Your intentions are strong, motivation is high, but you just can't seem to hurdle the gap between where you are, and where you want to be. Or who you are, and who you want to be.
You've tried to lose the weight, put down the doughnut, ditch the cigarettes, or stop spending every dollar you earn (and then some) but you can't. For all your efforts, you wind up feeling like a failure, a loser, or worse.
You're none of those things, and you're certainly not alone. You've just got bad habits, and habits can be changed.
I know what you're thinking, "Oh, great! Yet another Herculean effort I'm destined to fail at!"
First, let's look at how you acquired habits, then we'll talk about ways to change them.
How Your Brain Gets Wired
Fear not, I'm not going to throw a bunch of sciencey mumbo-jumbo at you. Let's keep this basic, shall we?
When you perform a certain action with a specific intention you create neuropathways in your brain. (Cells responsible for the thought and the action wire together, and fire together.) The next time you perform the action coupled with intention the neuropathway you created gets reinforced. The wiring and firing mechanism between brain cells gets stronger. Do that every day, and it gets easier, until one day the behavior/action is automatic. You don't even have to think about it.
Take brushing your teeth. When you were little, your parents probably bought a tiny toothbrush to celebrate the arrival of your first tooth. Like all good parents, they faithfully brushed your little tooth daily until you had teeth, and were able to do it yourself.
Before you were consciously aware of making a decision, you brushed your teeth until it became automatic.
That's how we create habits. That's how we wire our brains.
When we're babies it's easy to create new neuropathways. As an adult? Not so much!
Human beings are creature of habits, with habituated ways of being. The older you are the more the habits/behavior/attitudes/outlook become ingrained until they are hardwired. Like everybody else on this planet, you, my friend, are on autopilot 90% of the time.
It's like wearing a path through a field. Walk through the field once? Meh, there's a disturbance in the way the grass sways in the breeze. But walk that way over and over again, and a pathway emerges until nothing will grown under tightly packed soil.
Walk that path too much? It becomes a rut.
Here's the thing, we don't come prewired. You wired your brain. Your parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles wired your brain. You can change the wiring at any time.
Like 98.yada.yada.yada% of people, if you try to change every bad habit you have all at once, you will fail, as you invariably have in the past, but it doesn't have to be that complicated.
Don't Go Big, Go Small
There is another way, which I stumbled upon quite by accident...and I mean that literally.
In 2009, I had a nasty fall and broke the wrist on my dominant hand, which required three surgeries, and months of physical therapy, to heal. Breaking a bone at 4, and breaking a bone at 44, are two very different things.
I'm just sayin'...
For months, I was forced to use my non-dominant hand.
There were only two things I physically could not do - fasten my bra, or shave my left armpit - but I decided that I would not use the fact that my wrist was broken as an excuse to get out of doing other daily tasks.
Brushing and flossing my teeth was awkward and weird, but got done. Filling out the innumerable insurance papers at countless doctor's offices and hospitals that accompanied my various medical issues was painstakingly slow, and super uncomfortable, but got done. Cutting my meat? Well, let's just call that one a series of unfortunate adventures and leave it at that, shall we? Going to the bathroom? Got done, but that's all I'm going to say about that!
To lighten my mood, my son joked, "Oooooo, you are so lucky because now you get to access parts of your brain that have been off limits to you. You might even meet your inner evil genius!"
Okay, that was really wrong, but, he was also very right. Not the evil genius part, but during that period of time, my views on life, and love, and myself, and the world shifted DRAMATICALLY, and they've never gone back.
Today, I am a righty by nature, a lefty by necessity, and have access to a whole range of thoughts, emotions and actions that were previously unknown to me.
I'm not suggesting you go out and break your dominant hand, but I am suggesting that shifting deeply ingrained habits can give you a window of opportunity in which you can disrupt the larger patterns which limit your growth, and hinder your transformation.
And not the nasty habits you want so desperately want to break either.
We're not looking to break the habits, but to consciously, purposefully interrupt those small, ingrained neuropathways.
If You Want to Be Different, Do Things Differently
Interrupting ingrained neuropathways causes a certain amount of confusion in the brain, which will allow you the opportunity to change OTHER behaviors that are ingrained too.
I want to master fat loss, and finally, finally, FINALLY shed this excess fat I've been carrying around for 30 years now, but I honestly don't know how to do it. (If I did, I'd be sleek and slender, but I'm not.)
But I've got deeply ingrained, habituated ways of being that do not serve me, are causing me extreme physical pain, and mental anguish.
