Breaking Habits in 2 Steps
Do you ever wonder why as much as you want to make changes in the way you live you seem unable to produce them? Maybe you want to eat better, lose weight, pick up a new hobby, learn to enjoy exercise or finally break the pattern of worrying about money. So you go out and you buy a self-help book, or you attend a workshop or take a few money management classes. But the end result is always that you fall back into your habitual way of being in this world. So you get frustrated with yourself. You judge yourself, compare yourself and put yourself down. Maybe that will help? Why is that?
Most people spend a lot of time thinking about their environment, their finances and their health. Maybe they live in a town they don’t enjoy. Maybe they live paycheck to paycheck. Maybe they want to lose weight and start going to the gym.They don’t just think ABOUT these elements, they think EQUAL to these elements.They focus on everything they would like to change, the money they don’t have and the body they don’t have. In order to produce any real change, you have to think GREATER than your circumstance.You have to be greater than your feelings and greater than your current experience.
You cannot lose weight by focusing on the body you have now. You cannot create a better financial picture by focusing on the money you don’t have. And you cannot create a better living situation be focusing on the way it is right now. If you want change, you must have in your thoughts the person you want to be. An idealized version of yourself. Something to strive towards. Our thoughts create our reality and what we think about we do in fact bring about. Our brain cannot tell the difference between fiction and reality. It cannot tell the difference between mental rehearsal and current reality. We can make our thoughts so real that our brain physiologically changes as though the event has already become a reality.
In an experiment, researchers showed that participants that rehearsed notes mentally in their head, had almost the same brain changes as the participants that rehearsed the same notes on the piano. The study shows two things. Not only can we change our brains through thought, but our thoughts can become our experience. Mental rehearsal is used by athletes, musicians and even surgeons. It’s a way to create neural pathways in your brain that will then be easier to call upon when needed.
You don’t have to be an athlete, surgeon our musician to use mental rehearsal. You can use it to change your current experience. Here are two steps that are helpful in changing the habits that have shaped your life:
Take 15 minutes every day to imagine that your desires have already arrived. You want to be slim and fit? See yourself that way. What would it feel like? You want to have more financial abundance? Again, visualize it already being here. The more detail in your thoughts, the more feeling you can conjure up the faster the change can be. Why? Because when you can feel what it feels like to be slim, fit and making healthier choices, your body chemically responds to that and you end up making better choices. You want to earn a higher income? Visualize yourself in that position. What does it feel like? What does your life look like with more income? Again, the more you can FEEL the desired outcome, the faster the changes. When you hold that vision of higher paying position, you start seeing opportunities that you cannot see when you are focused on the job you hate right now.
In your thoughts rehearse the way you want to show up in your life. Rehearse the conversations you want to be having. Rehearse the reactions you want to have and the choices you want to make. This will help you to step out of the habitual, subconscious way of being in your life. If you consistently get into disagreements with your partner, rehearse different responses. This will lessen the chance that you will get triggered into habitual patterns. If you are going to a holiday party and you’re afraid of over indulging, spent time rehearsing the moment that you need to make a better choice. See yourself walking up to the food and bypassing the sweets and choosing fresh fruit instead. This will help you to not unconsciously reach for the goodies that you have reached for in the past.
Visualization and Rehearsal are vital tools in changing your patterns. When you think about an event often enough, the thought becomes your experience. When that happens, new neural pathways are created. That is the moment you have created a physical change in your brain and therefore changed your mind. Making real changes and breaking the habit of being who we are takes effort and diligence. We cannot get there through reading, counseling or meditation alone. It requires us to re-wire our brain. Visualization and rehearsing help you to do that.