Our brains are funny.
We intentionally set a new goal – for example to exercise every day – no matter what. We WANT to exercise. We NEED to exercise. We paid good money to buy really good running shoes. And a cool athletic jacket. But, instead of putting on the shoes and hustling ourselves out the door, our brains say to us, “Oh hey, it’s 7pm! Isn’t that the time you usually watch TV? I think there is a new season of Homeland on Netflix. And what about that pile of laundry? You can fold that while you watch TV. And just like that, our new goal to exercise doesn’t happen. And then it continues to not happen for the next four months.
We see this same phenomenon with the leaders that we coach. A manager of a luxury hotel set a goal to give her staff more positive feedback. On the morning the first day, she noticed the clean entryway and told the head of housekeeping. Then, she noticed how pleasant the front desk staff greeted guests, and she told them. But, by the afternoon, she had a difficult meeting, and she forgot all about her new goal. On the second day, the sprinklers went off and soaked the lobby, and she forgot to give any positive feedback again. On the third day, there was an unexpected influx of new customers … and the positive feedback again did not happen.
Consciously, we say we want to do a new thing. But without realizing it (subconsciously), our brains toss up roadblocks. That thing we absolutely want and need to do – Does. Not. Happen.
What exactly is going on here?
One reason it is so difficult to start something new is because our subconscious patterns and old mental habits are running the show. And the kicker? Our brains like our old mental habits. They are comfortable, do not require much effort, and might have even been useful at one point. These old subconscious neurological connections formed by repetition over time, act like a default setting which nudges us in the direction of doing what we have always done. So, how do you actually do that?
Number 1: Let’s get this out of the way up front – CHANGING AN OLD MENTAL HABIT IS NOT EASY. There is no quick fix. THIS IS going to take focused effort on your part. But if you have read this far, we know that you are tired of your same old ineffective way of doing things. And guess what? You can do hard things AND we have strategies to share that will make it easier.
Number 2: You CAN ABSOLUTELY CHANGE old mental habits and create new ways of operating that move you forward. We have developed five actionable steps, adapted from the latest research on implicit bias*. Take these one at a time.
Let’s UNPACK it
Step 1: Detect – notice when the old mental habit arises with curiosity and without judgement
What was the idea?
What environmental elements were in play?
Time of day?
Who was involved?
Was I hungry? Tired?
What was going on when this old mental habit came to mind?
Step 2: Reflect – consider the source of this idea
What assumption am I making?
Is it true?
How can I test this assumption?
How could this assumption have been formed?
Is there a pattern here?
Step 3: Reject – Reject the thought and replace it with one that is useful
What new thought would serve me here?
What is a new thought is more accurate and based on facts not assumptions?
Step 4: Reward – Rewarding positive new behaviors strengthens their neurological connections.
What is an encouraging phrase that can tell your brain “Good Job!”
What else would work as a reward to strengthen this behavior?
Step 5: Repeat – for 21 days. It takes approximately 21 days to install a new habit. Three weeks
What strategy can I put in place to remember to do this?
You can do it!
And If you are tired of riding the “set a goal/fall off track” carousel, and would like support to speed up the process of achieving your important goals, please contact. We are here to help.