April 23

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Using This Method To Change Your Habits Will Guarantee Success

Now that you know which factors are most important for good health, you are ready to take responsibility for your own. And you realise that certain habits need to change if you want to remain healthy long term.

Congratulations! Awareness is the first step to change.

But you’ve already tried quite some programmes and none of them have had the desired effect. They worked short term, but never long term. So you’ve decided to move away from the quick fixes (because they don’t work) and to try another approach. Which is why you are here.

Let me explain a couple of important mechanisms before introducing you to the solution.

Importance Of Habits

On the importance of habits

Why are habits important if you want to make changes to your health? Habits are automated behaviours. Which means we don’t need to think about them. As long as we need to think about a behaviour (working out, eating healthy), we’re vulnerable. Because we have a fantastic capacity to rationalise why we should not – we’re very, very good at that.

Habits protect you against thinking. So if you want to improve your life in any way, it's a very good idea to change your habits. Or learn new ones.

How long does it take to form a new habit?

Contrary to popular belief, it does not take 21 days to form a new habit. In 2009, Phillipa Lally et al. published the results of a study into this question. They concluded that it takes anything between 18 and 254 with an average of 66 days. Which explains why most people fail to stick to a behaviour after a 7, 14, 21, or even 30-day challenge.

Resist Change

Why we instinctively resist change

Change is frightening. Fear of change is rooted in our brain’s physiology, and it can prevent creativity, change and success. How does this work?

On the one hand, there is the cortex. It’s wrapped around the rest of our brain and it houses everything that makes us human. When we want to change, we need access to the cortex.

On the other hand, there is the amygdala, which is found in the midbrain. The amygdala is critical to our survival. It controls the fight-or-flight response and was designed to alert parts of the body for action in the face of immediate danger. One way it accomplishes this is by slowing down or stopping other functions that could interfere with the physical ability to run or fight, such as rational or creative thinking.

The problem with this today is, that the amygdala will set off the alarm bells whenever we want to make a change. The brain is designed so that any new challenge, opportunity or desire triggers some degree of fear, resulting in restricted access to the cortex, or even shutting it down. Therefore, we stop thinking and revert back to our conform zone, even if that conform zone is detrimental to our health.

Creativity and purposeful action are suppressed exactly when we need them the most! Setting a large goal induces fear which restricts access to the cortex, leading to failure.

The Art of Kaizen

To circumvent this mechanism, we use the art of kaizen: continuous small steps. Because setting a tiny goal bypasses the fear mechanism, thus keeping the cortex engaged, leading to succes. Furthermore, as your small steps continue and your cortex keeps working, the brain starts to develop “software” for your desired change, actually laying down new nerve pathways. Those first small steps laid down the neural network for actually enjoying the change.

Succes Ahead

Set yourself up to succeed

Now that you understand all this, it’s easy to set yourself up to succeed. You do so by making the steps so small that you just cannot fail. Even if they seem ridiculously small, just do it.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step”

Lao Tzu

Let go of the desire to see instant results. You know that doing one 45 minute ab workout isn’t going to get you a six-pack. You have to do the work, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or tedious. Break down the change into the smallest possible steps and start with the first step. Once comfortable with that, take the next step. If you continue in this way, you will succeed in the end. Whether the end is in 3 months or three years doesn’t matter. But if you do not take that first step, there’s never going to be a second one and in ten years, you will still be where you are now, or worse.

We’ve created a free “Change sheet” to help you get started. Change your habits and you will change your life!

Did you enjoy this article? Please leave a comment below and/or share on social media!

Karen

About the author

Karen Drost is passionate about health, especially nutrition. So much so, that she trained and qualified as an Ayurvedic nutritional therapist in 2010. She starts every day with yoga, breathing exercises and a meditation. When she's not helping others change their habits to improve their health and happiness, she can be found lost in a book or enjoying precious time with her partner Christophe and/or her horse.


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