Every day you wear a perfectly tailored set of clothes. The clothes, chosen by you, have been made to your exact measurements. They fit like a second skin. Time passes, and you begin to think about changing this set of clothes. You have found a new set of clothing that you want to put on, but it's not easy because you're still wearing the set you've worn for years. Periodically you try to wriggle into this new set of clothes, literally forcing them over the ones you already wear, but gradually you realize you can't don the new clothing until the old clothing has been removed.
Though simplistic, this explains clearly why you can't change a habit or modify your behavior simply by deciding logically that you wish to do so.
How many times have you tried to change a habit only to fail? You recognize certain habits are holding you back from achieving your goals. You even recognize self-destructive behavior patterns. Yet no matter how much effort you put forth, you can't stop those bad habits. You just can't seem to change. Are you lacking in will power? No, you're merely human, acting and reacting in accordance with your brain's programming, and, by the way, you were the programmer.
Habits and behavior are so closely intertwined with self-concept that the brain, out of self-protection, seeks to maintain the status quo. The human brain can't simply erase all its previous programming and begin to function under a new set of parameters simply because you say: "I'm going to stop smoking. I'm going to stop over-eating. I'm going to stop negative thinking." To the brain, wiping out its programming would be the same as annihilating the identity you've created, your self-image.
Yet, you know you need to change. Then how can you? Behavioral scientists, psychologists, and other professionals have pondered that question through the years. The short answer is that you must get your brain to let go of the old programming and accept new guidelines you want to live by. But how?
If you've tried to modify your behavior before, chances are you've experimented with some of the more common methods out there. Self-control is the most-frequently tried way. This gives temporary control of your conscious brain, but, eventually, you revert to old habits and end up feeling frustrated and helpless, convinced you lack the will power to succeed.
Drugs, running the gamut of tranquilizers to appetite suppressants depending on what you're trying to achieve, have been used too often. This offers short-term chemical success, but no long-term achievement. Psychotherapy has been used successfully and some claim aversion therapy, wherein the behavior comes to be associated with pain, can be successful. In fact, a few years ago aversion therapy clinics were all the rage.
The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that it's not easy to change your habits. Hindsight, being perfect, tells us that we should make the right habits to begin with. Ben Franklin was so wise when he said, "In the beginning the man makes the habits, and in the end the habits make the man."
How can you possibly change then? Through a combination of techniques.
First, you must make a decision to change. You must look at where you are in life and where you want to be. Make the conscious decision to do something different. Wayne W. Dyer noted in Your Erroneous Zones: "It requires a great deal of work to unlearn all of the habits you have assimilated until now." Yes, it is hard work, but it can be done.
In other words you have to remove your present set of clothes (your attitudes, self-concept, habits, whatever you want to call it) before you can dress in the new clothes (the new habit, behavior, attitude, self-concept).
After you make a decision to change, take some action to achieve that change.
Here’s an easy action to take. This is something I learned from one of the first writing books I read a long time ago. The book was by one of my favorite authors Lawrence Block. He used to teach writing seminars and self-published Write For Your Life. This book has probably been reprinted by a major publisher now.
From the outset, I wanted to create good habits and good attitudes about my writing. This technique I learned from Larry Block's book may help you in your campaign to modify your behavior. What is it? A written affirmation exercise used daily for thirty days. This exercise used in combination with other behavior modification techniques can greatly increase your chance of success.
What is an affirmation? It's simply a strong, powerful positive thought that you introduce to your conscious brain that will seep into your sub-conscious brain. "Affirmations help you let go of negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones," according to mystery novelist Lawrence Block who introduced this process of writing affirmations many years ago in his seminars and book of the same name Write for Your Life.
Written affirmations are easy to use and can produce amazing results in your life. Each day, morning and evening, for thirty days, you write the affirmation you've chosen to work with that day twenty times. The affirmations can deal with anything with which you struggle.
Need to enhance your self-image? Then work with: "I am a wonderful person and deserve the best life has to offer." Want to change your diet? Write affirmations that support this change such as, "I really enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables." Want to enhance your creativity? Try writing: "I feel creative and am creative." "Everyday I become more creative."
Working with an affirmation, which is nothing more than a strong positive statement, may help you feel as if you are really accomplishing something, particularly if you tailor the affirmation to a problem area. For instance, if you have trouble finishing projects, perhaps an affirmation, "I always finish everything I start" will help you. Affirmations work because they saturate your intellect with positive thinking.
Trying to begin a fitness program? Improve your chances of starting and staying with it by using a group of self-image enhancers along with affirmations that encourage you to like moving her body, such as, "I like my body" and "I enjoy exercising each day" or "I feel great when I start the day with exercise." After a month, you may find you look forward to a morning walk or fifteen minutes of weight lifting because you feel empowered.
Want to finally finish that novel? Design a set of affirmations that support that goal. One of Block's that is still stuck in my head is "Writing is easy and fun for me." Try, "I write (insert number of pages) every day." "I create fully-realized characters."
Affirmations at the beginning of the day also clear your head and allow you to better focus on what you are trying to achive. Work with them before bedtime and they may work into your subconscious and dreams.
You may wonder why do it for thirty days? Most psychologists accept as a given that if you do something for thirty days, you've created a habit. It will be more difficult to revert to the prior behavior than to continue with the new. For thirty days, you saturate your intellect with the strong powerful affirmations, focusing on a change in your habits or behavior. It is impossible not to think of the affirmations even when you've finished writing them for the day.
If you're trying to feel good about yourself by writing, "I am a winner at life," you may have a setback and find yourself thinking, "I failed again," only to have your consciousness surprise you by stating, "Wrong! You are a winner." The affirmation will pop up at the most opportune times.
Use affirmations to help effect a change in any aspect of your life - controlling stress, eating healthily, exercising more, or working more effectively. Here are a few affirmations for you to experiment with or use these to design an affirmation that speaks directly to what you wish to achieve:
1. I let go of the fear, guilt, and resentment that prevent me from attaining my full potential.
2. I am balanced and in harmony with life.
3. Everyday I am more and more self-confident.
4. I am very sure of myself.
5. I can do whatever I desire to do.
6. I am energetic and enthusiastic in all areas of my life.
7. I eat only healthy foods that give me energy and beauty.
8. I live a healthy lifestyle.
9. I enjoy moving my body.
10. I am a winner at all I attempt.
Affirmations are very individual. What may work for one person may not work for another. You are the best source for creating affirmations that will work best for you. Create your own affirmations, just be sure they are stated in present tense in a positive format, i.e., I am, I have, I do, etc. Don't try an affirmation phrased in the negative, such as, "I will not do such and such." It won't work. The brain responds to the positive format stated as a situation already in existence, hence the positive, not negative statement, and present tense.
Don't try to change everything in your life in one month. Pick one area, one affirmation or group of affirmations that affect one aspect of your life. Generally the image enhancers can be combined with any other affirmations. Just don't try to convince your brain to stop smoking, lose weight, start exercising, become a positive thinker, write that novel, and get that promotion you really deserve - all in one month. Be realistic about behavior modification.
Of all the behavior modification techniques, writing affirmations is probably the easiest with which to experiment. It doesn't cost anything. You don't need to lie on a shrink's couch. You don't need a prescription. All you need is pen and paper and a few minutes of your time. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
So what are you waiting for?