Everybody has them; everybody needs them; few take the time and effort to analyze and modify them. They help us make mundane, repetitive, and complex decisions with speed and accuracy. You guessed it – I’m talking about habits. Many of our habits are helpful but some of them can really hurt us when the’re out of alignment with who we want to be. Let’s look at how they are formed and how to improve them.
How do we form habits?
An average human being has approximately 100 billion neurons in their brain. These neurons are firing, communicating, cataloging, and compiling repetitive thoughts and activity as we navigate our daily lives. This is commonly know as the Hebb’s Rule: neurons that fire together – wire together. I know that is an over simplification of what actually happens, but it is sufficient here.
The built-in computer you call your brain is constantly writing bits of code to automate and increase the efficiency of your machine (body). As you automate tasks you free up CPU cycles which can then be used for high level interaction and complex problem solving. This powerful “automation feature” has no instruction manual and no moral compass. It does not judge right and wrong and discard toxic code, it just observes, compiles, and installs what you feed it. If you input positive, you will get positive programs. Conversely if you input negative, you will get negative programs. Anyone who has used a computer for more than a couple of weeks, knows that running a bunch of unwanted or unnecessary programs in the background will slow and eventually crash your machine.
“I spend too much time watching Netfix.”
“I would love to loose a few pounds.”
“I’m always tired and I don’t sleep well.”
“My finances are a wreck.”
The list of potential problems from unwanted programs is endless. Here is a simple 3-Step process to help modify and remove some unwanted habits.
Step 1: Install AV (Analyze Value) Software
What is Analyze Value software and how does it work? First – we simply need to analyze and be aware of our actions. We need to ask, “Why do I _____?”. It will take some time and effort, but don’t stress, just try to catch one or two habits a week/month and ask, “Why?”. Then – honestly analyze the value of that action. Does it move you closer to who you want to be? If not, tag it for modification or removal.
Step 2: Write and Replace
Once a behavior is identified, write it down. Writing or journaling helps unpack the action and pinpoint its trigger. Replacing is the fun part. Get creative! Thoughtfully come up with an alternative action that would move you toward your goals and make your life better.
Take one of the examples from above. Scoffing down a handful of M&Ms every time I walk through the kitchen, is not congruent with losing weight. So… if I need to lose a few pounds I must ban M&Ms from my presence? No, No! Not so fast! I like M&Ms and don’t want to ban them, I want to use them as a trigger for a positive action. So, I leave the jar of M&Ms on the table and put a post-it note on the jar that reads “10 PUSH-UPS”. Every time I reach for M&Ms I must do ten push-ups. Simple triggers like notes or moving an object out of place, like facing your favorite chair away from the TV, can make modifying and replacing unwanted programs much easier.
Step 3: Be Consistent
Consistency is the linchpin that produces results. There is no denying the power of compounding interest over time. Small incremental program changes compounded over time are far easier and more powerful than total system overhauls. I implore you to get just 1% better. Anyone can do 1%, Right? Take it slow and be consistent. Think about it like this, if you try to do a 1% change every day, that would be a 30% difference in a month. That is massive change! Most people, including myself, are not comfortable with that amount of change. My advice is to take it slow. If you can achieve a 1% improvement in a month, you will be able to make a 12% upgrade in a year. Think about that for a minute! A compounding 12% gain is a life changer. Don’t believe me, ask Warren Buffett! 🙂
Every change starts with a thought. If you want to change your actions, you must start with disciplined thought. Ask yourself the hard questions and then answer with a positive attitude. Make changes, embrace failure, rejoice in success, and keep moving forward.
Let me leave you with a powerful admonition on thought. See Phillipians 4:8, ” Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ” Why does the author write these words? Because he understands something about our machine! Better yet, he understands something about the designer of our machine. As a man thinks in his heart; so is he.
Keep pressing toward the mark.
– T. Trucks