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Why Cheat Days Never Work and How to Create Real Change


“Cheat days” don’t work.

Because “cheat days” fly directly in the face of what actually creates sustainable behavior change.

The concept of a “cheat day” is that you “reward” yourself for one day as the result of “depriving” yourself for all the other days.

But cheat days don’t reward you; they ruin you.

Not only is it just a waste to undo all of your progress you’ve made the rest of the time, the worst part is the thinking behind a cheat day is completely destructive.

You can’t create sustainable self discipline and behavioral change through the strategy of self-denial.

Self-denial doesn’t tackle the root of the problem.

Self-denial is convincing yourself to use willpower to give up something that you have convinced yourself that you really want.

There are 2 problems with that strategy:

  1. At some point your will power is likely to run out because you’ll be tired, or sick, or convince yourself that you’ve done something that makes you “deserve” the thing you’re trying to keep yourself from.
  2. As long as you’re convinced you really want it, you’re brain will constantly unconsciously be looking for ways for you to get it – even if you are consciously trying to avoid it.

So how do you create real, meaningful, sustainable and lasting behavior change?

It’s simple.

You don’t “deny” yourself.

You “re-program” yourself.

You have to convince yourself that you don’t really want it… now or ever.

You have to change the way you think about the thing that you currently want.

You have to literally form new neural pathways in your brain that tell you what to think (and feel) whenever you think about that thing.

The number one first step to doing that is to change your self talk about that thing.

You stop saying “if I’m good about not having ___ now, then I can indulge and have it later.”

You start saying “I don’t even like _____ because it has ______ and _____ negative affects on my life.”

You retrain your brain. You use what we at Southwestern would refer to as “Self-Talk.”

You keep repeating it over and over until one day you “actually” really don’t want the thing that you used to.

Similar to forming a new path in the wild woods, it’s hard and slow at first, but the more you work at it, the more clearly the path forms. Until one day the new path becomes so ingrained and automatic that you forget the old path was ever even there.

Is this hard? Yes.

Does this take work? Yes.

Does it require intention? Yes.

But so does exercising short term will power.

The only difference is that this is actually sustainable for the long run.

This strategy will actually change your life.

Because it starts by changing the way you think about a thing, but that then quickly adapts to influencing your actual physiological attraction to the thing.

The first time I said I no longer liked fast food, it seemed like a terrible thing to say! I didn’t believe it. I knew I was “lying” to myself.

But your brain is a funny thing in that it doesn’t believe what is true or false; your brain simply believes whatever you tell it most often.

So after you say it over and over again you eventually start to believe it. Until one day, your desire for that thing has truly disappeared.

That’s when everything changes.

Because you don’t have to “deny” yourself anything anymore. Because at that point you really don’t want it! You don’t spend any time thinking about having it. You don’t feel like you’re missing out on it. And you really, truly, are more aware of the negative impacts of the thing than you are about whatever short term part you used to like about it.

Plus, while it’s nearly impossible to deny yourself of something that you know you really want; it’s nearly inevitable that you’ll automatically stay away from things you really don’t want.

The thing doesn’t change. It’s your mindset about the thing that changes. And once your mind about the thing changes, you’ll see that your body’s response to the thing will also change.

And trying to temporarily increase your willpower will never be as effective as permanently changing your taste buds.

So don’t deny yourself and find yourself in a constant never ending battle to find willpower.

Instead, reprogram yourself to make a permanent and proactive change into becoming the person you truly want to deign yourself to be.

Change your thinking about something and you will change your life.

How to Turn Your Life Around with Maurice Clarett – Episode 191 of The Action Catalyst Podcast


Maurice Clarett has traveled throughout the nation speaking to universities, businesses, non-profits, faith based organizations and high schools. His life experiences has led him to be one of the most sought after speakers.

Maurice continued his success at Ohio State becoming the first freshman running back to start, being named Big Ten freshman of the year, and setting the freshman rushing and touchdown season record. He was also instrumental in helping Ohio State clinch the National Championship in 2002 with two pivotal plays “the strip” and scoring the go ahead touchdown. This was Maurice’s only season at Ohio State due to a series of events that took place in his life (These events be seen in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Youngstown Boys”).

After much success on the field Maurice had trouble finding that same level of success off of the field and found himself serving 7 1/2 year prison sentence. It was there that Maurice began to take that work ethic and discipline that brought him so much success as a football player and began to focus it on himself as a person. He began to educate himself through college courses, reading, and reading books that interested him such as the economy, finances, and business. His growth became evident to those around him as he would share what he had learned and began motivating those around him. It was this type of leadership that permitted him to be released 4 years early.

