Want to Change a Behavior? Make a Plan!

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes  open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want.  No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”

-Paulo Cuelho


No one will argue that bad habits are hard to break, but making a plan on how you will achieve it is half the battle.

Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits, looking at steps seven and eight:

7.  Create a specific plan and choose what to do instead.

8. Transform the obstacles.

I’m a big fan of goal setting.  I believe that heart centered goal setting is life changing. As I say in one of my past posts, A Fine Balance:

In my 7 Tools,  I discuss Heart-Centered Goal Setting.  In order to really focus on true goals, you have to find out the deepest WHY of the goal, the emotion behind it. Work to discover WHY you want that particular goal, journal about it, question it. When you understand the deeper emotion of why your want that particular goal, the emotional need behind it, then you have hit the WHY.  You can FEEL the why in heart-centered goal setting.  And in order to feel it, you have to be paying attention and be present to the moment.  That ability to stay present actually helps to define a direction for the future.

By setting a definite goal and getting specific, it helps to build new neural pathways. You are engaged in what Rick Hanson calls Self-Directed Neuroplasticity. For example, I have a friend who is trying to watch less TV, she knows it is mind numbing, but it feels so addictive (According to several studies, TV is addictive!) Decide if you want to exercise or read a book or journal instead of watching TV. Focus on the new choice. The more you decide to read at 7pm after dinner, instead of watch TV, the more your brain expects that behavior.  Self-Directed Neuroplasticity kicks in, the behavior starts to change.

Sometimes it feels like you are trying to trick your brain, and maybe that’s exactly what it is.  In an article in a great website, Greater Good, it is argued that:

Ultimately, what this can mean is that with proper practice, we can increasingly trick our neural machinery to cultivate positive states of mind.

The second point, transforming the obstacles is really more of “tricking the brain” again. Look at the obstacles, at what is in the way of you changing the behavior. What have you been getting out of the old habits or pathways? Going back to trying to break the TV habit – it feels like a treat, to just blob out, numb out.  But often after a couple of hours of TV, the numbing out feels negative and kind of yucky, and a waste of time. So before the TV goes on, transform the lure of the TV (the obstacle is the old belief that it is going to be a treat) – but you know it becomes a burden. Identify that obstacle, that lure, and make the decision before the TV goes on to do something else.  Get your mind in the place of possibility. Begin that process of changing your brain by remembering the truth about the situation and transforming the obstacles.

I’m going to close with an old favorite.  Zig Ziglar on Setting Goals.  This is part 1 of 3, if you have a chance, watch all 3, they are inspirational and fun!

 

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Cancel Cancel . . . Interrupt Your Negative Thoughts!

So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key

– The Eagles (‘Already Gone’)


Yes habits are hard to break, but as the Eagles remind us, we have the key to break those habits and stop living our life in chains. Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits, looking at steps five and six:

5. Interrupt your thoughts and patterns when they arise.

6. Use aversion therapy.

About 20 years ago, I did my first Silva Method Course, and I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say it changed my life.  It is a powerful system to help people understand how to use tools to change their thinking for the better – and that includes getting rid of bad habits.  I have written past posts about my experience at Silva.

Laura Silva describes using Cancel Cancel:

Cancel Cancel – This is the Silva Method technique I use more often than any other. When you go to your level, one of the post-hypnotic suggestions you can give yourself is that when you hear a negative comment or a pessimistic point of view, you say “cancel cancel” to yourself, and when you do, the negativity will have no influence over you. It’s kind of like a mental cloak of protection. For example, when I hear someone say, “Well that tends to happen as you get older,” I think to myself, “cancel cancel.” I don’t want to be influenced by such limiting or negative beliefs.

I use Cancel Cancel all the time, mostly for my own negative thinking.  And after learning more about  what Rick Hanson explains about Self-Directed Neuroplasticity, by saying Cancel Cancel, and shifting my negative thoughts, or thoughts about taking part in a habit I am trying to break, I know that I am shifting an old neural pathway and creating and strengthening a new neural pathway leading toward a more positive behaviour.

In terms of point six, instead of aversion therapy as described in the original article I read, I choose to redirect my thinking. I personally think ‘aversion therapy’ is harsh, but in terms of neural pathways and habit breaking, redirecting thoughts leads to the creation of new neural pathways and again back to Self-Directed Neuroplasticity.

If you have time, attached below is a fascinating set of slides by Rick Hanson explaining this process.

SlidesNeuroplasticity

I’ll close with a YouTube clip of an old interview with Jose and Laura Silva.

