Hack away at your bad habits & make a change

Here’s game we call “Evil number seven”. In a recent study, researched divided participants into two groups and had each group sit down. At first, this assignment seemed relatively simple; Go clockwise around the circle counting from number 1 to 30. The first person would say “one”, then the person to his left would say “two” and so on all the way up to “30”. Sounds simple right?

There were, however, certain expectations. And this is what made the game interesting. Anytime you reached a number that contains the number7 or was divisible by 7, clap your hands and sit back down again. The person next to you would pick up where you left off, counting “eight” in the first instances, “fifteen” on the next and so on.

This little game not only demonstrates how difficult and disruptive it can be to break out of a well-established, deeply ingrained habits, but it also teaches us a lot about how two important parts of the brain operate: the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia. We already know about the prefrontal cortex from my previous blog posts. But it's the golf-size basal ganglia region that does the work when we’re counting. But what happens when we take something we know “by heart” like counting to 30 and ad extra requirements? Suddenly, a task we normally take for granted requires some additional conscious effort. Our brains may be smart but they’re also kind of lazy. From the brains perspective, each habit in our basal ganglia functions like a dishwasher or an electric can opener: It’s a labor-saving device.

Here is what I mean..... if you want to feel different, if you want to think different, if you want to act different, you have to attend to your brain, your body, and your environment which is the essence of bio-hacking because you’re taking control over your internal, external environment. When I realized when people have psychological issues, start with the foundations of your biology, take care of your energy, and then see what’s residual, and then that’s when you then want to work with a psychology. This is just like a systematic grounded way of improving the way we perform, the way we feel, but we start with energy. We start with our brain and our mind. 

First thing, instead of saying you’re working to stick with new behaviors and practices, you’re defining what you’re doing as struggling. I would say that struggle always costs you in a way that’s hard to imagine. If you think of someone taking a puppy for a walk if you’ve every seen this happen, that’s what a struggle looks like. The puppy plants its feet. It doesn’t understand it’s supposed to be pulled, and you tug and then it lays on its back. Then it pees on itself, and it’s just a mess. In contrast … That’s what struggle looks like. In contrast when you have a trained dog, it just walks with you. It stops and it walks and it stays by your heel, and it’s effortless. That said, you might not always go where you want to go. The point here is that identifying what you’re doing as struggling, it feels like a struggle like that, but struggle always cost you because struggle comes with anxiety versus “Hey, I’m working to stick to new behaviors and practices. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes I’m not.” That’s a lack of struggle, and that’s a work.

First thing I’d do is reframe what you’re doing here. Say “I’m working to stick with new behaviors.” It’s okay. You will never be perfect. No matter how good you think you are at that behavior, there’s probably one molecule that could have been better. Give up on perfection. That will help you a lot. That also frees you from failure because if what you’re doing is you’re working to do, “Did I work towards doing it today? Yes. Did I succeed all the way? No. Did I fail all the way? No.” A framing like that means that instead of “Man, I was going to with no sugar forever starting January 1st, and I had one cookie on January 3rd, therefore, I’m a failure, therefore, screw it. I’m going to eat all the cookies.” That reframing is the first thing you do.

Try these quick and easy points below to help you up the anti of behaviour change!

  1. Goal setting: This supplies the destination. Where do you want to go? MAKE IT PRECISE
  2. Getting started: What tools do you need to start? A goal without emotion is a guaranteed failed goal. In order to be motivated to start, your goal must have an emotional connection to your why and your ultimate fulfillment.
  3. Staying on track: The key to staying on track is to modify the goals after incrementally after each minor achievement. You don’t want to be stuck each week working towards that massive reward or outcome.

Habits provide the dramatic demonstration of power and utility of our unconscious mind. Although the old saying “we only use 10% of our brain” isn’t true, there are ways we can learn to use our brains more effectively.