9 Steps to Change Your Life In 90 Days
Thanks for joining Millennial Success! I’m Dan, and I appreciate you reading and enjoying my articles. To show my gratitude, I’ve made an eBook that will be part of your success story. It’s a list of nine action steps–including daily planning templates–that will transform your life in just three short months.
These tips are the reason why I’ve succeeded as a writer and coach. They work fast. And they work no matter where you’re starting from–like rock bottom, as was my case.
Here’s my story
Three years ago I was another lost millennial. I slept on my mom’s couch. I lived out of a beaten up thrift-store suitcase that carried every threadbare garment I owned. Instead of getting my own mortgage and excelling in a career, I found myself arguing with two teenage sisters over who’d clean up dog crap that weekend.
At 24 I was defeated before I’d even given life a shot. And it had been that way ever since my parents split when I was 12.
But today at 27, I write for the best sites in the world, and I make a living helping others to achieve rapid success. How did I get from my mom’s couch to the top of the writing world so fast?
Nine simple directives.
And the first one, positive affirmations, came from Mr. Zig Ziglar–the most famous self-improvement figure of our time. When I questioned if there was even a reason to live, Zig helped me realize that I wasn’t fundamentally deficient, and that I could change my decisions if I just took charge of my thoughts.
Step #1: Do Positive Affirmations
Zig told me to start a morning and night ritual of positive affirmations. I thought it was stupid. But Zig said it didn’t matter; the affirmations would work if I believed in them or not. I didn’t have anything to lose, and I couldn’t fall any farther, so I started the affirmations.
“I am courageous, confident, bold, patient, rich, generous, hopeful, positive, fun loving, adventurous, creative, disciplined, etc.” The affirmations were everything that I hadn’t been, so they were tough to say. But I stuck with them, morning and night, and within a month, I had my first paid writing gig. $50 bucks an article. Not bad.
After that month I realized how valuable affirmations really are. Everything you say to yourself is an affirmation, and you’re in constant affirmation mode one way or another. But for most people…it’s the wrong kind of affirmations.
“I can’t do it. I’m not worthy. I’m too small. No one loves me. I suck. I’m a joke.”
We don’t even hear these things because they’re a constant—kind of like getting used to a strong scent in a room. The negative affirmations become part of your identity. Until you break the cycle.
Before I started positive affirmations, I had no clue about the junk I told myself. But after a month, I started to hear all of the little niggling thoughts that directed my life.
“You’re an idiot,” I’d hear. “You’re a failure.” I began to hear the beliefs that had weighed me down for so long. So every time I caught myself in stinkin’ thinkin’, I’d counter with a positive affirmation.
Slowly but surely, I broke my failure identity. And it started with one simple directive:
Do affirmations for 10-20 minutes every day.
Step #2: Journal every night
After I realized the importance of my thoughts through affirmations, I got more interested in my inner world. My next life-changing directive came by instinct: I decided to pick up a journal. I just knew that it would be part of my success story.
Since I was interested in how my thoughts shaped my life, I broke down every thought I had for the day; I analyzed them, and I saw how they led to my actions. The reverse was true, too. If I crapped the bed, I could trace the action back to a negative dialogue, which usually took root in the morning.
By spending 30 minutes in reflection each night, I put a microscope to the small decisions that built up my life. And that gave me the self knowledge—the power—to change my life.
Before, I’d just go to sleep and carry the same patterns of negativity into the next day. But with a journal, I identified everything that helped me succeed, and everything that held me back. This helped me to break the bad habits and instill the new habits that made me successful.
Three months of journaling brought me to my first full time writing gig where I saved enough to move out on my own. I succeeded through one simple directive: spend 15-30 minutes journaling every night for a year.
- Write about what you did well
- Write about your good decisions
- Write about the routines you stuck with
- Write about 5 things or people that made you grateful
- Write about 3 things you could’ve done better–be honest, but encourage yourself.
- Then write about what you’ll do to make tomorrow your best day yet.
Step #3: Plan out your day
Journaling helped me see the things I could improve. But I didn’t commit to those improvements until I wrote them down. So I started a daily planner.
After my journaling session, I’d take all of my directives and make them concrete in a daily planner. It’s nothing fancy: just a sketchbook with blank pages. But the magic happens when I fill the pages.
