(This post answers Question #3 in a series of 20 Questions to Self that I recently posted on this blog.)
Q: What habits do you need to change in order to stop living from your old stories?
A: The main habit that I desire to change is the habit of allowing negative self-talk to linger for more than an instant.
We can’t avoid negative thoughts completely, but we can control how long we allow them to stick around, and how much energy we give to them.
When I think about habits, I occasionally catch myself in a familiar “loop”.
Maybe you’ve experienced it, too?
You decide that you have a habit that you really want to change, and you begin the process with great intentions and intensity. You modify your behavior(s), and begin working diligently on your new habit. But then something happens… You get off track for a day, and then another, and then another. Then pretty soon, the desire to change the habit wanes, and you revert back to your old ways and your old stories.
At least that’s how it used to work out for me!
So what happened?
There can be a variety of things that prevent us from locking in more powerful habits, and most likely, there are two key factors that inhibited your ability to fully own the habit that you desired.
The first challenge is that there’s a preliminary phase in any habit change that requires an obscene amount of discipline. I’m talking about the kind of discipline that we rarely experience in our daily lives. The funny thing is, this intense level of discipline is only required for a relatively short period of time. (Kinda like the rocket blasting off through the Earth’s atmosphere.) After you break through the gravitational pull, things get easier.
- Emotional Impact
The skill we’ll work on today is the discipline of focused repetition. Everyone is familiar with repetition, but focused repetition is usually a foreign concept. In just a moment we’ll look at what
I mean by focused repetition.
The second challenge that tends to pop up, is neglecting to replace the “old” habit with a “newer” more beneficial habit. Few people are able to make a lasting change based solely upon a decision to do so. Going cold turkey is POSSIBLE, but the odds are stacked against you.
Now don’t get me wrong… The DECISION to change is very important. Yet habit change is maximized by adding these two additional techniques to your decision.
The newest studies into neuro-psychology suggest that when we use repetition for habit change, it will take 56 days to form your new habit. You may have heard in the past that it only takes 21 days? (Well, maybe back in the day when we didn’t have a thousand things vying for our attention.)
The new math is 56 days.
Which is cool, right? Since you KNOW it’s going to take 56 days, you can plan accordingly. You can choose to change a habit by focusing on the desired outcome, and then COMMIT to 56 days of repeating the desired behavior. This is what I mean by focused repetition.
If you miss a day, then you get back on track and start over at Day 1. (Hint = Don’t miss a day!)
Then to maximize the likelihood of owning your new habit for life, you’ll want to immediately create a new habit to replace the old.
In my example, the habit was allowing negative thoughts or self-talk to linger in my mind. The solution is to notice when that happens, and IMMEDIATELY replace the negative thought with a positive thought. Not in a few minutes, not “next time”, but RIGHT AWAY.
By robbing the old negative habit of its power (time), installing the new habit becomes increasingly easier. Ultimately, the negative habit and negative self-talk simply fade away. If it does rear it’s ugly head, it will be immediately squashed by an automatically triggered positive thought, because my new habit is now in place.
Please refer to the Habit section of my website for some more ideas on creating new habits.
I’d like to encourage you to try adding these two elements to any habit that you wish to change, and I’d love to hear about your progress. Please drop me a comment in the box below.
ABOUT J. SHOOP – I’m J. Shoop, Author, Speaker, and Personal Coach. I simplify achievement for entrepreneurs by aligning their outer results with their inner wisdom. Let’s connect on Twitter: @jshoop or visit www.wisdomandresults.com.