One of the best ways to change habitual behavior is to commit to it.  This is obvious to us, and is often why we don’t commit to changing behaviors.  If you’re a smoker and you want to quit, make a list of the 10 people in your life that you are most concerned with keeping a high reputation with, and give each one of them a written statement that says, “I promise you that I will never smoke another cigarette.”  Simply thinking about that will let you know just how powerful the force of public commitment is… more powerful than internal commitment, more powerful than the patch, and more powerful than any plan to slowly wean yourself off cigarettes.

If smoking isn’t the main thing you’d like to change, choose something else.  Make a promise about an absolute thing like never doing something again or completing something by an exact date.  Immediate and drastic change that you can’t wimp out on.  Write them down on note cards or blank business cards and hand them out to 10 (or more) people that you desperately want to respect you.  No need to even include an “or else”… that way there’s no way out.

The Style Life Challenge I wrote about a couple days got an interesting response (see the comments). While we're on the topic, I thought I'd also mention the female-equivalent of male-centric The Game… a book called The Rules, written by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. They've sold over 2 million copies since 1995, and have built sort of a mini-movement around this book. Most people consider both the books to be rather sexist, misguided, and full of advice that will only work for the most pathetic and desparate people around. I'm not really trying to convince otherwise… but for some reason I find the information in these books to be really fascinating. What's most interesting about these books, to me, is that they're taking something that's traditionally thought of pretty sacred (the search for romance, love, soul mates, marriage, whatever), and turned it into a deliberate set of rules, exercises, and tricks that people who feel frustrated, unhappy, and limited can use to begin to feel empowered, self-confident, and able to impact their own lives for the better.

Here's a list of a more recent set of rules that Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider came up with for online dating.

  1. Don't answer men's ads or email them first
  2. Create a good screen name (they gave BlondeBeauty50 as an example of a good screen name)
  3. Less is more when writing your ad
  4. Post a smiling photo
  5. Wait 24 hours to respond
  6. Don't answer on weekends or holidays
  7. Write light and breezy emails
  8. Never email a second time if he neglected to respond to your email
  9. For the first three months (!) don't initiate an email, only respond
  10. Block yourself from instant messages
  11. Don't volunteer your phone number first
  12. If he doesn't ask you out within four emails, delete/next
  13. Screen out Mr. Wrong
  14. Don't waste your time on time wasters
  15. Don't force the relationship from email to phone
  16. Put safety first
  17. Don't ad-interrogate on dates

I know from my experience of online dating that rules sort of evolve out of usage of the system. You learn from experiences and try to avoid making the same mistakes twice. I have my own rules of sorts… most involving clear pictures, short emails, quick and inexpensive first dates, clear and early communication of disinterest when it clearly isn't going to work, and relying on first impressions and not dragging things out simply to prove yourself. Most of the rules above actually don't sound absolutely horrendous, even though several do play into lame gender roles, everyone is different, and to call them rules is more than a little misguided. What do you think?

The field of self-help is wacky and wild. It has corners that the bravest souls fear to tread… and other corners that are as comfy as your favorite sofa. From learning to get in touch with your inner child, to becoming productive with your computer, to losing weight, to getting a raise, to getting along with your spouse, to traveling into deeper dimensions and talking with dead family members… all of these themes of self-help have entire industries devoted to them, and there's obviously a lot of money. Self-help makes money because people want it badly.

That's why I respect Neil Strauss and his latest reinvention of himself that was enjoyably and informatively documented in his latest book, "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists". He's bringing the somewhat scary world of pickup artists and casual dating and plain old social skills into a new era. In a way, he's a bit of a self-help startup, and he has a lot of passion.

His most recent venture is called The Stylelife Challenge. His market seems to be the socially awkward, the relationshiply-inexperienced, the low self-esteem crowd of people who, either through bad luck, choice, or futility have never been on a date, have never been in a relationship, and have never gotten laid… but who now want to experience this facet of human existence… as early as next month.

It's free, and it seems like it's going to be pretty interesting to watch. Between July 1st and July 31st, he's going to walk as many people as sign up through a 31 day course… with the attempt to get everyone a date by the end of the month.

It's geared mostly towards guys (sorry ladies… but I think this is where more of the work needs to happen anyway), and I think the spirit of it is that you're going to have to go out there and make a bit of a fool of yourself until you get the hang of it.

Here are the guidelines:

On July 1, you will begin receiving daily assignments in the Forum. These assignments may be video, audio, or text. They will contain exercises for you to complete, articles to read, and goals for you to meet. They will begin at a very basic level and grow more advanced as the challenge continues.

In addition, discussion boards have been set up to assist you with your personal growth. You should be posting all questions, obstacles, field reports, and successes there. Style, Rourke (of The Final Five), and the other participants will be there to help you with constructive criticism.

In addition, if you would like feedback on your personal appearance, dress, and the first impression you create, post a picture in the Style Critique section of the Forums, and Style, Rourke, and other participants will offer tips and pointers. You win when at any point between day one and day thirty-one, you get a date and submit a field report about the experience in the Winner's Circle section of the Forums.

A date is defined as a 'planned second encounter' with a woman you have just met.

For example, if you meet a woman at a bar, exchange phone numbers, and meet her for coffee two days later, that is a date. If you meet a woman at the mall, arrange to meet that night at a club, and she shows up specifically to meet you, that is a date. Even if you don't exchange phone numbers.

Basically, any scenario where you approach a woman and she agrees to see you at a later date or time – and shows up – constitutes a date. Once you win, don't forget to add your field report to the Winner's Circle. Feel free to remain on the boards afterward, carry out the daily assignments, and help your fellow competitors.

Read more about it on stylelife.com, or join here.

I'm an introvert, and before last year, shuddered at the thought of throwing a party. I was a party-attender, not a party-thrower, and the thought of inventing a reason, recruiting people, and preparing whatever it was that party-throwers prepared made me freeze up and/or run away. At the same time, I've always envied the life of event and party planners.

Throwing a party, especially if it's not normally your thing, is a great chance to create an entire experience for your friends. From music, to food, to choice of attendees, to entertainment (if any), you can create a vision of a couple hours length and let it explode into a life of its own.

I just threw a party this last weekend for my 30th birthday, and though it was rather stressful and worrisome at times, the stressful and worrisome aspects of it were probably the most enjoyable… as they helped me work towards the vision with more focus. Few things get you to act with the determination and attention that fear of public failure. Haha, I am mostly kidding.

The great thing about parties is that they can be any size in scope… from a small gathering of close friends to a rented venue with bands, djs, or performers, to a multi-day festival out in the desert. Choose a scope that feels uncomfortable to you, tap your social circle for people who can help you think about how to do it right, and pick a date not too far in the future. Start telling people about it right away.

The other great thing about parties is that they are over quickly. An evening is over almost as soon as it is begun, and other than cleaning up and apologizing for drunk dials of the previous night, there's very little follow-up.

Throwing a big party is a great way to inject momentum into your life. Once you throw one, you'll begin to think about the next one, and the next, and the snowball of fun will roll right over you, and carry you along with it.