Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do”. Excellence then, is not an act but a habit. Neuroscience research has proven that 95% of our daily thoughts and behaviors are generated at a level of our subconscious mind. That means that most people live their lives completely at a level of unconscious behavior simply reacting to external stimulus from their environment. It’s a stimulus response thing; your environment creates the stimulus and your nervous system responds.
One of the key aspects to realize about your autonomic nervous system, which your subconscious mind is a part of, is that its operating system is safety and survival. That means your existing habits of laziness, procrastination, and over analyzing (a.k.a. the paralysis of analysis), is necessary for survival according to your subconscious mind. And once these behaviors are programmed, your subconscious mind maintains them as if your life depends upon it. Are you beginning to see why stopping what you know, you should not do, and starting what you should do is so challenging? Great! So let’s talk about how to help your nervous system help you in creating the change you want.
There are 3 simple steps you must follow in changing habits:
1. Identify the habits you want to change and write them down
2. Identify their triggers and replacement habits
3. Focus on doing the replacement habits every single time the triggers happen for 30 days
The steps are simple. It’s doing them that can be tough! And for the reason I just explained, your nervous system perceives any change as a threat. It doesn’t understand or comprehend that the change you’re trying to make is beneficial for you and it. So the first thing you must do is become completely aware of your existing habit patterns that are preventing you from achieving your goals and experiencing a new and better reality. Writing them down makes them tangible and brings to your conscious awareness what your subconscious automatic pilot is set on.
Once you’ve identified these non-supportive behaviors, identify the environment, experience, or stimulus (person, place or thing) that triggers that action; for example, the snooze button. Most people hit the snooze button as an excuse to stay in bed and get a few extra minutes of sleep. However, the real motivation for not getting up is to avoid the dread of going to work or facing another day of stress, disappointment, and fatigue. Obviously, those things are undesirable so your nervous system thinks it’s doing you a favor by keeping you in bed and out of harms way. Here’s what I call “getting real” about your current reality. The truth is that it YOU created it! If you are experiencing the scenario I just mentioned, then at some level of your consciousness stress, disappointment, and fatigue are safe for you. No one said your subconscious works logically, rationally, or reasonably, it just simply is designed to keep you safe. How about seeing your morning alarm as an invitation to begin to retrain your subconscious mind? Why not use those few extra minutes at the beginning of your day to meditate, visualize, or write down what your perfect day would look like? Think of your subconscious mind like a little puppy that needs to be trained in order to do what you want it to do. The same stimulus, your alarm clock, becomes an invitation to create a new life instead of a warning to stay in bed.
Now for the tough part, doing it. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind with this third step. First, just do one habit at a time. Keep it simple and focus on changing one habit from your list. Pick the one that you feel would have the greatest impact on your life if you just stopped doing that. Secondly, be consistent. Again, think about training your puppy. He doesn’t get it the first time so you must repeat, rehearse, and replay the same activities repeatedly until he does. There is some debate on this one about how long it actually takes to change a habit. Some say 21 days and a more recent study shows it takes around 66 days. If the pain this habit is causing you is great enough, you can stop it immediately. I recommend you commit to at least 30 days. Regardless of how long it takes you, make sure you have the replacement habit intact. As the Law of Vacuum states, once a space has been created, something must fill it. If you don’t fill it with what you want, something else worse than the original habit may take its place.
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