Habit Based Change

Ever feel like real change takes some great sacrifice in your life? That the only way for you to do something different is if…

  • Others helped you
  • Others changed themselves
  • The world was not the way it is
  • You worked or lived somewhere different
  • Your life as a whole was different

These are limits you put on yourself, boundaries created by habits.

The way our brain is created makes habits much easier to cement than we’d like to think. Habitulizing is how the brain optimizes itself and maintains a self-preservation existence.

Back in the early days of Man, the brain had to quickly habitulize what the body did each day, where it lived and how to get there, where the main food was, and what the human needed to do each day to fit into their society. These included habits like bathing, cooking, and hunting. The more quickly one created a new habit, like hunting, the more likely this human was able to fend off a predator in the event of a hostile attack. Those early humans that had to focus on a task (it was not yet habitulized) ran the risk of not being to react (fight or run) quickly enough. They would die.

You brain wants to keep you alive, thus it will make everything you do a habit. Everything.

Think about that first time you learned to drive a stick-shift car. Or any car for that matter. You spent a lot of active thought on what was around you, accelerating, breaking, turning. You felt mentally exhausted after that first lesson. Now you drive places and barely think about how you got there. You can even sip coffee, yell at kids, and sing along to the tunes via your integrated iPod. All without any active thought.

Think about…

  • How you brush your teeth
  • Get dressed
  • Drive to the grocery store
  • Grocery shop
  • Park
  • Cook and clean

So many things you do without much active thought. The only time your brain is very active is if there is some brand new information to deal with. Learning a new recipe, parking lot modifications, closed streets, new office.

Now let’s take this down to some of the other habits…

  • What you eat and drink
  • The words you chose
  • How you react to stimulus
  • How you solve a problem
  • How you make decisions
  • How you relate to people
  • How you communicate on times of stress, fear or love

Everything actually boils down to how you react to things that stimulate your brain (via sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.) You hear a loud noise and you turn towards it, you smell something rancid and you throw it away, something hot touches you and you pull back. Most of these type of reactions are autonomic, meaning they are managed by an instinctual part of your brain. Fight or flight.

Other stimulants, and the complexity of combined stimulants (situational parameters) like hearing someone yell foul words at you, standing in a large room filled with thousands of other people, watching your child take a call and walk out of range… these create a learned response. How you respond to these stimulants the very first time starts to create the habit.

As I’ve told my kids, be careful what you do because doing something “even once” creates the beginnings of a habit within your brain. Drinking to create a sense of euphoria or to mask a pain, taking drugs to release reality, swearing when you’re angry, getting angry when someone offends you. These are all self-imposed habits.

Most are learned early in life and from our family members and cultural influencers. Yet we own our response and all our habits can be modified if we are willing to put effort into creating a new response to the specific stimulant.

Want to create some better habits? Coaching can help. I use Cognitive Behavioral techniques to help define situations, responses and goals to bring out the habits you want. Biofeedback and biohacking are other options available as it applies to your goals.

You can change your habits and achieve the best life possible. It takes action, so, take action!

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