As Oprah might say, here’s what I know for sure:
No creation of a new habit or cessation of an old one will ever be successful unless you first change your beliefs about that habit.
Put another way: Every failed attempt to lose weight, stop smoking, or any other personal undertaking (and, I suspect, many professional ones) boils down to a failure of belief.
Think about it. Why do people overspend, or overeat, or smoke, or not-exercise, or not make marketing a priority?
It’s not because they lack information, I’m fairly certain. Smokers, for example, know perfectly well what the health risks are. And what’s more? They know they’re not immune from those risks.
Overweight people know they have to eat less. (Exercise, as it turns out, isn’t a vital component of weight loss programs. It’s important for other reasons, to be sure, but you cannot exercise enough to lose significant weight.)
Overspenders are well aware of the consequences of their profligate spending.
It is not a failure of information.
It is a failure of belief.
Deep down, the smoker believes she has time enough to quit. She also believes the pleasure she gets from smoking outweighs the benefits she’d get from quitting.
The overeater believes that “just this one” piece of cake or whatever won’t matter in the long run. (And she’s right, except that, of course, it’s never just this one that’s at stake.)
The non-exerciser believes that he can start tomorrow. Or that working out will hurt more than the benefits will help.
Every failure to create or stop a habit rests on a failure of belief.
So how do you change your beliefs?
It’s simpler than it might seem at first. But it ain’t exactly easy. Kind of like reframing your reactions to specific events or triggers.
First, you have to explore what beliefs are currently holding you back from the brass ring. Best way to do that is through writing. (Another good use for the morning pages.)
Then, you have to use your analytical skills to figure out what beliefs would be more useful in this endeavor. Sometimes it’s as simple as turning the old belief around 180 degrees. Sometimes it takes a bit more finessing.
Once you’ve picked the new beliefs that will support your goal, look for some support for those new beliefs. The human brain has two sides, remember? The intuitive and emotional side will grab on to the new belief pretty easily, if you’re really into the goal. But the logical side needs some proof.
So go forth and Google, and find some authority out there on the world wide interwebs that you can nod along to for your new beliefs. (This? Should not be hard.)
Then, write ’em down. Stick with just one or two beliefs at first – that seems to be about as much as the human brain can realistically work with at a time.
Jot them down on sticky notes, on big cards, on a white board. Write them in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Whatever — just put them in writing and place the writing somewhere you’ll see it often during the day.
Run them through your mind mentally as you’re preparing to engage in any activity that furthers your goal and especially as you’re doing that activity.
Write them down over and over in your morning pages. In fact that’s a great place to explore your new beliefs and any resistance you’re feeling to them.
It’ll take awhile, but eventually, you will realize that you no longer have to make yourself recite the new belief: it’s coming to mind rather effortlessly.
This is important: When this happens? DO NOT STOP HERE. KEEP reciting the new beliefs. KEEP writing them down.
It will probably take about three weeks, which is how long it takes a new habit to form, before the new belief takes hold. Keep going for another week or two, just to be safe.
It can be done. I promise you. Simply, though not easily.
And you will absolutely have an easier time changing your behavior as a result.