I’ve written before about resolving to get organized. Today I’m going to reveal three of the tricks I use to change the contents of your brain to help manifest the change you want. Whether helping my work/life balance-seeking clients achieve new habits, or reaching toward my own declarations, I find these methods powerful.
Playing out the change we want to see like a movie is a simple tool for creating new habits. A few reasons why this works because making the movie:
This Heidi Grant Halvorson article in Psychology Today outlines If-Then Planning, a technique first articulated by NYU psychologist Peter Gollwitzer.
“If X happens, then I will do Y.
“X can be a time and place, like Monday at 9 a.m., or it can be an event, like the arrival of the dessert menu at a restaurant. Y is the specific action you will take whenever X occurs. …’Eat less,’ becomes something like ‘When the dessert menu comes, I will ignore it and order coffee.’
“Amazingly, you are two to three times more likely to succeed if you use an if-then plan than if you don’t.
“These plans work…because they speak the language of…contingencies. … Deciding exactly when and where you will act on your goal creates a link in your brain between the situation…and the behavior. … Below your awareness, your brain starts scanning the environment, searching for…the “if”. Once the “if” happens,…the “then” part…follows [almost] automatically.“
Though it might seem pessimistic to dwell on the drawbacks of a new habit, I think it’s an important part of change. (I first say this concept articulated in Julie Morgenstern’s Shred book. Thanks, Julie!)
Let’s say, for instance, you want to exercise more. Follow a sequence similar to the following to allow for a little dwelling time on the drawbacks of such a change:
Describe the specific change you want make: exercise for :30 three times weekly
List the reasons you want to make the change: betting-looking body in a bathing suit; improved health; sharper reputation; enhanced self image
List the drawbacks of making the change/the things you’ll lose to this new habit: couch time watching your favorite television show; sleeping in time with your spouse
Rationally reconcile the pluses and minuses: I can record my favorite show and watch it at another time; I could even watch my show while walking on the treadmill if I set it up properly; I don’t really sleep in after 6:30…I just stall getting out of bed
Draw a conclusion on whether or not you can rationally support the behavioral change: I will have to give up the luxury of laying in the bed doing nothing some mornings to exercise more, but having better health and a good-looking bikini body is totally worth it
What techniques do you find useful in following through on new habits?