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Changing Habits

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

We strengthen our neural networks with all of our emotions and thoughts, both good and bad. Everything that we think, do, and turn our attention to changes our brain. Negative thoughts (the world is a bad place) and positive thoughts (I can do this) strengthen the connections. These connections in turn unconsciously form our beliefs about life. And our beliefs influence our actions and reactions in everything we do. We can use this specific mechanism to our benefit! If you want to change your behaviour, you first need to actively block your familiar pathways (the existing, frequently used neural pathways) and consciously choose new ones. After all, if your thoughts and emotions simply repeat themselves from yesterday and the day before, you will end up creating the same situations that result. In the same emotions and, finally, the same thoughts.


Same Thoughts - New Thoughts

Same Decisions - New Decisions

Same Behaviour - New Behaviour

Same Experiences - New Experiences

Same Feelings - New Feelings

Same State of Being - New State of Being

The capacity for self - reflection enables us to scrutinise ourselves. It lets us plan how we can consciously change our behaviour so that we are able to achieve desirable goals. Your familiar you is the strongest habit you can give up. So many thoughts are anchored so deeply within us that we don’t even notice how much of a driving force they are in our lives. Everyone is born with endless potential. That’s the real you. Over time the thoughts and beliefs that limit our potential take root in our minds. They often originate in our environment (parents, friends, school, work etc) and take hold if we hear them often enough. That is why we struggle to identify mental blocks and habits - we are not even aware of them.


We know what isn’t working and what we wish would work. But we often don’t know what is stopping us from fulfilling our wishes. Everything in our lives is a reflection of our inner beliefs. Every thought we think, every word we speak is an affirmation. Self talk takes the form of affirmations that create and reinforce experiences in our lives.

What we want can differ widely from what we (unconsciously) believe. Unconscious general beliefs could include “life’s not fair” “nothing is easy” “life is against me”

Beliefs that are based on low self esteem, for example, can be reflected both in your working life and private life (in relationships). Their possible effects on behaviour and experiences are listed here as an example.


I’m not enough I have to prove myself You end up having to do all the work

I’m not important I don’t ask for help You are not valued/appreciated

I’m not worthy of love I’m insecure You can’t find the right partner

“It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.” (Mark Twain)

Keep this cycle in mind and it will help you consciously choose new paths (thoughts, behaviours). Select a specific topic that you want to address. Thats your focus topic. Describe a situation relating to that topic and how you experienced it. Now, re write the experience, describing it as you would have wanted it to be. How would you have liked your thoughts and behaviours to be? If you internalise new habits, you can draw on them whenever you are faced with a similar situation. Of course, it might not happen right away. But you can repeat this exercise as many times as you like until it becomes a new habit. This can open up new opportunities to you in many areas. You will start to see people and situations from a new perspective and discover opportunities where previously you only saw problems.

1. Redefine “must”

Think about your typical day. Very little of what you think you “have” to do actually must be done that way.

2. Identify the underlying cause.

All habits have a function. The habit of brushing your teeth every morning, the habit of checking your email or facebook first thing. Mindless eating can be a way to comfort yourself when you're feeling down. Cruising the internet for hours might be a way you avoid interacting with your partner or kids. Smoking (in addition to being just plain addictive) may be a way to take time out to pause and think. Drinking too much may be the only way you know how to be social. If you want to break the habit, you have to come to grips with whatever function the bad habit is serving.

2. Determine the cue.

Every habit is based on a simple loop: cue, routine, and reward. The cue is the trigger, that, based on some craving, shifts your brain into autopilot and initiates the routine. Whenever you feel the urge for a habit, understand that the urge is the cue (trigger).

3. Determine the routine.

The routine is easy to determine. Your routine is the manifestation of the habit. It’s the cake at break time, endless (scrolling) web surfing at lunch or the bottle of wine at the end of the day.

4. Determine the reward.

The reward isn’t so easy to determine. Maybe the reward you get from your habit is a feeling of control, or a feeling of letting go or zoning out. Think about what craving your habit is really satisfying. Going for a coffe might not really be satisfying a coffe urge; what you really may be craving is the chance to hang out with other people and getting coffe is just an excuse. Work hard to identify the reward, because to change a habit the reward has to stay the same. You won’t deny yourself the reward; you’ll just make the way you get that reward a lot more productive or positive.

5. Change the routine.

Now that you know your cue and your reward, “all” you have to do is insert a new routine. One that is triggered by your cue and that also satisfies your current reward.

6. Write it down.

There's something about committing a promise to paper that makes that promise more real. Studies show that the easiest way to implement a new habit is to write a plan. The format is simple:

When (cue), I will (routine) because it provides me with, or makes me feel (reward).

Do that enough times, and eventually your new habit will be automatic, and you’ll be more productive.Then move on to another habit.

7. Allow for slips.

Nobody is perfect. Almost everyone slips up. It's only human. But it's not a reason to give up. A slip provides you with information. It tells you what kinds of stressors push you off your good intentions. It tells you what might need to change in order to stay on track. Think hard about why you slipped and get back on board.

Tomorrow is another day :)

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1 Comment

Hayley Donovan
Hayley Donovan
Aug 11, 2020

Love this! Just read this before going to bed, the perfect end of day reflection. Tomorrow is a new day ✨

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