Do these statements sound like anything you’ve ever said to yourself?
“I’m going to stop losing my temper.”
“I’m going to quit procrastinating.”
“I’m going to stop doing all the work and delegate.”
At some stage in our life, we’ve all promised ourselves to make some type of change. We either made the promise, or it was made for us due to something life handed us, like a new job, a relocation, or the loss of a loved one. We have the best intentions in the world and may even begin to move in a different direction, but ultimately we end up back where we started. I see this a lot as a life coach, so if you’re reading this and think I’m singling you out; don’t think you’re the only one.
Now some people will say that “you’re not motivated” or you “don’t have any willpower.”
I say, it’s because you don’t know how your brain works.
Don’t believe me?
Then answer this question…How do you fix something if you don’t know how it works?
Stretch your Brain
Our brains have enormous reshaping capacity, meaning they can create new cells and pathways. Brain doctors actually call this phenomenon neuroplasticiity. Ever heard of PTSD? This is exactly what is going on with our warriors. The warrior’s brain is reshaped to survive in combat. Brains are able to do this because our brains were so brilliantly designed to create strong tendencies to do the same thing over and over. It’s how we survive as a species. But you’re probably wondering, “How does the brain do this?” Well, here’s how, with a warrior twist.
Rule Number 1 of understanding how the human mind is “Brain cells that “light together fight together.” In other words, having worked together in a certain consistent pattern, these cells are more likely to keep working in the same pattern again. After doing this over a period of time (21 days is the standard) they ultimately create a habit that is run by your subconscious memory. It’s one of the ways the brain conserves energy. By now, you’ve got a deeply reinforced pathway to do what you’ve always done. That’s why it seems so hard to make changes.
Changing habits is not a “military-only” problem, however. Civilians have these same challenges. Their ways of dealing with change are very similar to many of our wounded warriors, in that they have behaviors that just don’t work for them or hold them back. Most times, people, in general, don’t realize you’ve got to change the way you think to change the way you behave. This is the only real way to create a new neural pathway that is strong enough to compete and defeat the old one.
Want more proof?
Out With The Old
According to many brain scientists, it can take six to nine months to create that new automatic behavior. Although I agree with the scientists, creating the new ways to think can be accomplished much faster than that. If you want a fighting chance at changing a behavior, you’ve got to change your thinking. This starts by embracing some new realities. Here are my Top 3 realities to common statements people make about not being able to change:
1. I’ve tried to get rid of this habit before. Many people don’t understand that the change process is not about getting rid of old habits, it’s about creating new ones. The pathway to your current behavior is permanently etched in your brain. It’s there for the rest of your life. It’s hard-wired. What you have to create is a new neural pathway and then make it stronger. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of room in your head.
2. I’ll forget. 95% of people never record their goals and fail to put reminders in place to assist themselves. Unless you have a trigger from the outside, like an iPhone beep, a text message, a note on your computer, (or a life coach), it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll keep defaulting to the old behavior.
3. I don’t know what I want. Most people are unrealistic about what they can reasonably ask themselves to change. They say they want to be “more” of something, like “I want to be more creative” or I want to be “more successful.” They lack specificity and really haven’t addressed what is an “Absolute Must” in their lives. Without a deep down, visceral reason to change, we will continue to find ourselves “stuck” and unable to move forward, or worse…we revert back to our old behavior.
Moving toward the things we want in life is a lot like riding a motorcycle. If we stare at the rear view mirror looking at where we’ve come from we’re never going to know where we are going. It's also hazardous to our health. Focus on what you want to do as opposed to what you don’t want to do.