WILL POWER VS. HABIT
`I don’t have time…..’
`It doesn’t matter that much…..’
`Just one piece won’t hurt……’
How is it some of us have ‘better willpower’ than others?
How is it that some people have better lifestyle habits? Is it random chance? Is it just good luck?
Let me ask you a question….Are you thoughts random chance?
Hopefully you can answer that question with a big fat – NO! The reality is you are always 100% in control of that little voice in your head (known as your self talk). So, because you control your self-talk, you will you also determine your beliefs about the world. If you believe something to be true, you will take action! This means you are in 100% control your actions.
Is it fair to then say that YOU, the person that is reading this, has created a series of thoughts, beliefs and actions over the course of your lifetime that has led you to this moment?
Let’s examine how a habit is formed.
Our sensory system is what allows us to constantly “detect” our environment so an appropriate response can be made. It is our 5 senses (smell, taste, touch, feel, sight) that are constantly transmitting raw data into our brain via our nervous system.
For example, if we walk from one room to another where the temperature is cooler, we sense the change in our environment. In order for our body to remain in homeostasis or `balance’, we start to shiver to increase our core temperature or we may rationally think about changing the environment (ie. putting on more clothes or leaving the room).
As the massive amount of sensory data gets pushed to our neocortex or “rational brain”, neurons (physical brain cells that electrically and chemical “talk” to one another) start to form. The rational brain works as an interpreter and planner; its job is to make a story that fits with sensory input in a way that makes sense with our stored previous experience and context.
So the more times you experience the same sensory patterns (eg. habit or routine) the stronger the neurons become. Imagine the neurons start out like string…..repetition turns them to rope. Add some more repetition, plus time, and you get steel. So, just like steel, an old habit is hard to break.
Think about your typical coffee drinker. For those of you out there who drink coffee, you love the smell, the taste, the warmth, the texture, the social involvement associated with it etc. Do you remember your first cup? If not, ask a non-coffee drinker what they think about it. `It is bitter, smells so strong, leaves a bad taste in your mouth and stains your teeth!’
So, the first time you “experience” a coffee all your senses fire, creating an event in your brain. You generate a chemical reaction as a result of this event which your body perceives as a emotion.
Because it is a new event, the neurons (brain connections) are weak. You now have a choice, do I repeat this sensory experience or do I avoid it? Another opportunity arises and you try coffee again. This time its not so bad…. The neuronal connections that you previously made are becoming stronger. You drink it more and more, making those connections as strong as steel!
Now you can’t go a morning without that first cup! In fact, because you are firing the same sequences and generating the same chemical reactions that are interpreted by your body as a “emotion” you become so emotionally attached to coffee, you just don’t `feel right’ without it.
So how do I create new habits? The secret is not to give up anything you currently enjoyThis is known as deprivation and is what most ‘health programs’ promote.
“You can only eat this amount of calories….” “you must do a hour exercise per day…..” “Don’t eat chocolate!”
Deprivation DOES NOT WORK!
The way to sustainable habit change is to ADD POSITIVE THINGS until you create healthy habits first! Imagine how simple it becomes when you simply slowly add small amounts of exercise or simply 1 raw vegetable before every meal or you add 2 minutes per day to practice listening and changing your self talk!
By adding new small experiences and repeating them over and over again you are “reprogramming” the connections in your brain! This is why the journals is such a vital part of any program for lifestyle change.