I am sure you have heard of the saying, "There is nothing you can't do if you put your mind to it." And I am sure a part of you believes that in theory, but what the heck does it mean in practice?
We all have things about ourselves we would love to change. You may want to be more organized, more patient, more courageous, more easygoing, more disciplined with your eating, shopping and exercise, the list goes on and on. You probably have told yourself a hundred times: "Tonight I am going to organize my paperwork," "I am not going to get angry with the kids today," "I will get up tomorrow and exercise," only to find yourself back to square one.
Here is a way that can help you put your intentions into practice.
Let's begin with facts you need to know to maximize your success:
- Our brains are wired to conserve energy, which is why change requires great effort.
- Because it takes great effort to change, you need to be highly committed and focused.
- Because most of us have many areas in our lives we wish to transform, it's best to choose one and stick with it until you succeed before you start on the next one. Choose the one that bothers you and/or costs you the most.
T = becoming aware of (-X) + intercepting it + replacing it with (+X) repeated/time
Once you identify the behavior you want to transform, write down all the ways in which the behavior (-X) hurts your life and how the new behavior (X) can improve your life -- e.g., I want to pay my bills on time. When I don't pay them on time, I am constantly walking around with a heavy feeling, which drains me. Sometimes it costs me more because I have to pay a late fee. If I paid them on time I would feel more energetic and positive about myself.
Remember, awareness is the key. Now you need to look for the behavior in your daily life. Take the example above: You get a bill and you put it in your "pay bill" pile. You give yourself a time by which you want to pay it. Most likely your current pattern of avoiding it will take over and you will miss the date you were supposed to pay. A part of you will begin to nag you to make the payment. This is where awareness is critical. You want to catch this part of you at that moment, intercept it and replace it with the desired behavior: Pay your bill now! If you keep catching yourself and changing your behavior consistently, over time you will drop your avoidance behavior and replace it with paying your bills on time.
Be patient with yourself and if you fall off the wagon, just start again. The only way to fail is by quitting.
The science behind this formula
As mentioned above, our brains are wired to conserve energy. They accomplish this by automating our everyday feelings, thoughts and actions through establishing fixed neural pathways (quick ways to communicate with each other). These pathways were ingrained in us when we were very young and have become second nature to us. (Now you probably wish you listened to your parents when they tried to instill good habits in you.) If we want to change our thoughts, feelings or actions we need to override the old neural pathways by creating new ones. That requires a greater amount of energy on the part of your brain, which is not particularly interested in cooperating with your objective, hence the challenge. Fortunately, your brain is capable of changing its structures and functions. If you know what you are up against -- a lazy brain that likes to conserve energy -- and you consistently intercept its fixed neural pathways and force it to create new ones with a new behavior, then within a few weeks your brain will create a new preferred pathway: your desired feeling or behavior.
So as the saying goes, "There is nothing you can't do if you put your mind to it." This formula for transformation shows you the way.
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