Frightening but true: only ten percent of people who’ve undergone radical surgery to save their lives actually change their habits to benefit from the operation. From Harvard Business Review, we learn that those clotted, fat-filled arteries are pretty much refilled with more grease and cheese, rather than kept open with a better diet and exercise program by people who’ve survived heart bypass surgery.

If nearly losing your life doesn’t change your behavior, what will?

You probably can’t answer that question, because 90% of us wouldn’t change a thing. We’d just get back on the pork express.

But say you were among the 10% who are able to look at deeply troubling issues – and make changes to better your chances, what would you do? Where would you start?

Of course, we’re not talking about your physical health. We’re talking about reviving or restyling your personal brand, your career, your relationship skills, and other qualities like resilience, perseverance, and setting achievable goals.

What would you change, if you could?

One way to approach the notion of change is to imagine what a better life would really look like for you.

The fastest way to get into this deep dive is to start by plucking out of the muck what is working for you. This is of course, assuming you’re human. You’ve done a lot of stupid things. You have a lot of bad habits. You lack some useful fundamental qualities like follow-up, attacking big projects by chunking them up, and prioritizing all the tasks that could make up your day, week, month, year and life.

So look away from the sheer awfulness that is the common human condition, and let’s focus on what you like.

I treat this exercise like a game of “pick up sticks.” If you don’t know it, it’s a game where you get a bunch of eight-inch long sticks, each about the thickness of a toothpick. Typically, there’s an equal number of each of the primary and secondary colors. So, there might be six each of red, blue, yellow, purple, green, and orange sticks. To play, you dump all the sticks into a heap on a table and then try to remove just “your” color from the mess of them, without upsetting the positions of the others.

If your best traits were the red sticks, you’d just pick out those.  Your red sticks might be honesty, clarity, objectivity, thoroughness, focus, and attention to detail. You might stop right here and identify 6 of your positive traits. If you need a list, I have 555 traits you can have. See my offer at the bottom of this post.

Pick up the good ones

Start off your recovery by posting your 6 positive traits where you can see them. Before you get on the phone, online or into a meeting: look at them. Before you start a project, ask for help with a project, or finish a project: look at them. Take another peek before you go to sleep, when you awaken and during your lunch break.

Can you see how organizing yourself with your best traits in mind will revive a faltering personal brand, a business relationship and your attitude about your work? When you focus on your best self, you’re likely to choke off the oxygen to your worst self. That may help you avoid more serious interventions at the hand of someone else: a boss, client or colleague.

Eat right, exercise, sleep, breathe, relax and work hard. You’ll live longer, better and richer.