I write down everything I need to improve yesterday’s results. At first it was cutting out time-wasters: Limiting facebook, email and social media all became daily goals. But with all the extra time I scheduled self-improvement goals.
I blocked out time for writing, learning about writing, and pitching. That took up half my day. As I got more advanced with goal setting, I factored in my other needs as well: like fitness, fun, creative outlets and meditation. Before I knew it my confidence was at an all time high and I felt better than I’d ever felt…every single day!!!
I rarely accomplished everything on my list. But I always focused on completing the top five most important targets. I refused to compromise on my affirmations, so I did them for ten minutes first thing in the morning. Check. I could only reach success as a writer through discipline, so I wrote at least an article a day, first thing in the morning. Check. And my articles wouldn’t get read if they never got published. So I made daily pitching goals. Check. And I could only improve by learning from the greats. So I devoted an hour a day to studying my craft. Check.
As I planned more, I checked off more boxes. And the more I accomplished, the more successful I became.
Within six months I had improved so much that I got paid ten times more than my first full time writing job. I was even paid for editing. I landed my first authority sites, like MindBodyGreen and Elite Daily. And I got my first coaching clients.
The directive that got me to this level was: plan out your day.
Here’s a template you can use for your own daily planner:
If you’re interested in having a years worth of daily planning pages (like the one above) gathered in one book, send me an email.
Step #4: Constantly encourage yourself
I used to quit everything I did. I thought it was because I was a natural-born failure, but it was only because I didn’t encourage myself. When I started encouraging myself at every success and every failure, I finally found the momentum and confidence to push through to success.
For example, I get a rejection letter from a company I was dying to write for. I can bash myself for sucking, confirming how much of a failure I am…or I can applaud my effort, know that’ll succeed eventually, learn from the experience, and try harder next time.
“You did such an incredible job, Danny—(that’s what I call myself). I’m so proud of you for putting in the time and effort, and for giving your best. You didn’t make it this time, but that’s okay—you’ll make it next time. I promise that I’ll do more research into the website, I’ll craft the right pitch for the right editor, and I’ll double my efforts on improving as a writer. You will land this publication, and I believe in you.”
Encourage your successes, too.
Encouragement is an adaptive response to failure, but you need it for your successes, too. Because most successes are so small that no one but you will notice; no one will applaud you for these small steps but you. So, to keep full-steam ahead, you need to encourage your efforts and celebrate the little steps that underpin success.So pat yourself on the back every time you check off a goal; every time you make a good decision; every time you can. Tell yourself how much you appreciate your effort. Make encouragement part of your daily ritual.
Write out ten checkboxes next to the daily goal, “Encourage yourself!”
I list “encourage yourself” in my top ten goals, and I make 10 or more boxes to check off in that department. When I finish an article, I applaud my effort. Check. When I meet my fitness goals, I appreciate what I’ve done for my health and happiness. Check. When I know I’ve done my best at the end of each day, I pump myself up about it. Check.
Through an attitude of constant encouragement, I’ve conquered some of my biggest goals. I try. I try. I try and try and try. And for each effort, whether failure or success, I encourage myself—which gives me instant positive feedback and confidence. That makes me resilient and it keeps me bouncing back for more. Even when I fail hard.
Now I’m not afraid to climb the highest mountain, or slay the giant (publication), because I’ve got my back no matter what. After nine months of constant encouragement, I landed Entrepreneur.com. By writing for them, my work got noticed by more companies like Fitbit who wanted to pay me more money.
It’s because I followed this directive: constantly encourage yourself.
(Depending on where you’re at, you might need a coach to jumpstart the self-encouragement process. Click here for more coaching information.)
Step #5: Rest for 30 minutes in the middle of your day
Hustling is great, don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of it. I do it every day. But not all day. In fact, the 24-7 hustle mentality got me fired from my first full-time writing gig.
I wrote four 800-word articles a day for months. I was able to save up some money, but I couldn’t save my sanity: I was eaten up and burnt out.
I only made time for work, and I forgot about the things that made me happy. I was super-productive. But what was it for? I wasn’t producing happiness. I wasn’t improving as a writer. My quality of life was just as bad as when I lived on the couch—just as miserable, just as incomplete. But now I was on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Luckily, I got canned.
