The Biggest Challenge to “Choose Yourself” Is That You Already Have

There’s an idea that’s gaining traction and it posits that you can no longer wait for someone or some organization to give you license to do something or be someone, but that you must “choose yourself”. Sounds good, but what do you do with the “you” that you’ve already chosen?

You are destined to become the person you decide to be.

HAVE YOU noticed that various eddies of the Interwebs are thickly crowded with the chant: “choose yourself”?

This concept of self-anointment is proffered by many in the self-help or Internet marketing realms, and by one particular fella whose hard to pigeon-hole, the irrepressible James Altucher.

Not that James Altucher would care one way or the other, but this article is not about him per se, although it clearly starts out that way.

I need Mr. Altucher and his popular “choose yourself” exhortation as a pivot point to make my point.

He wrote a book called Choose Yourself, has written popular blog posts about the “choose yourself” concept, and has become associated with the idea that you must… I’ll say it again… choose yourself.

Choose yourself for what?, you may reasonably ask.

Well, what’s holding you back from doing whatever you want to do, or be?

If the thing holding you back is your self concept — embodied in your perception of self-worth, or your capability — then the answer is “You”.

You are the thing that’s holding yourself back.

And the idea with the “choose yourself” meme is that you don’t have to hold yourself back from getting or being what you want.

You merely have to choose yourself, so goes the mantra.

Go get some aromatic therapeutic oil (lavender is nice), look in the mirror, drip three drops on your head and say,

“I anoint myself, and hereinafter will be the reigning world expert on postpartum fat loss”.

Then, turn to your fans and command,

“OK everymommy, come buy my ebook, Lose that Baby Fat in Nine Days… it’s just $19… buy it here!”

Naturally, I jest in order to make a point, one quite veiled at the moment, but do read on because I wager that there is something tasty in here for you.

I’m going to cover this:

  • Why that mensch, James Altucher is on to something good with his “choose yourself” thing
  • But, also, why there’s a big obstacle in the way for the new you to become you
  • Six steps to make that “choose yourself” self stick


The Choose Yourself Concept — Simple But Hard

Yes, I’ve had some fun teasing about this, but truth be told, I think that the self-deprecating Mr. Altucher and his ilk are onto something.

(I’ve now called him “irrepressible”, a “mensch” and “self-deprecating”, all of which are true and provable within ten minutes of watching him onstage, which is typically sans the super hero costume.)

James Altucher will save the day

Self-chosen super hero, James Altucher

Certainly, he’s chosen himself to be the Choose Yourself Guru, cemented by such articles as:

Not to mention the book itself.

I read each of those above mentioned blog posts, and then bought James Altucher’s book, Choose Yourself!. (What the heck, it was only 99 cents.)

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

Click and see the reviews on Amazon

At this point, having read much self-anointing stuff — Altucher’s and others — over the course of my self-introspected life, I’ve formed some opinions on the matter to accompany the more than 961 “customer reviews” now nested on the Choose Yourself bookshelf on Amazon.

My perspective, teased into the very title of this article, will be drawn out in a minute.  But first a quick review of Altucher’s “choose yourself” perspective, mine and others.

Amazon reviews for Choose Yourself

Notice those stars in the above graphic?

That’s nearly-five stars out of five stars that 961 Choose Yourself voters chose as their overwhelming thumbs up review of the book.

I’d guess that’s a higher average than if the vote was for, “Is Joe Garma human”?

Naturally, not everyone loved the book.  There were those pesky 35 “1-star” votes, the “most helpful” of which is shown below right next to the one voted to be the “most helpful favorable review”:

Choose Yourself reviews, pro and con

Click pic to enlarge

“A disorganized rant” shouts the “most helpful” one-star critical review.

That reviewer writes: “This book was all over the place”, and “The book is really one long rant that isn’t even very well organized.”

These two thoughts came to my own mind while I was reading the book, but at the same time there was this overriding sense of usefulness, one which the “disorganized rant” reviewer readily admits:

“I actually liked the idea of coming up with 10 ideas a day – I might give it a try”.

Yeah, what the heck, do give it a try. Which was what I thought to myself as I scrolled down the easy-to-read pages. (I read the ebook.)

I liked the book because in it James Altucher does two things effectively:

  1. He makes it useful by giving readers action steps to help strengthen their self-concept and confidence; and
  2. He inspires.
Useful Actions

In Choose Yourself, Altucher underscores the basic truth that we humans are multidimensional beings and that these dimensions need to be harmonized, to which he suggests these actions, among others:

  • Mental Dimension: “Read two hours a day.”
  • Spiritual Dimension: “Do this every day: wake up and think of five people you are grateful for in your life right now.”
  • Physical Dimension: “Am I sleeping enough?”
  • Emotional Dimension: “Am I expressing gratitude to the people who are good to me?”

Here’s his action step for creating value:

The only way to create value for yourself is to create value for others. Exercise: think of two people in your network who don’t know each other but you think can add value to each others lives. Introduce them. Do this every day. Get better and better at it. The more value you bring to the people in your network, even if it doesn’t directly bring value to you (in an immediate way), the greater the value of your network. And then the greater value you will have.

