attention deficiencies like scrolling Instagram.

These challenges are mostly outside of our control in that we can’t keep them from arising. But we can control how we react to them. Imagine you were pursuing holding your own art show. You had 15 paintings that you were going to display and a week before the show, half of them got damaged in a flood.

That’s an obstacle.

And once the flood happens, it’s no longer something you can control. What you can control is deciding whether you’re going to cancel the show or paint new pieces to replace them.

Throughout your life-changing pursuits, you will encounter many challenges. Most you cannot prepare for. The question should not be “Can I get through this plan without any problems?” Instead, it should be “When problems arise, how will I respond?”

Preparation will ensure you’re not caught off guard. And in the rare case where there are no serious obstacles, you’ll appreciate the success even more.

Failing Your Way To Success

Obstacles are challenges that impede our path to success. Failure is something not working out the way you intended. It could be because the path pointed in the wrong direction. Or the necessary skills or prerequisites aren’t there.

Failures can propel us toward success if we respond in one of two ways — accept them and move on, or regroup and try again. Both can be acceptable under the right circumstances.

Accepting them and moving on does not mean giving up. It means acknowledging that our “aim” was off and pausing to readjust. Regroup and try again might be best when you feel like your plan was good, but you just need another crack at it. Both responses allow us to keep the dream alive.

The only real failure comes when we give up. But there are incremental failures too. Those are when we try something one way and it doesn’t work. Thomas Edison famously said “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Those were incremental failures because what he learned propelled him toward eventual success.

A good example of this is from the Life Changers Project Origin Story. I had a goal of getting a football scholarship. It didn’t work out. Had it died there, you might say I failed on my goal. But instead, I found another way to almost achieve the same outcome. In its own way, the end result could be called a success.

Failure does not have to be the end. If we learn from it it can be the best guide we have on our path to success.

When Stress And Anxiety Rule

Obstacles and failures are external factors that affect our progress. Success would be elusive enough if those were all we faced. Unfortunately, we also have internal challenges in the form of stress and anxiety.

Stress and anxiety are both determined by our reaction to outside forces. Stress is pressure we feel from the outside. If work is piling up on us, we might feel stressed. The work is causing the stress, but our internal reaction is what allows it to affect us.

An undertaking as big as the Life Changing Event you have mapped out won’t be without its inherent stress. But some of us are prone to giving in to stress more than others. And, worse than that, we often create more of it without reason.

I have a tendency to consider the worst possible scenario. It doesn’t mean I believe it will happen, but I always think it through, just in case. That approach can prevent bad things from happening and has saved me more than once. But it can also create a lot of unnecessary worrying if I’m unable to separate the possible from the probable.

No matter how aware of them we are, both stress and anxiety are difficult to eliminate. It’s human nature to feel this way, especially when something we are invested in is threatened. It does help to be aware of it, though, because once the stress starts to build we are going to need to know how to relieve it. Ideally, that relief will come in a productive way, that doesn’t harm us or others, or derail our pursuit.

Believing In Yourself No Matter What

Sometimes the challenges mount. The obstacles pop up faster than you can avoid them. Failures outnumber the wins, and stress and anxiety begin to overwhelm you. When that happens, you’ll start feeling like all you have is yourself. Sure, there might be some close to you who still believe, but they’re rarely as invested as you.

So what do you do then?

Back in Stage 1 we talked about the intersection between dreams and passion. Part of the discovery is deciding where you want to end up so you can work backwards in mapping out a plan to achieve it. Having a clear vision is also important when you need a dose of self-confidence. Others won’t understand the vision as well as you see it in your mind.

When it comes to keeping the dream alive, you can’t expect anyone else to believe in it more than you do. It helps to be aware that the obstacles, failures, and internal pressures are all going to take their shots. It’s also good to know that the deeper you get into the journey, the more supporters you’ll lose to boredom and doubt.

That’s okay. That’s all part of the process. But don’t let any of those things distract you from what you want most. You’ve already mapped out your journey. You know what it will take to get there.

As you feel the pressure mounting, remember this: the missing piece in any permanent failure is always the self-confidence to persevere.

Self-doubt becomes bigger than the desire to succeed and we quit. But only if we let it.

We’re not talking about modest achievements here. We’re talking about Life Changing Events. They don’t come easy, nor should they. These accomplishments need to be difficult or else they wouldn’t be life-changing.

As Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) said in A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great.”

If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

If we’re fortunate enough to map a solid plan and strong enough to overcome the adversity, we might actually achieve what we set out to do. That’s a great thing and certainly worth celebrating. It’s also not the end.