The quality of my writing degraded because I had zero energy, and that was because I never made time for fun and rest. But the company didn’t care about my quality of life. They just fired me. And I was shockingly happy.
The first week I did all the things I deprived myself of: hiking in the mountains, playing beach volleyball, reading for pleasure, and just kicking back to watch the clouds go by. I gave myself a week to recoup. Then I got smart and scheduled rest and fun into my schedule.
I take mini-breaks from writing and editing so I can shift my focus. I’ll do some deep breathing, maybe a couple jump-squats, or lie down on my back for 3 minutes to let my mind wander. Then I jump right back in to my work. But with more focus. More intensity. More inspiration.
Along with the mini breaks, after lunch I block out 30 minutes to an hour of straight nothing. I go to my patio. I turn off my phone. I leave the computer. I lie down and I watch the clouds float by.
I think about my life, what I’m enjoying, what I’m inspired to do more of, what I want to do better, what I’m grateful for. I appreciate what I have. I appreciate the food I just ate. I appreciate the hard work I’ve put in today. I notice the air. I notice the trees. I notice my feelings. I notice everything but work, which gives me time to recharge for maximum performance.
This time for rest is usually when I have my best insights.
If I have a problem, or an obstacle, my meandering mind will find a creative solution, which comes to me like a gift. I keep my notebook handy to write these things down. But other than that, I just rest.
Then I’m done. Then I feel ready and excited to attack the second half of the day. Then I feel like I can take on whatever I need to succeed.
If I skip rest and reflection time, it shows. I don’t have as much energy; I feel like I’m grinding, and I sense a loss of joy. I want to put my best self into my work, so now I make time to rest.
Since I’ve been disciplined resting I’ve gotten dollar-per-word gigs from top companies like Fitbit. But, more than that, I get to whistle while I work; I’m happy; my writing gets better and better. And ironically, I have more free time to do the things I love. When you take 30 minutes to get to 100%, you are 10 times as effective as the 50%, run-down and drained version of you.
So follow this directive: do nothing for 30 minutes after lunch, and take mini breaks at least every hour at work—preferably every 30 minutes. Schedule time to do the things you love. And take one day a week away from technology.
Step #6: Practice gratitude
Before I’d started any of these directives, my focus was on the things I didn’t have: like the girlfriend I lost, my non-existent success, the money I wasn’t making, and the lack of joy in my life. I was miserable. I wasn’t effective. And I attracted more and more things to gripe about.
My health fell apart and I felt like I was losing my mind. Things got so bad that I had to change immediately if I wanted to be sane. So I started my self-help journey.
One of the first bits of advice I heard was to be grateful, but I didn’t understand it at first. What did I have to be grateful for? I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t have what I wanted. But the deeper I got into self-improvement, and the more I achieved, the more grateful I felt about the things I already had. Like my mind. My family. My computer. My influences. My ability to read. And my opportunity to improve every single day.
As I grew in gratitude, I become more successful. I accomplished more things for more people. And when I refused to be grateful, I got stuck in a rut. But the ruts became shallower and less frequent as I focused on things to be grateful for. Once I shifted to gratitude, I’d find a way to rise above.
Recently I was inspired to be even more grateful. I heard about the 80/20 rule— twenty percent of what you do produces 80% of the results. So I thought about my success. Gratitude was the first thing that came to mind. It was behind all of my achievements, yet I never devoted time especially for it. I might’ve spent 10 minutes in gratitude from start to finish, but it wasn’t all that much. So I created a new daily goal: spend 20 minutes in gratitude.
Best decision of my life.
I combine gratitude time with my rest time to supercharge my productivity and positivity. Gratitude trains my mind to look for things to be excited about, and to be proud of, so that’s where my energy goes.
I’ve grown more creative. I’ve become better at brainstorming, and I never have a shortage of ideas. I see opportunities where my skills can make a difference to more people. Then I act.
Millennial Success is a product of my enhanced gratitude practice. Nothing makes me more grateful than helping people through my work.
If you want more opportunities to grow rich, follow this directive: spend at least 20 minutes a day in gratitude.