Here’s his action step for creating luck, trite but true and worthy of remembering:

“Luck is created by the prepared.”


This is the second basic reason I liked Choose Yourself.

When your stuck, sometimes the one thing you need is not more information, but inspiration.  And this was the focus of the “most favorable review”, which said this:

This book is for those of us who have found ourselves lying on the floor, barely able to lift our heads, not sure where to turn, just as James did once (twice, three times?). It’s for those who are stuck. For those who are successful but want to take it to the next level. 

 Which gives me with a fine segue to the explanation of this article’s title: The Biggest Challenge to” Choose Yourself” Is That You Already Have


Lift The Stone, Get Off The Floor and Paint

When we’re “… lying on the floor, barely able to life our heads, not sure where to turn…”, a choice about who we are has already been envisioned, constructed and honed in stone.

That stone is heavy!

After awhile it pulls us down to the floor, and there we feel pinned, seemingly unable to get back on our feet.

As Emerson (kinda) said next to that Buddha picture up there, once upon a time you decided who you are and now it’s true.

If what formed that vision of self was a bundle of good, self-affirming people, places, times and events, your head may be in the clouds. But if what formed that vision of self was a bundle of negative, self-denigrating people, places, times and events, then yes, your head just may on the floor, eyes peering at a glob of dust irritating your sinuses.

And thus the biggest challenge to choosing yourself is that you already have, and that choice is either working for you or against you.

Either way, it’s entrenched, and it doesn’t want to die.

[Tweet “Your self-image is set by years of self-talk, and will not be erased by a simple “Choose Yourself” mantra.”]

I think James Altucher would agree, for his book is peppered with a fairly large assortment of actions steps that can chip away at the set-in-stone-people we’ve made ourselves be, if only we would.

If only we would find a fingers-length space not already prescribed by defeat and rejection that we could wedge our first into and pull and push to widen it, put our backs and legs into it and expand it some more till it’s a delicious blank canvas ready for our paint-by-intention.

If only our hands held paintbrushes large and wide for those broad background sweeps of of colorful hope and expectation onto our new canvas; and also those thin, precise brush filaments to carefully paint what we’re choosing —  exactly, insistently and in technicolor.

You can read Choose Yourself, and feel good about it, inspired even, but a few hours after the book has returned to the book shelf (or computer file), you return to yourself — that very Self that you’ve chosen long ago and have reinforced every day since.

Mr. Altucher knows this and so peppers his book with exercises to reformulate your self-perception so you might eventually recreate it and thereby be able to “choose yourself” for some worthwhile task, position, action or life.

I have my own ideas as well.


Six Steps To Overcome Your Old Self (so there’s room for the new one)

six steps to overcome your old selfThese six steps are progressive, so don’t leap frog.  One at at time, steady as she goes…

#1. Recognize your responsibility for who you think you are

There’s the internal and external.

Perhaps the people, places, times and events in your life — the external — have gathered together to form the heavy stone on your head.  Or it could be that those external things have been just fine, but there’s that internal voice animated from a brooding mind that makes every rainbow colorless and drab.

Either way, how you deal with it is your responsibility.

As I wrote in I Am Responsible:

The only way to move forward is to take responsibility for your life. Change your narrative. Get empowered. Recognize that you may not control what happens to you, but you can control your response.

Even if you remain unconvinced, pretend you agree.

Pretend you agree so that get yourself into the driver’s seat.  Passengers don’t decide where they’re going or what road to take.

#2. Agree that change is possible — that you can be different

You’re now in the drivers seat, but your head is still pinned to the floor by that big rock and you don’t know how to drive with your feet.

What to do?

Chip away at the rock.  As mentioned, James Altucher presents some good tips in Choose Yourself.

There’s also tiny habit making.

Make a tiny habit, a change so small (but meaningful) that you can’t help but to do it each day.  Then add another, and another. These will accumulate and together grow into something substantial, a change that you made happen.

Every morning when I arise from bed, as my feet first touch the floor I pause and say to myself,

“Today is a perfect day and so will be mine.”

Not much of a stone chip, you say.


Recognize, though, that the first strike of the hammer upon the rock need not cleave it, but get us into the practice of holding a hammer and hitting rock.

The reason for this morning mantra isn’t that it by itself will create perfection in my world. No, the reason for it is to bring new, affirmative habits into my life, each a hammer stroke against the rock.

Learn more about building habits by reading these:

#3. Get inspired

As you begin to stack up each tiny habit, they begin to form something big.

Each tiny habit is constructing that new you that you seek to choose yourself to be.

But you’ll need inspiration, so look back at your life and remember what — or who — truly inspires you.

If it’s nature, make a walk in the park habitual.  If it’s good food, learn a new healthy recipe each week. If its people, read biographies of people who in the face of daunting odds, won the day.

Use the energy derived by these inspiring moments to chip away at the rock and formulate the new you.