This is called the product stage to represent that your event is a finished “product.” Now we must decide what to do with it. Once we reach that pillar of success we’ve been chasing, we’ll have a whole new set of questions arise. How do I maintain this success? What have I learned and what do I do with that information? Is there a new goal to begin chasing?

Depending on your Life Changing Event, you may have even more factors suddenly in play. Did your transition earn you a bunch of money? Status? Fame? It’s very possible your life will be different at this point. Hey, we don’t call it life changing for nothing, right?

Now, we need to figure out what to do next.

What To Do With Our Success

For as good as some people are at achieving success, they are absolutely terrible at managing it. It’s an entirely different skill set, but one that is critical if you A) want to remain successful and B) don’t want to come off like an arrogant ass.

Managing success is as simple as remembering two things. First, to be grateful for your success and those who helped you along the way. This is the Life Changers Project in a nutshell. The second is to understand that it can all be taken away in an instant. Be grateful, enjoy it, but don’t ever take it for granted.

Having made it this far allows you to give more to others too. You have accomplished something that wasn’t easy. Perhaps you have an inspiring story. Maybe you have some extra money you can donate to a worthy cause. Or maybe you can just be an example of someone who has done well and still remained humble and hungry.

Personal Growth Does Not End

Personal growth is something we’re all in the business of learning about whether we want to or not. And there’s no better “course” to take than pursuing a Life Changing Event, learning what you learn along the way.

But the personal growth journey does not end when you achieve your Life Changing Event. It continues as you embark on your next project or while managing the success you just achieved. The only time personal growth will end is when we stop feeding the desire to learn and improve. And even then, we’ll still encounter the lessons.

The moment we stop being open to learning new things (no matter how accomplished we become) is the moment we start putting limitations on our potential. For this reason alone personal growth doesn’t end. We can’t let it.

Understanding this allows us to not only embrace those lessons but to seek them out. Each lesson allows us to “level up” our personal growth, making it that much easier for us to navigate our next pursuit.

Serving as a Mentor to Others

You often hear people say they want to “give back” or “pay it forward.” That’s what mentorship is all about. There is little to lose by helping, and there is plenty to gain — both personally and for the world at large.

It’s likely you got where you are with the help of your own Life Changers, so when given the opportunity why not be one to someone else? There will always be someone on a journey who has yet to get as far as you. Maybe they’re stuck behind their own obstacles. Maybe the anxiety monster has them crippled. You could be their last hope before they quit.

Mentorship doesn’t have to come in a formal capacity, though it can. Any form of passing on advice or guidance to someone who can use it to advance their position qualifies. In other words, you could become a teacher and share your knowledge in a classroom setting. Or you could see someone struggling and spontaneously lend a hand. Or anything in between. All applications are valuable to both the mentor and the mentee.

Just don’t overthink it. They say “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” And I think the opposite is also true. “When the teacher is ready, the student appears”, so long as we keep our eyes open to the opportunity to be of service.

What Remains After We’re Gone

A question that often comes to my mind is “Why do we do all this?” Life is tough as it is, and then we push ourselves to pursue these Life Changing Events that will work us even harder. And for what? This is different than understanding our why within our purpose. This question is even broader and more philosophical.

Why bother making our lives more challenging than they already are?

There are only two reasons I can come up with. The first is impact. We want to make our mark on the world and, if our intentions are pure, improve the lives of others. That is what drives our effort pursuing the Life Changing Events this framework supports.

The second reason is legacy. It’s human nature to want to create something that lives on after we’re gone. Whether that be our wealth or our work or both, we want the world to know we were here. And we want to feel like our life mattered.

The Life Changers Project is built with legacy in mind. When any of us do anything, that creates a ripple. And that ripple affects those nearby who then create ripples of their own. Our legacy is the continuation of ripples through the rest of time. All of it stems from the dreams we held and the goals we chased.

So why do we bother chasing those dreams? Because that’s the way to our fullest life. Because the only way to live a life that matters is to live a life of meaning. If you chase your dreams and pursue those Life Changing Events, your legacy will take care of itself.

The Life-Changing Framework

This framework is not the only way dreams come true, but nearly all my experiences have followed a similar path. It helps to visualize something that is very big and very abstract. Now you know the process that has worked for me. Hopefully it works for you too, at least in part.

The good news is there are many places through the journey where we have the ability to affect the process. We can dream. We can plan. We can overcome. We can take the right actions at the right times, as long as we know what those actions are and when we should take them.

So you have the blueprint. What you do with it is up to you. But no matter what you decide, keep dreaming. If there’s one thing the world always needs, it’s dreamers. The bigger the better.

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