At the end of every year, millions of people make resolutions for the upcoming year to make fundamental changes to their lives for the better. Most of those resolutions involve healthier living. Regardless of who you are, what you do, or where you do it, there’s one thing we all have in common – we all want better for ourselves, that’s right, ALL OF US.
In January, those millions of well-intentioned people will lace up those walking shoes and hit the trails, start healthy diets, sign up for new classes and professional development courses, and then – poof! By March, more than 80 percent of them will have abandoned those goals, resolutions, and objectives and returned to their former ways. Why? Because behavior is learned, and we learn through reinforced practice. Who we are, what we eat, and how we respond to life circumstances are all learned behaviors. Simply deciding one day that you’ll change tomorrow probably isn’t enough to make real significant changes a reality. It’s not that we don’t want to change or that we are just too weak; no, it’s deeper than that; it’s a habit, and habits don’t just die on their own; they must be killed.
Much of who we are have been imprinted in our personalities by age 6. After that, we spent years, for some of us many years, living and behaving the way we live and behave and have formed very strong habits which have now become subconscious norms. We don’t even have to think about them anymore; under the right circumstances and conditions, or as we say in the business, “triggers,” we react automatically in the way we have been accustomed to responding over the course of our lives.
If you think you are simply going to up and change those thoughts, behaviors, and habits by just deciding to do so one day, you probably have another thing coming.
But it can be done; I know because I did it, and so can you.
How, you might ask? And if you didn’t ask, you should have because that’s a good question. By using the same principles that created these habits and norms in the first place.
Habits are formed by persistently practicing behaviors that become automatic over time. What you do consistently over time becomes a virtually permanent part of who you are. Some people eat the way they eat because they have always eaten that way, and now it’s simply a part of who they are. It’s no longer a choice as much as it is a compulsion strengthened by years of practice. People who instantly react to emotional or psychological triggers do so even when they consciously wish to stop doing so because of these ingrained habits, which have become a part of their automatic subconscious responses which are activated under specific circumstances or conditions.
The key is to replace the old habits we desire to change with the new habits we desire to replace them with. Easier said than done, but they can be done, nonetheless. The trick is to learn the new habit, behavior, mindset, or reaction the same way you first learned the old ones – persistently practicing the desired behavior!
That means you are going to have to keep trying them over and over again. The old you won’t just die; it won’t just give in; they are going to have to be starved through neglect and forced to concede. So too, the new you won’t just come to life and become part of your everyday behavior or character; they are going to have to be fed, nourished, and strengthened through time, effort, and persistent practice. In time, and in some cases, lots of time, they form your new character.
It’s hard to grow in contaminated soil. The seeds of change you plant must be nurtured in the right environment, and there are very practical ways to create such an environment. That will be our next topic.
In the meantime, understand how our behaviors and personalities are formed and use this knowledge to create new behaviors and a transformed personality. A good step might be to get a copy of my book, ‘Metamorphosis, A Customized Blueprint for Personal Transformation’ where this topic isn’t only discussed, but the readers are guided through the process of creating their own transformation.
And for those who are struggling and need a little encouragement getting through challenges, setbacks, and conditions that are not ideal for the lives they seek to create, I suggest reading my book ‘Behind the 8-Ball, How to Get Ahead From Behind’ both are available on Amazon.
Contributing Writer: Nathaniel Lee
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