That our brains are always seeking completion? I talk to my clients about it all the time, how our brain looks to complete patterns. If half of the pattern is having a drink in one hand, then completing it might be to have a cigarette in the other, which is why smokers struggle so much to stop. If half of the pattern is eating dinner, completing it might be to then eat something sweet.
For example, when I want to get back into exercise, rather than thinking about the entire situation of getting back to regular 5 day a week exercise and healthy eating, I start small. And I tell my clients to do the same. I might commit to myself that every day I will get dressed in my exercise gear, go out to my footpath and walk to the end of the block. That's all I have to commit to doing. This is not an overwhelming task. For some clients, I even suggest only getting dressed in their exercise gear and walking out the front door, or to the car. What happens from that point on is completely their choice. If I don't want to do any more exercise, I can turn around and come back. However, getting into your exercise gear and going to the car is an incomplete process or pattern and, remember, the brain is always seeking completion. So don't be surprised if you find yourself just going through the rest of the steps without much effort. The point is to break it down into little segments, so you're never confronted with feelings of being overwhelmed by contemplating the whole.
We are constantly bombarding ourselves with black and white thinking. I must go to the gym five days a week, or I must eat only healthy meals, or I must clean my entire house from top to bottom. And the thought of such polarising change is exhausting and demotivating. So we put it off until tomorrow. Right, I'll start tomorrow, which means I have one more day before I have to go through all that pain and discomfort. No wonder so many of us fail to start healthy new plans of change.
The most important thing you can do for yourself, in anything that you want to be doing on a regular basis, is to start. I mean look at me and this blog. I am so consumed with doing it right, that I have 28 blogs waiting to be written in a particular style that my research revealed is the way to get readers and followers. So, in the interest of doing it right, I end up not doing it at all. Well, I'm certainly not going to get any readers that way, so I'm committing to just starting. Just writing the blogs that I want to write, without worrying too much about whether I am ticking all the boxes. Because once I start, I can develop and evolve my style. So, from this point on, you can expect to see more blog entries from me. They may not be perfect, but they will be here!
Similarly, Since coming back from our Honeymoon in October, I have done virtually no exercise and have completely indulged in every food I know I shouldn't, in a rebellion against all the wedding weight-loss pressure I put myself under. So I need to make some big changes. And I am not looking forward to going through all that pain of change. And I am not looking forward to having to get out of bed every morning at 5.00am to fit in my morning exercise. And I am not looking forward to having to think more about what I eat, rather than just grabbing something on the fly. Because I have been telling myself that I have to do all these things on the first day! And yet, when I am in that headspace, its not painful, its not tiring, its not unpleasant. Its rewarding! Anyone who knows me knows that I don't do anything by halves. I'm known for it amongst my friends. Very all or nothing. (I once spent $300 on cake making paraphernalia and only ever made one cake).
But I have to start. Telling myself that I have to do a complete 180 just makes me put it off until tomorrow. This week, however, I have committed to having a healthy breakfast each day. I don't have to worry about any other meals, exercise or gruelling fitness schedules. And yet, once I start eating a healthy breakfast, I prefer to follow it up with a healthy lunch and dinner and so on. But there is no pressure. And even if I do only have that one healthy meal a day, its one more than I had yesterday, before I gave myself permission to start small. And, so far, I've managed to do it but I have also had a day where I was running late for my course and missed breakfast altogether. But that's no reason to give up my new commitment. Just get back on track the next morning. The trick is to be forgiving of your little stumbles in your first tentative steps towards change.
So, I am committing to this, first. And then I will build on it. The ideal is to commit to doing one new thing for 21 consecutive days. For that is how long it takes to tread new well-worn neural pathways in your brain and create a new habit.
So think of something you want to change. Think of one, small thing that will kick it off and commit to doing that one thing each day for 21 days. Then look at adding another element of your desired change. And write your commitment, sign it and put it on the fridge as a reminder! And feel free to go to my Happy Apples Facebook Page and share your progress!