Few things are more mystifying—and annoying—than watching a talented illusionist captivate a crowd of people with a magic trick that is seemingly inexplicable. As delightfully mesmerizing as the trick is, you are reminded that you may never truly understand how the magician accomplished his amazing feat. What a pain!
Shortly after the dramatic ending to the trick, the wonderment fades away and the curiosity of how the trick was done wears off. You concede that you are bound to be left in the dark about the great magician’s secret.
Similarly, the way the brain works has been elusive to man (and woman) forever. Responsible for generating your greatest dreams and desires and enacting the behaviors that will make them come true, it has long since been a wonder how the brain really works and how we can help it work for us.
Unlike those secretive magicians, it is the duty of psychologists and other scientists to reveal the inner workings of the brain and understand it better.
If you’ve ever had a magic trick revealed to you, then you know you will never be fooled by that trick again. You’ll know exactly what’s coming. You are prepared for it.
As with magic, building a better lifestyle for yourself begins with the belief that you can and will make positive behavioral changes and reach your ultimate goals. First, you must understand the trick involved in injecting positive habits into your lifestyle.
In the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, author Charles Duhigg reveals the process the brain uses to institute your daily behaviors. He says habits can be understood simply as a three-step process involving a series of cues, routines and rewards. If you think of a daily routine you have, such as driving to work, you can easily apply these three steps to that behavior.
Before you even step into your car, fasten your seat belt and turn the keys in the ignition, you already know where you are headed and how to get there. After all, you’ve been to work and back about a million times. Your cue, then, is your kitchen clock or wrist watch that indicates it’s time to go to work. From there, your brain is actually working on cruise control to drive to work, an activity that, by now, has become routine.
When you arrive at work on time, in your usual parking spot without a hitch, you are rewarded with the peace of mind that your work day is off to a great start and you’re bound to have a productive day.
Again, this three-part loop of cognitive activity is as simple to understand as looking at habit formation through…
All of a sudden, the abstract idea of training yourself to go to the gym more often, eat healthier food or increase your savings account doesn’t seem so disillusioning, does it? No longer do you need to feel foolish when asking yourself how to change your behavior for the better when scientists such as Duhigg have made such great revelations. What a relief!
Duhigg says that each of these three elements must work together in the habit-forming process in order for you to truly change your behavior for the better in the long run.
Pairing new cues for habits with existing cues is a great way to help make them stick around for good. For instance, by remembering to floss just before or after you brush your teeth, this pairing will train you to instinctively do one activity alongside the other. It will even begin to feel weird if you don’t.
Have fun with this concept! Figure out new and exciting ways of exercising, like rowing, hiking or dancing. Or stash a portion of your check away into a “Fun-Night Out fund,” so you can look forward to enjoying the fruits of your labor.
After a while, you will realize that this process of creating cues will turn into a routine, albeit often times a mundane one. If it seems boring, it’s probably working because you are maintaining consistency in your routine. What makes the process all worthwhile are the rewards you present yourself with along the way.
Making real change in your lifestyle is not going to happen by magic. With belief in yourself, before you know it you will feel mesmerized by how quickly your life has changed for the better.
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