Reflect on the people, events, and things that have helped you succeed. Feel joy for them. Smile for them. Then think of more things, like your childhood, your teachers, your role models. Find gratitude for your mistakes, and everything that brought you to this opportunity to succeed. You’ll be grateful that you did.
Step #7: Visualize
Seeing is believing.
Before I started visualizing, the only thing I saw was the crappy reality I had created: my mom’s house, no friends, no fun, no life. I stayed stuck for a long time because I refused to use my imagination.
But I overcame years of stuckness almost in an instant when I started visualizing.
Anyone who has achieved fame and fortune has used visualization. Tesla, famous scientist and inventor, visualized every single part of the hydroelectric dam at Niagara Falls. Roger Banister, famous for running the first sub-four minute mile, accomplished his feat not by any special physical training, but by seeing himself reaching his goal in his mind.
What barriers will you see yourself breaking through?
Starting visualization was hard for me at first. I just couldn’t believe that seeing something in my mind would make a difference, and I couldn’t believe the things I saw anyway. So I dropped it. But that was before I picked up affirmations and
journaling and all of the other success rituals that gave me confidence and self- esteem.
When I picked up visualization again, it became one of the most important tools for my success. The feelings I generated during a powerful visual sustained me through the lean times, and motivated me to work harder and better even when I wasn’t seeing the results physically. Visualization kept me intensely focused when I needed to perform.
Most people give up on their dreams because they don’t see the results they want. They get down on themselves. They bash their efforts, trash their dreams, and quit. But that’s not you: all you have to do is stick to a visualization routine.
It maps out the future. It gives you a sense of competence and familiarity in uncharted territory, which helps you make good decisions when it counts. Visualization is the bridge between the life you have now and the life you want.
Today I visualize for at least twenty minutes every day. I spend time in gratitude first, to build up the feeling of wealth. Then I see myself growing as a writer. I see myself getting published on bigger and bigger publication. I see myself making more money, and spending it on growing my business, on spoiling my friends and family, and on doing the things I love.
Not only do I see, but I feel. I feel the body that I want to have. I feel the money in my hands. I feel the excitement and joy of reaching my highest goals. I feel gratitude for the things I visualize even though I haven’t experienced them physically—and that’s the key. Because whatever you are grateful for, you will have.
The directive that took me to the next level of success is this: visualize for 20 minutes every day.
See yourself accomplishing your lofty goals. See yourself doing what you love. See yourself inspiring lot of people. See yourself making lots of money. See yourself giving it away to the people you love, and see yourself building more wealth and happiness with it.
But don’t just see. Feel and hear and taste and smell the success. The more vivid and detailed you make this sensory experience, the more powerful it will be when it comes to real-life results. Most important: feel gratitude for all of that you have before visualization, and for the things you visualize.
Step #8: Study Your Craft
When I first started writing, nobody could tell me anything about it. I thought I was the best in the world. I thought my natural talent was going to make me rich. In fact, it was the exact opposite.
Because I thought I had nothing to learn, I learned nothing. And even though I wrote every day, sometimes up to 5,000 words, I didn’t improve a lick. I did the same thing, repeated the same mistakes, and indulged the same weaknesses because I didn’t step outside of my small world.
But after I got fired from my first real writing job, I couldn’t deny reality: I sucked. Humbled, I hit the books like I got paid to.
I picked up anything on the craft of writing and promised myself to study for 1-2 hours every day. I was so hungry to learn from the mistakes and successes of people who were better that I’d spend 30 minutes breaking down 4 pages, writing notes and directives in my writing folder. But I didn’t stop there.
I applied everything I learned from studying to my next session of writing. I used the new knowledge to critique my work and to shape the direction and form of my stories. I learned quickly. Within three months of daily studying, and practicing what I learned, I was able to move out on my own for the first time in my life.
So, take 1-2 hours each day to study the thing you love most. Then practice what you learned immediately after you study; create something; refine something; synthesize what you learned into applied knowledge. That experience and constant learning curve is what companies pay big bucks for.
Step #9: Do Your Best
I started writing several years ago. I steadily grew my career by scheduling my time, committing to success rituals, and by writing every day. But after year one, I was still living with my parents. I did well. But I could’ve done much, much better.
Then one night before bed I randomly asked myself in the mirror, “Did you do your best today?”