Upon being released Maurice went right to work in developing what he has envisioned. He wanted to create a platform that would allow him to connect, educate, and empower people in their life and/or profession. Maurice soon found himself connecting with the nation’s top business executives with the most notable being Warren Buffet.

His ability to connect with his audience in a practical way leaves those who hear his words feeling inspired. Maurice believes that when you compound positive reinforcements in your life, over time, you begin to receive the benefits from them.

Show Highlights:

Let Maurice know you were listening by tweeting him @ReeseClarett13

Tune in to hear@ReeseClarett13 amazing life story.

“You become like the people you’re around.” – @ReeseClarett13

“Personal development was the foundation on which I turned my life around.”- @ReeseClarett13

3 Key elements to turn your life around.

Vision is key to turning your life around and staying on track.

Surround yourself with people that live the way you desire to live.

Find more on Maurice Clarett and what he’s doing now at

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting every Wednesday. The show is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts, has listeners from all around the world and shares “insights and inspiration to help you take action.” Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews special expert guests and thought leaders. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

Triggers Self-Discipline and Creating Radical Transformation with Marshall Goldsmith – Episode 181 of The Action Catalyst Podcast


Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has been recognized as one of the Top Ten Business Thinkers in the World and the top-rated executive coach at the Thinkers50 ceremony in London since 2011. Published in 2015, his book Triggers is a Wall Street Journal and New York Times #1 Bestseller! He’s also the author of New York Times bestseller and #1 Wall Street Journal Business Book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, winner of the Harold Longman Award as Best Business Book of the Year. With a PhD from UCLA, Marshall is a pioneer 360-degree feedback as a leadership development tool. His early efforts in providing feedback and then following-up with executives to measure changes in behavior were precursors to what eventually evolved as the field of executive coaching. With nearly 40 years of hands-on experience, Marshall Goldsmith is the leading expert on leadership and coaching for behavioral change.

Show Highlights:

  • A trigger is any stimulus that may impact our behavior. @coachgoldsmith
  • Almost all of us have a great plan of what we want to be in life but don’t implement it well. @coachgoldsmith
  • Every day we are barraged by triggers in our environment that throw us off target. @coachgoldsmith
  • Our environments are often willpower reduction machines. @coachgoldsmith
  • We overestimate our willpower abilities and underestimate our need for help. @coachgoldsmith
  • Our default reaction in life is not to find happiness or meaning; it is inertia. @coachgoldsmith
  • If we don’t challenge ourselves inertia kicks in and we just keep doing what we’ve been doing. @coachgoldsmith
  • Most of us spend more time planning vacation than then we do planning our lives. @coachgoldsmith
  • Sometimes what we need to preserve is more important than what we need to change. @coachgoldsmith
  • Before doing anything, ask yourself “Am I willing to make the investment required to make the change.” @coachgoldsmith
  • If you can develop a mastery over your emotions, you have created power in your life to do anything. @rory_vaden
  • You must set up your environment for success. @rory_vaden
  • Focus on daily activities, not long-term results. @rory_vaden
  • Be mindful of the daily activities you are doing and let the results be a byproduct. @rory_vaden
  • You must have accountability to create change. @rory_vaden
  • Embrass consistency over intensity. @rory_vaden
  • Doing the things you don’t want to do is the path to getting the life you want. @rory_vaden
  • Self-discipline creates freedom; Self-control creates power. @r0ry_vaden

This is a special extended interview! Send an email to with your first name in the subject line to gain access! 

Find more on Dr. Goldsmith or grab a copy of Triggers visit:

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting every Wednesday. The show is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts, has listeners from all around the world and shares “insights and inspiration to help you take action.” Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews special expert guests and thought leaders. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

Victory of Victimhood with Preston Smiles – Episode 179 of The Action Catalyst Podcast


Personal Development’s breakthrough power couple, Preston Smiles and Alexi Panos, have supported thousands of people who have dramatically changed their lives by participating in the various programs and workshops they teach all over the world, including their groundbreaking 12-week online training program The Bridge Method, and the popular workshop The Bridge Experience. As agents of change, passion and possibility, they both founded their own movements that inspire and empower people worldwide, including Preston’s Love Mob and Alexi’s non-profit E.P.I.C. Preston and Alexi’s trainings are action-oriented and address all learning styles while engaging the Mind, Body and Soul. They are insanely committed to leading others on this same path and inspiring people to step fully into their unique gifts. They have created a movement of transformation and have built a tribe of loyal fans around the globe who aren’t just inspired by their work, but empowered by it. Their previous books include Love Louder and 50 Ways to Yay!

