Can’t Get Yourself to Change? 4 “Excellent” Habits

Do you ever notice there are some things in life that you want to change, but they just don’t? Maybe you want to stop being late, or lose some weight, or improve your relationship with a co-worker, or get more sleep. Human beings are actually genetically programmed to resist change. But the good news is that neuroscience is now telling us that the brain is plastic so you can actually “teach an old dog new tricks”.

Habits got you where you are and so the good news is that new habits can eventually get you where you want to go. Habits write new neuron pathways in your brain. Over time this creates a new default. This of course isn’t new information.  Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, once said:”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”  Here’s a couple of examples, Linda’s new habit of walking to the gym instead of driving helped her lose 5 extra pounds over one year. Mark’s new habit of getting all his supplies ready by the door the night before helped him stop being late.

Here are 5 tried and true habits for creating the change you want:

1.  Create an ideal outcome

David Whyte, an expert on workplace creativity, is quoted as saying “The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest, but often it’s wholeheartedness.” Often you can’t change something because you are far too focused on what you don’t want. This only reinforces it and can make you exhausted. See if you can reframe in terms of what you do want. For example, “I don’t want to attend these long boring meetings,” becomes “I’d like to have shorter, more engaging and productive meetings.” “I am tired of this constant back pain” becomes “I’d like to have a healthy spine.” Sounds simple, but do you do actually practice this as much as you could? That habit alone of reframing could create a sense of wholeheartedness that will fuel your change like nothing else.

2. Love the rocks

Once long ago, a Zen master was able to remove very big rocks — and he was a very fragile man. It was almost impossible looking at his physiology. Much stronger men than him were unable to pull those same rocks, and he would simply pull them with little effort. When he was asked what his trick was, he replied, “There is no trick — I love the rock so the rock helps. I simply hold the rock lovingly… and wait for a sign. It is usually a shudder, and my whole spine starts vibrating, then I move. If I move before this sign, then it’s against the rock; and I can’t do it. If I flow with the rock then the rock just moves itself.”

Sometimes things don’t change because they aren’t ready to change. For example, your body is keeping on extra weight as a way of protecting your body from excess toxins in your fat cells. You may need to cleanse your body before your body will release the excess weight.

You may also have a habit of cursing your body for holding onto excess weight. This can make the body sub-consciously want to rebel. One client, Tracey, reported using one of the habits from our program The Artistry of Change: The Top 5 Habits of Highly Resilient People. During her weight loss program whenever she noticed no weight loss or some actual weight gain, she simply threw both arms in the air and gleefully yelled, “Excellent!” If she did lose weight she yelled out, “Double excellent!” Over time she figured this helped her enjoy the process more, and it trained her brain to be happy with her body no matter what. She said, “What you resist persists, so this was an important psychological part of finally shedding the excess pounds.”

3. De-clutter

In the book Unclutter Your Life: Transforming Your Physical, Mental, And Emotional Space the author, Katherine Gibson, says, often people can’t change because they haven’t cleared out the old first. Just as an artist cannot paint a new painting until she creates a blank canvas, sometimes you need to clear something from your mental, emotional or physical palette before a new possibility can flourish. Here are some interesting reports from our clients who have chosen to de-clutter at a variety of levels. One man claimed that soon after de-cluttering his basement a long overdue debt that was owed to him miraculously showed up. Another woman said that forgiving an ex-partner (emotional de-cluttering) finally allowed her to be open to a new romance. A third client said that writing out all her complaints about her new job and then burning the piece of paper (mental de-cluttering) allowed her to start enjoying her new job.

4. Download genius

If you play tennis with someone who is better than you, your game tends to improve. You are picking up skills sub-consciously by osmosis. It’s like downloading information (or a certain kind of genius) from someone else’s web site. You can do this with anything and you can do it without anyone else being present.

Here’s how you do it. Think of a change you want to make and then simply ask yourself “If I were exceptional at ___________ – what would I do?” For example, if you feel overwhelmed by your To Do’s ask “If I were exceptional at time management – what would I do?”  Keep asking this over and over again until your bio-computer processes an answer for you. In this case, my client Rick came up with this idea: “I would ask John his top 3 tips for being so organized.” John recommended David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, and ever since reading and implementing the ideas Rick almost always has a clear desktop and an empty email inbox.


Bottom Line

Here are 4 short activities to help you try these habits:

  1. Write out 3 complaints you have in your life and reframe them in terms of what you want instead.
  2. The next time something happens that triggers an “unhelpful” negative response throw both arms in the air and yell out “Excellent!”
  3. Spend an hour this weekend de-cluttering one area of your home. While doing it, think of a goal you’d like to manifest and see if this helps move you further towards your goal.
  4. Think of a change you want to make and then simply ask yourself “If I were exceptional at ___________ (being the change I want to see) – what would I do?”

For more ideas, tips, programs and support go to The Artistry of Change web site