In fact, I knew exactly where I let myself down and it felt like a sucker-punch in the gut. But instead of sulking about it, I just promised myself to do my best the next day. The next evening I made another appointment with the man in the mirror and asked the same question. “Did you do your best?”
This time I answered yes. And it felt f$!@%g amazing.
The question made success simple for me. I needed to do my best to succeed, like everyone. And if I wasn’t doing my best, there really wasn’t a reason for it, other than my lack of focus. So I began writing that one directive into my daily planner: Do your best. I put a fat square around it, and I’d dream about how good I’d feel checking it off that night. Then I focused my best effort into the next days tasks.
A month goes by and I’ve got a contract worth ten-fold more than my last gig. I ask myself the same question every night—“Did I do my best,” and I answer affirmatively half of the time. The other half I’m figuring where I came up short and committing to a better showing the next day.
Three months go by: I’m published on Entrepreneur.com. I’m batting 90% on my nightly question—did I do my best? Because I’m focusing with such intensity, I’m finding ways around all the obstacles that had kept me from results. When I need more money, I don’t just sit around and wait; I pitch my ass off and earn a new client or two.
Doing my best has become my mantra and lifestyle. And the more I focus on it, the better I get.
A year has passed since my life-changing directive. Now doing my best isn’t even a question (though I still ask, just to be safe). Sometimes I wake up feeling like roadkill, but I figure out a way to change my energy and do the things I must. When you’re doing your best, there isn’t any other way.
These 9 directives gave me a new life in one year. But it only took that long because I had to stumble and fail to find them. With all 9 directives right here and ready to be practiced, however, your growth curve can and will be much steeper. My coaching clients have life-180s in under two weeks.
It’s a challenge, sure. And a big one at that. But, the pressure is just what you need to break out of your comfort zone and into the new you. Need help and accountability along the way? I’ll be your guide.
With my coaching, I’ll help you identify and eliminate the low-value habits that keep you from living an extraordinary life.
Then, I’ll show you the high-value, confidence boosting activities that will create the life you want. I’ll keep you accountable. I’ll lift you up. I’ll brainstorm with you and draft up daily and weekly goals for you to attack. And I’ll give you all the coaching tools you need to be your own coach.
For more information, please visit my coaching page.
Alexandra J, San Diego
“If Daniel Dowling fell into your lap, consider it a blessing and a sign from the Universe that you’re ready to take a giant leap forward in your personal development. The tools, guidance, encouragement and unbiased advice from Danny was like pressing the ‘fast-forward’ button on my life! Get ready to be transformed.”
Julia C, New Hampshire
“Dan is knowledgeable and positive; he helped to change my perspective in many areas of my life, and encouraged me to reach for my dreams, no matter how fearful I was. His style of goal setting constantly challenged me and motivated me to want to do and achieve more every day.
I learned and grew so much in his program: I got a promotion at work, launched my Coach site, started to write and share my writing, had weekly breakthroughs with my own clients, even lost weight and started to love and crave exercise! Above all, I got a confidence in myself, my work and my worth that I never had before.
I’m happy to call Dan a friend now and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for my new and improved me, and for my Coaching business. Thank you, Dan! “
Linda P, Chicago
“I was finally able to make the changes I longed for, thanks to my amazing, gifted & highly knowledgeable coach! Daniel gave me the directives I needed to move me forward.
He kept me accountable. He encouraged me, and we celebrated my successes along the way. I made a commitment to my transformation but I couldn’t have done it without his help & inspiration. You’re a gift & a blessing dude! Love you!“
Tracy F, Goa India
“I believe that when you really ask for help…the universe answers. After battling self esteem issues, destructive relationships and heading towards a general breakdown, I stumbled upon Daniel’s article on Elite daily. I felt as if it was written for me. His writing spoke to me in a way that really changed my perspective
I’ve done my share of reading books on relationships, self help and building self esteem, but nothing seemed to work. One article of Daniel’s made all the difference.
His ideas about love and relationships are exactly what the world needs today. I’ve started my healing journey with Daniel and I couldn’t be more thankful—he helped me turn my life around. I was withering away inside but now I have rediscovered my talents and am blooming again. Daniel, you are changing the world one person at a time! God bless you . You are my miracle!”