American philosopher Will Durant once said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Therefore, being excellent is not a single act, but a habit. Do you wonder what you do with the 24 hours you have each day? You probably have. Many of us dream of being more productive and satisfied in daily life.
We often fall short. We don’t check off the many things we’ve compiled on our to-do lists, let alone our bucket lists. Why? It turns out, no matter how much you plan and think about your goals, if your habits don’t align, you won’t reach them.
Habits are formed in the subconscious mind
According to neuroscientists, habits can be formed in the subconscious mind. They’re triggered by the brain’s limbic system, which is the same area that controls our emotions. This means that the way you feel indirectly dictates which activities you decide to carry out at certain moments during the day—without you even realizing it.
Here’s an example: You’re driving home at rush hour. If a car suddenly swerves into your lane without signaling, and you’re in a bad mood, chances are you’re going to get angry and start honking at the driver, even before you realize what you’re doing.
Another example would be: After a long day at work, you return home feeling exhausted. You need to compensate for that feeling of exhaustion—and frustration—so you decide to raid the fridge and grab a big piece of chocolate cake to get an instant reward and “feel better.”
How could your emotions influence your behaviours?
Another interesting fact about habits is that the primal and reptilian brains, along with the limbic systems, trigger our belief formations. Our deepest beliefs are what create our habits.
Is that what you mean?
If you believe, at your very core, that you’re inefficient or unskilled, your unconscious mind will act as if it’s following your mandate. You’ll put off what you “can’t do” and develop procrastination as a habit.
If, on the other hand, you deeply believe you can reach a specific goal—let’s say, you want to lose weight, and you really believe it’s possible—you’ll end up developing habits that will eventually set you on the right path.
What can you do to change your bad habits and help yourself reach your goals with this knowledge?
“Your habits will determine your future.” – Jack Canfield
1. Have faith that you can achieve your goals.
If your faith is strong enough, your belief that you can “make it happen” will send signals to your limbic system about what needs to happen next. It’s like our inner voice whispers and does its magic through the open channel of faith.
2. Take control of your actions and behaviors.
You must look in the mirror with all your senses open if you want to truly understand yourself. Observe—without judgment—what behaviors and emotions are driving your actions. Although it sounds easy, this can prove to be difficult at first.
We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s easier to fool people before you can convince them that they’ve been fooled.” I think this equally applies to what we do to ourselves when we develop bad habits. We prefer to deny them or find excuses about why we can’t change them.
But if you pay attention and become consciously aware of your habits, you access your inner power—your perceptions and belief system—and from there, you can change anything you desire.
3. Start micro.
His book The Little Book of TalentDaniel Coyle is a coach and sports author who stresses the importance to take small steps and keep going until you reach your highest level of excellence. If you start micro and keep at it, you’ll likely end up mastering the activity.
That’s the secret of many elite athletes. These elite athletes repeat endurance trainings every day for many hours, and then make gradual but significant improvements to their skills until they have mastered it.
4. The rule of repetition is the king.
Long-lasting habits are built by repetition. If you want to change a habit that’s not serving you, then you need to consciously repeat the desired activity until it becomes part of your unconscious repertoire.
Keep in mind that you must make conscious efforts to identify patterns of thought and behavior. Once you recognize and modify the desired trait, repetition can be used to gradually change it.
5. Find your inner self and fall in love.
Many people don’t recognize themselves anymore. In a world where we’ve overloaded with information, it’s challenging to keep our attention on the things that are truly relevant to us.
Your goals and habits should always be the priority. Your ability to see your priorities clearly is possible if your racing thoughts are causing you difficulty understanding them.
So, what’s the remedy? Take a deep breath and slow down. Make a conscious decision to do less. Make a commitment to doing more meaningful things. You should look for the activities that give you real meaning and value in your life. Then, create a list of behaviors that encourage those kinds of actions.
How might that look? Well, do you love nature? Do you find it inspiring? Make it a habit to spend at least 30 minutes each day with nature. This could be a stroll in the park or a swim in the lake. Or even some gardening.
Living is about living and not about being locked up. Don’t let your habits imprison your self-identity. Your habits should be used as a way to discover who you are and what makes life worth living.