 

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And I’d love to hear any stories about how you interrupt your negative thoughts or behaviours .   And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Using Your Imagination to Break Bad Habits

“I do believe, and I have seen in my own life, that Creative Visualization works!”

– Oprah Winfrey


Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits.   Now on to step four:

4. Use your imagination.

Creative Visualization is one of my favorite topics!  Using Creative Visualization works.  It is a tool for what  Dr. Rick Hanson calls self-directed neuroplasticity

You can build new neural pathways not only with new behaviors, but through the imagination. Just imagine the new behaviors over and over and over. Keep repeating that in your mind so you build new pathways. Focus your mind and retrain your brain.

The woman who wrote the book Creative Visualization,  Shakti Gawain explains that:

“Creative visualization is the technique of using your imagination to create what you want in your life.  There is nothing new, strange or unusual about creative visualization. You are already using it every day, every minute in fact . . . whether or not you are aware of it.”

I have written about Visualization many times.  But my favorite story comes from a post I did in September 2012:

I remember the first time that I was actually aware that I had used visualization. It was at my 10 year high school reunion.  As I mentioned above, this was way before I did any of the work around personal growth.  The reason I became aware of it is that before the reunion, I thought to myself, it would be really cool to get ready with a group or my friends, have a few drinks around a pool somewhere and laugh and get dressed and put on make up together.  I saw the picture really clearly in my mind, I could picture a group of us laughing and having fun prior to the actual reunion – all sitting in the sun around a pool.  The problem was, I was picturing this from Japan where I was working at the time, and I had lost contact with most of my friends from high school.  When I went home for the reunion, I called my old high school friend Carol (whom I had not seen in almost 10 years) and she offered – how about if we all get ready over at my house, and we made a plan.  I had never been to the house that she now shared with her partner.  Carol called a few old friends and we met at her house in the afternoon before the reunion.  And when I walked through her house and got to the back yard, there in front of me was the vision I had pictured – four other friends from HS, all sitting around the pool, drinking cocktails and laughing.  It was exactly as I had pictured it from Japan!  It was eerie! But it was incredibly powerful, and luckily, I paid attention.  Several years later when I first read Gawain’s book, I got chills and thought – yes!  That’s what happened!  And again luckily, I paid attention. That’s an important piece – paying attention.

So when I want to break old habits and build new neural pathways, practicing self-directed neuroplasticity, I use Creative Visualization. Like Oprah Winfrey, I know it works!

I’ll close with a clip from Shakti Gawain about Creative Visualization.

 

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And if you do use Creative Visualization, I’d love to hear any stories you have.   And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Retraining the Brain – Shifting Focus

The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting their focus onto joy and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make a shift.

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

Ellen DeGeneres


Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits.   Now on to steps two and three:

2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.

3. Shift your focus.

Habits are hard to break, we all know that, but one thing that helps immensely is observing, really paying attention to how destructive the habit is. Whether it’s spending more money than I can really afford; biting the cuticles around my nails; or drinking more alcohol than I want to. By observing and really paying attention to the consequences, I can start to realign my focus.

The way I do this is by firstly focusing really hard on the bad habit, I shine a spot light on it, brutally.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out.  By writing down and clearing out all the negative stuff that is part of the bad habit, it helps make room for positive change. Recent research published in the journal Psychology Today shows that writing down negative thoughts and negative past experiences and then ripping them up and throwing them away actually helps to change those thoughts and habits.

In Figjam Workshops Creative Empowerment Workshop, participants consistently say that doing this exercise has a remarkably healing effect.  Try it!  Take a big sheet of paper and write down all the negative effects associated with the bad habit, everything you can think of. And when you feel like you have gotten everything out, rip it up.  Stamp on it!  Scream NO at it! Burn it!  You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

Then, Shift the Focus.  To create a new neural pathway, you need to focus on what it is you want. Start focusing on all the positives associated with not having that habit.  For example, healthy cuticles or healthy nails.  When I wanted to stop biting my cuticle, I rubbed lotion into my cuticles several times a day.  I kept my nails shaped, and focused on how much better my hands looked.  Yes, I know it sounds really simplistic, but in a way it is.  This is how neuroplasticity works.  It’s just about getting new neural pathways started. Remember what Dr. Rick Hanson says about self-directed neuroplasticity – it is ongoing. Our brains are changing all the time. We can choose what we focus on and what new neural pathways are being created!

I want to close with a fascinating TED talk by neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms. A wonderful look inside the brain.

 

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And if you do use the ‘Write and Rip’ technique – how it worked for you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.