How many times have you said to yourself, “I’m never going to do that again. Starting tomorrow (it’s always easier to start tomorrow right?), I’m changing. I’m tired of wasting time, giving in to fear, eating too much…..and it’s going to change.” Then a short time later, you’re doing the thing you said you would not do. I know, at times, within a few minutes of saying that, I’ve already blown it.
“Starting tomorrow I am going to do this positive action each day (workout, make a plan, stick to the plan, think positively,…). I really mean it this time. I’m all in and nothing will stop me.” If you’re like at least 80% of us, that didn’t work long either.
Can we Really Make Lasting Positive Changes, especially if the Negative has been part of us for a long time?
Nope, you’re stuck so just accept it and live with it. Just kidding, kind of. There are obviously some things that we cannot change without major reconstructive surgery that will make us taller, or some advanced gene therapy, or a supernatural miracle. (By the way, I believe miracles do happen, just we don’t know when or where). Some things we cannot change or should even try to change.
But mountains of really good research has proven beyond a doubt that in many, many cases we can make incredible positive changes in our thinking, skills, emotions, and actions. All kinds of people lose weight and keep it off, stop addictive behaviors, improve people skills, get happier and more productive. All over the world people are making amazing, lasting positive changes in their lives, businesses, churches, and organizations.
Most of us know someone, maybe you are the one, who has transformed their life.
So, if people are doing it, but we’re having trouble making consistent, lasting positive changes, what makes the difference?
Self-Discipline is important. But if you don’t have much of it, can you get more of it? If yes, how?
Determination and Desire matter as well. But again, what if you need more determination and desire, where and how do you get more of it?
There are several traits that help us make desired changes, but again, what if you don’t have much of that trait. How do you get more and and make it stick?
The Biggest Key in Lasting Change
The reason heart-felt commitments often fall short is because for changes in behavior to stick, the change has to move from your conscious thinking into your subconscious thinking or as Daniel Goleman calls it, “top-brain to bottom-brain.” Your top brain is where your conscious thoughts and emotions live and this part of you gets tired and needs rest and refreshing. Your bottom brain never gets tired, it’s running 24 hours a day, even when you’re sleeping and it is the main driver of your behavior.
Researchers tell us that our bottom brain is responsible for approximately 90% of our behaviors. If you’re like me, the first time I heard that, I thought, “no way. There’s no way 90% of what I do is basically on auto-pilot. I think a lot of thoughts during the day and make a lot of decisions.” But when I read this over and over again from people who have dedicated their lives to understanding why we do what we do and how to make positive changes, I had to reconsider.
If we had to consciously make a fresh decision about every single thing we do, we would be exhausted before lunch each day. When should I get up? When should I eat,what should I eat, where should I put the plate, where should I put the fork, when should I shower, how long should I shower, which soap should I use, how should I wash……” I’ve just given you 10 decisions to make before you even get dressed. If you had to make a fresh decision on every single thing you did, it would totally drain your energy in a very short time.
To help us function, survive, and have mental and emotional energy to make decisions and navigate life, our brain develops habits and “automizations.” Once a desired behavior or skill makes it down into the bottom brain, that is when it becomes a permanent part of us. This is the most important key to lasting change.
Once your desired change gets “automated”, becomes part of your bottom brain, that new behavior sticks.
How Do You Get Goals Into Your Bottom Brain?
You make lasting changes through the right practices done the right way.
What are the right practices and how are they done the right way?
Well, there are quite a few practices that work really well and they should be implemented in a variety of ways.
That is why there are so many books and courses on changing behavior.
So to simplify, let me give you the Big Five Categories so you have a decent starting point.
- Thought practices.
- Word practices.
- Action practices.
- Social practices.
- Meditative/Prayer practices.
Every specific principle, practice, or technique fits in one of these five categories.
What they are and which ones you should emphasize are for another day.
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