Show Highlights:

  • Everything points to something outside of ourselves to complete us. @PrestonSmiles
  • It’s not a matter of becoming – It’s a matter of revealing. @PrestonSmiles
  • It’s less about the doing and more about the being. @PrestonSmiles
  • Without awareness, there is no choice. @PrestonSmiles
  • You cannot change a habit that you are not aware of. @PrestonSmiles
  • “Diminishers” are ways we sabotage our success right before the breakthrough. @PrestonSmiles
  • The moment we take 100% responsibility we gain our power back. @PrestonSmiles
  • How did I create, allow or perpetuate this situation? @PrestonSmiles
  • What you permit, you promote. @PrestonSmiles
  • Your brain is not programed for success; it is programed for survival. @rory_vaden
  • If I’m going to do something great, then I must do something different. @rory_vaden
  • The payoff of self-sabotage is comfort and conservation of energy. @rory_vaden
  • There is nothing about who you are that was designed to be mediocre. @rory_vaden
  • There is nothing about your past that has doomed you to a negative future. @rory_vaden
  • You are capable of a new, rich and powerful future. @rory_vaden
  • You were born not to be a victim, but for greatness. @rory_vaden

You can find out more about their revolutionary Bridge Method HERE.

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting every Wednesday. The show is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts, has listeners from all around the world and shares “insights and inspiration to help you take action.” Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews special expert guests and thought leaders. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

How to Change Your Life

how to change your life

We like to think that all of the things we believe in our minds are factually true, but they often are not.

Because our brains don’t delineate between true and false. The brain doesn’t inherently know what is accurate and what is false.

So, instead we simply believe whatever we tell ourselves most often.

Whatever we hear or assume over and over again is what we accept as truth.

The human brain is much like a computer. It just enacts whatever programming has been put into it.

Like a computer, it also doesn’t delineate between good and evil, positive or negative, right or wrong.

Your brain simply does whatever you tell it to do.

And it believes whatever you tell it to believe.

Which is why self-talk matters.

And it matters gravely.

Because what you tell yourself about yourself is what eventually becomes true for you.

And if you’re like most people, you probably don’t even monitor the things you say about your own life.

Or if you do, you might think the whole concept of self talk is hokey- but it is not.

You are the author of your own life.

You dictate who you become by allowing certain thoughts to reprocess over and over and by disallowing others.

Your beliefs are not based on what is fact as much as they are based on repetition.

Just ask anyone who found out later in life that they were adopted, or discovered that a family legend never really happened. Or ask anyone of the millions of people who use to believe the world was flat, the sun revolved around the earth or that air travel was impossible.

They all had things in their mind that they “knew” for sure were true.

Until one day they found out they weren’t.

Similarly, you have beliefs about your own life that you accept as truth that aren’t really true or unchangeable. You have beliefs about what your capable of, what is possible for you, what you’re good at, and who you’re destined to be.

And whatever those thoughts are will determine your limits.

They will determine your happiness.

And they will determine your path.

So choose the words you use to describe yourself carefully.

You can’t call yourself fat and think it’s going to help you get in shape.

You can’t say you’re terrible at something and think it’s going to make you better.

You can’t tell your mind that you don’t deserve something and think it’s going to ever show up for you.

Because your brain will believe whatever you tell it to believe. And it will lead you to arrange your life in a way to allow for those beliefs to take shape as your reality.

So retire your self-limiting beliefs.

Destroy your old boundaries.

Let go of the negative things you were yesterday.

And rewrite your future.

Reinvent your possibilities.

And redefine the person you are becoming.

Do that now and never stop.

How to Manage Change

How to Manage Change

Things change.

People change.

Situations change.

And change can be scary because it is unfamiliar and uncertain.

And we really have two choices for how to approach change.

The first is that we can be mad that it is taking place, we can expand energy being frustrated that we have to deal with it, and we can spend time wishing that it wasn’t happening.

That choice seems to be the natural predisposition for most people. It is the unintentional path of the escalator. That choice is draining, disempowering, and defeating.

It leaves us feeling like a victim of uncontrollable circumstances where no matter how hard we work we can never seem to have a chance to really get ahead.

The alternative response to change is to trust.

It is to trust that there is a greater plan that is at work. It is to believe that somehow all of this fits together in a well orchestrated scenario that works out for our own good. It is the well intentioned path of the stairs.

It requires trust because we have to have faith and belief that there is a plan meanwhile having to accept that we don’t get to know what it is in advance.

And while this choice is also difficult it leaves us in a place of hope. It leaves us with an appreciation of all things that have happened in the past and a dream for what might be a better future.

While there is no guarantee that the future will be better, what we do have is the perspective to be able to look backwards in our life and to see how all of the other varying circumstances of change have led us to be where we are right now.

In that, we find safety knowing that there is proof that somehow even when we don’t understand it we are being provided for and protected.

And since that is the case I will simply ask for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.