What Needs to be True?

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What needs to be true? This is a question I’ve heard a few times in self-improvement circles; a question that has to do with our willingness to change ourselves and what would need to be true for something to happen. Personal growth is difficult. It takes effort, dedication, and resilience, yet it seems like too many people have ready-made excuses to keep the responsibility firmly on others.

The Definition of “True”

What we’re talking about today is whether something is objectively true or not, such as facts which one can prove in a court of law. Brooke Castillo calls this “circumstance.” It’s just a fact that everyone can agree on. There’s nothing subjective about facts and truth, and there never will be.

We’re not talking about subjective opinions that people like to call “personal truths.” This is things like “vanilla is the best flavor,” or “not having kids is the best decision to make,” or “bagpipes are my favorite sound.”

Opinions are not objective, universal truth… They’re opinions.

The Right Circumstance

“What needs to be true?” is a question asking what facts must be in place—what must be real and universally accepted for you to move forward with your plans in life?

Think about your goals, plans, and intention for your life. Where do you want to be in 5 years? Ten years? Fifty? What do you want to do that you haven’t yet because of one reason or another?

The reason we don’t do a lot of things we want to do is because the circumstance is wrong. The facts we need for that desire to come to fruition don’t exist—at least, not yet.

Asking “what needs to be true?” is a thought exercise meant to help us realize just how little we really need to change our circumstance and get what we want.

A Personal Example

I’ve wanted to be a published author since I started writing books at age twelve. I got hung up on a lot of things as a young writer, particularly the long publishing process and the reality that I’d have to market myself AND my book… Something that terrified me.

Back then,

a) I didn’t know what would have to be true for me to publish a book, and

b) I wasn’t willing to do the work required to publish.

Maybe I fooled myself into thinking there wasn’t much work involved in editing, rewriting, pitching, and promoting, but I knew deep down I didn’t have it in me back then.

Before NaNoWriMo 2018, I didn’t consciously ask myself what would need to be true in order to publish a book. I just knew that during my year of 30-day challenges, participating in NaNoWriMo was always going to be the November challenge. And what needs to be true before publishing a book is having a book to publish.

What needs to be true before having a book to publish? Well, you need to write the book!

How does one write a book?

One word at a time—or, for me, by writing 1,667 words per day during November 2018, and the rest of the manuscript during June 2019.

It’s Just Another Way of Defining Action Steps

Starting with your end goal, ask that question to uncover what needs to be true for you to achieve it.

Every answer gives you another stepping stone on the path to success, in backwards order.

What needs to be true for you to…

Run a 5K Race?

Run consistently for

  • 30 minutes
  • 25 minutes
  • 20 minutes
  • 15 minutes
  • 10 minutes
  • 5 minutes
  • 1 minute

The easy way to do that is to participate in a Couch-to-5K program, like I did in April and May 2019. I ran my 5K race on June 8th, 2019, and placed 3rd in my age group. Before I started that C25K program, I’d lived for years telling myself that “I am not a runner.”

I changed my mindset first, and then changed my circumstance to make true what I needed to be true to achieve that goal.

What needs to be true for you to…


Give a World-Class Speech?

You know your speech (your subject) like the back of your hand.

  • Preparation, research, passion.

You are comfortable before an audience.

  • Practice, practice, practice. This is why I signed up for Toastmasters… It’s “exposure therapy.” The more I stand up to give impromptu (and prepared) speeches, the more comfortable I am.

Always improve.

  • The first speech is never going to be better than the one you’re working up to… Unless you’re unnaturally good at speaking off-the-cuff and lose authenticity through preparation.

What needs to be true for you to…

Reach Financial Independence?

You have enough money invested that you can comfortably live off the interest without touching the principal.

For that to be true, your savings must exceed your spending by a lot, especially if you’re one of the “retire early” bandwagoners.

Reducing spending doesn’t have to be hard or painful… But it takes a mindset shift. We don’t need much… We don’t spend money on cable TV because we never watch it. There are always things to cut out, and opportunities to increase income through side hustles and promotion negotiation.

See Mr. Money Mustache for frugal living and early retirement tips, and see Ramit Sethi for living a “Rich Life”. Also check out Chris Guillebeau’s book Side Hustle and his daily podcast, Side Hustle School, for more information on—you guessed it—starting a side hustle!

To start any of this, it needs to be true that you are willing to put in the work and effort to live far below your means for as long as it takes to reach the threshold of financial independence—whatever that’s defined as for you.


What Needs to be True?

This question speaks to a different side of your brain than simply “breaking a goal into small chunks.” If you find the “bite-sized pieces” approach too restrictive or difficult to envision, try asking this question.

It lets you imagine a point in the future when the circumstance is true as if it already happened. If you’ve reached your goal, what was true that allowed you to get there?

Right now, you don’t need to ask how. You just need to identify the truth of circumstances and situations that will lead you to success.

Let me know—does this question help you figure out some otherwise difficult life questions?

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