Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Copy of Your Habits

“Motivation is what gets you started. A habit is what keeps you going.”

– Jim Ryan

Habits are those behaviours we do without thinking – unconsciously – repeatedly. They are most often learned and therefore can be changed.

Our habits are a key factor in all areas of our lives. They are responsible for our actions each day, from the smallest to the biggest.

Habits and motivation are intrinsically intertwined. Habits can be a powerful motivator.

Have you ever noticed that you do the same things every day?

It’s nice and easy. Comfortable.

So, we are motivated to keep doing them because it is easy.

If something is challenging, we are less likely to be motivated to do it.

Have you ever heard yourself say “I just couldn’t find the motivation to …..”.

The question is, is it a lack of motivation (or connection to your big why) or is it that you simply don’t have the habits to take the action?

We all have habits that are resourceful and unresourceful.
There are those habits that move us in the direction of our goals – resourceful positive habits.

And then we have other habits that we just want to ‘break’ – but we just can’t seem to find the willpower – unresourceful – negatively impacting our lives.

It’s easier to revert back and keep doing the old habits. Creating new habits is challenging – but can be done. Like anything in life, it is a strategy.

How Do Habits Work?

Habits are automatic. We don’t think about them consciously. We just do them. Sometimes we wished we didn’t. And willpower doesn’t seem to be enough to stop the bad ones.

So, how do habits work and how can we change them if we want to?

Remember back to the TOTE model we discussed in the unit on strategies? Well, this is the same concept. There is a trigger, you operate a strategy, and you get the outcome. Only with habits, you don’t test the strategy. It simply happens without you thinking about it.

As we all know, once you do something long enough, you create a habit out of it. This may be getting out of bed and going to the gym each morning, or watching tv on the couch every night. These are habits.

It’s our actions each and every day that create our habits, regardless of whether you are aware of them or not.

Everything you have is a reflection of your unconscious habits.

Our brain is in control, not us.

So, in order to change our habits we need to change our brain-based unconscious habits – our unconscious programming.

Your Brain and

Your Habits

Our unconscious habits come from the reptilian part of our brain – the Reptilian or Primal Brain

In MacLean’s triune brain model, the basal ganglia are referred to as the reptilian or primal brain, as this structure is in control of our innate and automatic self-preserving behaviour patterns, which ensure our survival and that of our species. The primal brain is also in charge of, what are often referred to as, the four Fs: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and… Reproduction.

Notable behaviour patterns include defence of self, family, and personal property, physical communication, and socially approved actions, such as handshakes, head nods, and bowing.

We aren’t our habits or urges or our habit’s voices. A habit is in the reptilian part of the brain that is designed to keep us safe…from danger.

So, if we want to change our habits, we must communicate with the reptilian part of our brains. That part of the brain that sustains our habits.

Have you ever had an emotional response to a smell or taste or song? That’s because our brain has anchored that smell, sound or taste with an emotional state from the past. I can hear a song from my teenage years, and I am automatically back being 13 again!

Or an aftershave or perfume from an ex-partner or a friend can do the same thing. You can be sitting minding your own business, you unconsciously smell the smell and it triggers an emotional response – happiness or sadness – in you.

Time and Your Habits

Time is our most valuable asset. We can’t get it back – ever.

So, knowing what you are committed to shapes your outcomes. But the question is, do your values and habits align?

In past units, we have discussed cognitive dissonance – the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. It’s relevant again here.

Is there a gap between who you want to be, the outcomes you want to create, the action you want to take, and you are actually being through your habits?

Again, it comes back to you – your internal world. Who are you being and who do you need to be to create the habits and take the action you want to achieve your goals?

So, how do we break our bad habits and create new ones in alignment with our lives?

Well as you learned previously, everything we do in life is a strategy.

And changing our strategies starts with awareness.

So, how do you run the strategy that creates the habit?

You wake up in the morning and have a coffee. But you actually want to create a new habit of drinking tea.

You get home from work and you have a craving for a glass of wine or chocolate – but that’s not in alignment with you want to be.

Your unconscious brain is being triggered by what you feel, see, smell, taste and hear. And you go into ‘automatic pilot”.

So understanding what the trigger is, means you can create a new strategy.

But of course it will be challenging. Your cravings and habits are strong – which is why will power alone won’t create the outcomes you want. The simple desire to change won’t be strong enough to overcome the power of our unconscious.

So, reprogramming our brain is what is required.

Creating New Habits

Habits are automatic. We don’t think about them consciously. We just do them. Sometimes we wished we didn’t. And willpower doesn’t seem to be enough to stop the bad ones.

So, how do habits work and how can we change them if we want to?

How do you replace bad habits?

I’ll use an example that is common amongst people I speak with.

Drinking alcohol. Somehow the habit of enjoying a few drinks on the weekend has snuck up to Thursdays and then Wednesdays, and suddenly they find themselves drinking alcohol the minute they walk in the door from work, and the story they tell themselves is that they need it to destress.

They are not consciously looking at the behaviour – they are simply reacting to the trigger of stress –  resulting the action of drinking – to get the reward of relaxation.

But then it becomes a habit and they don’t know how to change, so it’s easier to keep going – and “Everyone else does it, so why should I change? I don’t have a problem.”

But deep down, there is cognitive dissonance- it’s not in alignment with their values and who you want to be. How do you change?

  1. Cue – you get home from work and you are stressed. What’s the cue? Is it getting home or being stressed? How are you managing your state before you get home? Are you aware of your state? What strategies do you need to implement to be the person you want to be when you get home?
  2. Action – walk in the door and drink wine – you tell yourself you deserve it after the day you’ve had – but deep down you know you are masking the route cause of the stress.
  3. You feel relaxed and happy – until you don’t.

There is choice involved here. You can choose a different path. Consciously.

What’s worked for me and my clients is to do a deep dive into what the habit gives you.

Then find something else that fills that need in a resourceful way.

Plan and be ready for the trigger. Don’t assume it will be easy. And don’t assume you won’t have setbacks. Because you will. But you’ve got to keep going.

Find something else to replace it with.

Go for a walk when you get home.

Manage yourself before you walk in the door.

Listen to music.

What hole will it leave and how do you fill it to get the same reward??

Rather than giving up something, what are you gaining?

Move towards your new state of being, not away from something.

And remember – if it was easy, or you could rely only on willpower, you would have done it already.

And you will have setbacks. Simply acknowledge the strategy you ran, what worked and what didn’t, reset and go again.

You’ve got this.

Your Turn

Let’s do an exercise together and see what happens:

Firstly, think of your habits. Good and bad.

What do you want to keep, and what would you like to change?

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