Why Behavior Change is Difficult and Doable.
I was listening to a presentation about behavior change. The presenter explained that the brain has 5x more neurons that connect to our flight and fight response than we have neurons that connect to our reward response. He explained this was to help keep us alive. If we have more sensors always thinking about threat and how to keep ourselves safe, than we are more likely to act quickly when we are threatened, therefore keeping us alive. This development makes sense, and makes having more positive thoughts a whole hell of a lot harder to come by. As humans, we are prone to having more negative thoughts throughout the day than positive thoughts. That is a piece of the puzzle that makes actual behavior change so difficult. We develop these behaviors for years and years. If you are reading this, I am assuming you are over the age of 15 or so, therefore you have had at least 15 years of developing behaviors. If you are older than that...well you have many more years that you have been developing behaviors. These behaviors have lasted.
Now, what do we do when we want to change a behavior? As a culture, we typically are an all or nothing, want it right now, right this minute, I have no patience, kind of people. So we go all in. I need to start exercising. So what do you do? Buy a gym membership and commit to going every single day for 1 month. How long does that last? 1 week? 1 day? 1 hour? I need to lose weight. You start skipping meals because someone somewhere, who most definitely is not a registered dietitian, told you that intermittent fasting was a good idea...
What needs to happen to build that trust in yourself and your commitment to behavior change is getting help and by making small, attainable goals. This helps keep our reward neurons functioning a little more. We are easing into the reward, since we are making small goals that are usually easier to obtain. We are allowing those limited neurons to sparkle and work and grow. You are building more confidence to help fight off all the negative thoughts by helping make the positive thoughts stronger. It’s time to challenge your all or nothing attitude, challenge that black or white thinking. Ease into those changes, battle those negative thoughts by allowing time for small goals, small changes. Let’s show ourselves some respect and know that we are wired for the flight and fight, therefore we must allow time to re-frame our minds and behaviors. There is no such thing as “will power”, it is about finding something that motivates us and navigates us in the direction that we want to go.
Need help with where to start with developing a goal? Think of making a SMART goal.
S = Specific: when, where, how?
M = Measurable: how will you know when you have achieved this goal?
A = Attainable: is it in your power to achieve it? What steps will you take?
R = Realistic: are you able to realistically achieve this goal?
T = Timely: what is the time-frame that you want to achieve this goal?
Example: I will practice playing my mandolin for at least 10 minutes 5 times a week for 2 weeks.
Now go out there, make those SMART goals and achieve your dreams!