On so many levels, I want to be so much more than I've trained myself to be, but the task is daunting to say the least.
This is a HUGE process of unlearning, because everything we've been taught, told, and/or believed about health and fitness is total bullshit that simply doesn't work. Not for me, at least. Not. At. All.
To shake things up in my mind, and break loose from the disempowering neuropathways I've created over the years, here are a couple of things I've done differently:
- I used to brush my teeth in the morning, and floss and rinse them at night; now, I brush and floss both morning and night
- I went back to exclusively using my non-dominant hand for a week
Both of these things are different from my normal routine.
This morning is probably the biggest disruption I've made to my habits, and the impact was staggering!
I love listening to music when I walk/run/jog, and I love to walk/run/jog in the Fall and Spring, when weather conditions are cool and ideal. I love creating playlists to enhance my experience. It's such a great, deeply joyful and empowering habit.
But I despise running in the sticky, sweaty heat, and no amount of music can change that. I cannot tell you the number of times I've started running when the weather was just right, saw wonderful progress in my body and mind, only to throw my hands up in the air and say, "Fuck this!" when the weather got hot. So frustrating, but not something I've ever been able to find a way around.
I'm training to run a half-marathon in March 2018, so I HAVE to learn how to run in the heat...at least for the next three months until Fall comes. Believe me, I thought about pushing off training until October, but this isn't about me. My needs really don't matter. It's about my daughter, who I'm running the half-marathon with, and I absolutely cannot let her down. (Mothers will get this. Others might not.) Obesity is a battle she has had to fight because I was such a poor example of health for her. Honestly, I couldn't bear it if she were disappointed in me yet again. Too awful to contemplate, so I know I have to find a way around this obstacle.
I'm naturally a see-life-from-the-sunny-side kind of girl, so today, I decided to focus on what I love in any given moment, and to pay no attention to the heat.
It didn't work.
I was just as miserable, if not more so, because I was lying to myself, and trying to force something that just wasn't true. Sorry, but I do not LOVE sweat dripping down the crack of my ass, and probably never will.
But I found something that did work.
Instead of listening to music, which is my habit when I walk/run/jog, I listened to my favorite podcast, Primal Potential, who was ironically (coincidentally, serendipitously) discussing creating and maintaining motivation by examining the things to which you attach pain and pleasure to. (When the student is ready...)
Different pattern. Different mindset, which gave me the opportunity I needed to shift my focus, and change my thinking. And do you know what? I enjoyed my walk...in the sticky, sweaty, ridiculously hot-assed Louisiana Summer.
And I enjoyed it so much, that I'm actually looking forward to doing it again tomorrow.
Don't get me wrong, in October, when the first nip of Fall sweetens the air, I will run the LSU Lakes with my music keeping me company. But until then, I'll enjoy awesome podcasts, maybe even books on Audible, and learn about things that fascinate me as I move my body, regardless of the heat.
It is not enough to think differently. If you want to transform any aspect of your being, you must ACT differently, and doing small things that disrupt your ingrained neuropathways can help you do exactly that.
I'd love to hear how you've changed your habits, and overcome your stumbling blocks...
A word about Primal Potential podcast. Talk about when the student is ready the teacher will appear? I discovered her podcast a couple of months ago, and have found so much ROCK SOLID nutritional information from her on how to master fat loss naturally, that I went back and started listening to her podcast from the beginning. (She has 365-ish episodes!) I've stopped merely listening, and started implementing the strategies she recommends into my life. Bonus!
If you are looking for a teacher/mentor/guide to help you master fat loss naturally, Elizabeth Benton is the biggity freakin' BOMB! She is a woman with a formal education in nutrition, who lost over 140 lbs NATURALLY, and knows her shit! Unlike the vast majority in the fitness industry, who have no clue what it's like to be fat, much less overweight, and no clue that an obese person's body processes nutrients differently than their's, she's been there. She gets it.
She has a 12-week program called "Fat Loss Fast Track" which I will be taking in the fall!
Tony Robbins said that finding a role-model, who has accomplished what you want to accomplish, is the key to understanding how to accomplish it yourself. There are lots of people out there who will try to tell you how to lose weight based on "science", which is really just cherry-picked research that supports their own conclusions, but few have ever walked in the shoes of the people they're trying to help. She has.
Please note: I am not an affiliate of her's in anyway. I've never met her. Never had a conversation with her. But I cannot wait to take her class this fall.