#4. Decide on a course of action

Do the first three steps without paying much attention to the big picture.

Up to this step, you’ve been practicing habit making and getting the feedback that you can make incremental changes that will collectively demonstrate to yourself that you can lift that heavy rock off your head, stand up, look in the mirror and consciously shape what’s to be the new, chosen you.

You’ve been patient so far.

Back there in step #1, had you wanted is to choose yourself to be the next millionaire on the block, and yet you’re unsure how rent will be paid this month, then you need to first get focused on paying rent.

Until you’ve developed the tools and have succeeded in implementing some incremental steps in that direction, the millionaire thing will get in the way.

The reason is that it’s TOO BIG and so you doubt it TOO MUCH.

Your mind will argue with you if set your intention on being a millionaire when you can’t yet manage the rent.  You will seem disingenuous to your own self. This must be avoided, because it’s a game killer.

If you’ve been steadfast and have made progressively larger gains in your habits and proof to yourself that you — by your own hand — can be remade, then now it’s time to decide on the course of action to take you goal, which is really the starting line.

Before setting this course of action, make sure you have taken responsibility for your life and who you are.

Make sure you’ve clearly proved to yourself that change is possible by incrementally adding tiny changes (habits) to your daily life, and have that much needed positive energy ignited by inspiration.

You now know you can do it. It’s time to determine what it is that you’ll do. In other words,

Who is the You that you’re Choosing?

Once you know the answer to this question, you need to affirm it, and that’s what the “course of action” is all about. It’s what you’re going to do every day to affirm that who you chose is true.

Look to those who are who’ve you chosen to be. Read about them, or if possible, meet them.  Know them.

#5. Practice daily

Every day, chip away at the old you, the one that’s holding you back with it’s preconceived and weighty notions about who you are and what you can achieve.

By now you should have innumerable tiny habits that you do throughout the day.  You know you can bring change into your life.  You now need to practice being the new you.

If the old you would say, “I’m not a good cook”, or “I’m fat”, or “I’m unlovable”, or “I can’t make money”, the new you that you’re choosing needs to saying every day:

“Every day my cooking gets better”

“Every day I’m getting leaner”

“Every day I love myself more and others are too”

“Every day I create more wealth”

These affirmations need to be believed by you or your wasting your time. They become believable as you do the incremental, progressive work via tiny habits that begin to reshape who you are.

Of course, affirmations are rather easy.  No calories are expended.

Depending on your course of action, perhaps there is action, meaning, that you getting up and getting going.

Say it’s an exercise program.  Well, as we all know, such a thing is easy to abandon.  Typically, though, it’s not binary, as in one month you’re exercising daily and the next not one day at all.  Rather, what often happens is a slow erosion.

Have a back up plan.

The plan is “IF, THEN”.

I got this from another James, a James Clear, who writes a blog about habit making, among other things.

I may have unwittingly morphed his description to fit my own predilections, but what I got out of “IF/ THEN” is this:

You need a back up plan that no excuse can put asunder.

An example:

IF today you legitimately can not do the planned one hour exercise session, THEN you’ll do some predetermined one-half hour exercise session.

The point is to have a less difficult substitution that you can and will do.  Otherwise, those excuses will someday knock yourself out of the (in this case) exercise grove all together.

This can also work in reverse.

I often employ the reverse scenario with things I want to do, but have not committed to doing regularly, like running.

At 6’4″, 210 lbs, I run like a Clydesdale.  But I think a fit person ought to be able to run, at least a bit. So, I do from time to time, but it’s often a negotiation.

I simply tell myself that I’m going to put on my running shoes and go out and walk.  If something more vigorous happens, gravy!

What this does is to knock down the barrier that threatens to keep me from doing anything at all relative to moving my legs and breathing a bit. Invariably, what begins as walking, ends up as running… well… jogging, to be accurate.

(By the way, if you walk/jog/run, make sure you know if you’re a pronator or supinator, as getting the right support will make a load of difference.)

The point here is… decide your fall back position in advance of when you’ll need it so that you never experience not doing what you committed to do for your daily practice.

#6. Evaluate and Reset

We all get off track and so will you.

It could be that you’re doing the IF/THEN more as the real plan than the back-up plan.

Could be that whatever you’ve been doing — all those new habits that are supposed to be progressively accumulating into making you a new you, chosen by you — is not getting you to the promised land.

Every once in awhile, we need to evaluate the plan and do a reset.  The reset is to tweak things, possibly even throw that baby out with the dirty bathwater and start anew.

This shouldn’t depress you!

If you’ve faithfully being doing #1 – #5, you are empowered.  You’ve made change happen, and that’s more important than whether what you changed is ideal.

[Tweet “More valuable than the creation itself is the ability to create.”]

Once upon a time, Michelangelo cleaved the rock on his head, stood up, grabbed a nearby boulder that fortunately was not on his head and chiseled David from it.

Michelangelo's David

He had other creations before David.

Before David, many were thrown into some rubble heap.

Good thing he didn’t stop creating.

Last Updated on March 1, 2022 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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