In my last Newsletter I explored how the unconscious mind dictates much of our automatic behaviors, making it very difficult to break old patterns of behavior and establish new habits. In this article, I will explore this further and provide a useful exercise that taps into our unconscious resources while reinforcing the development of a new habit.
The first step to changing our behavior in many ways begins with the awareness and power of the unconscious mind. Although there are many ways to do this, the following is an exercise that is easy to do alone (or with a partner) and is designed to tap into the power of the unconscious mind. Take the time to answer the following questions and write them down on a piece of paper.
Answer the following series of questions;Why do you want to develop this habit? Since motivation is key to beginning any new habit, being clear about why we wish to establish a new habit, makes it is easier for us to consider making a change in our pattern of behavior. Be as specific as you can. How will it benefit your life?
What will you see that will be different?
How will you feel once this habit has been established?
What will you hear?
What will you notice about how others interact with you differently?
Include your health, your sense of mental well-being, your physical appearance, your social life, your work life, your family life, and any other aspect that might be affected in a positive manner in considering this.
- How will not developing this habit impact your life?
In answering this, be very specific as to how your life will be negatively impacted by not developing this habit. Use the same criteria that you used when considering all the benefits.
- What steps will you need to take to develop this habit?
Break down all the actions steps. Again, be very specific as to each step along the way. What time will you perform this habit? Under what circumstances? What will be the context under which you will perform this habit? In what sequence will it be performed. The idea of context and sequence is vital here. For example when I am in a particular place or circumstance, I will do __________. Sequence is more about the order of how you will do something. For example, as soon as I get out of bed in the morning, I will brush my teeth and then go for a jog. Thereby giving your mind the context under which you will perform the habit, but also the sequence in which you will do it.
- What obstacles can you foresee yourself facing in developing this habit? And
- How will you compensate for those obstacles?
Here are two of the most important parts to consider. If we don’t consider the obstacles that we will face and plan for them, when they appear, we will most likely defer back to our old habits since it is easier and they are always waiting to take over our automatic unconscious process. Therefore, in planning for any obstacles, we are already mapping out a plan for our mind to follow when encountering any hurdles. For example, when I get up in the morning I will brush my teeth, then I will go for a jog, unless it is raining. In the event of it raining, I will go to the gym and exercise on a tread mill, instead.
The last part of this exercise is to visualize the entire process from beginning to end, since the unconscious mind sees things in pictures. See yourself performing the habit in the context that you will be doing it. Notice every step that you will take along the way. Notice what you do in the event of an obstacle. Visualize yourself already having established this habit 6 months into the future and notice how this new behavior has impacted every single aspect of your life. Then look back over the past 6 months and notice all the steps you took along the way and any of the obstacles that you needed to overcome to establish this new habit. Make a special note of how you handled those obstacles. Savor the good feelings that arise from this visualization and allow yourself to enjoy those feelings. You may be surprised at what comes up for you during this visualization process. Sometimes, an obstacle that you never even thought about appears, or some other vital piece of information presents itself to you that you never considered. Use this information to make any adjustments or changes to your mind map. Run the process through again, having made these adjustments. Now bring yourself back to the present moment and begin the process, exactly as you envisioned it with any adjustments so that it feels right for you. Repeat this process a few times over the next few days, if needed. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Leslie is a holistic therapist and ADD couch practicing in South Florida.