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Day 11: Habitual Minds

“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.” -Confucius

The habits we form in life tend to form us. Our lives and the behaviors that shape them tend to be habitual. Partly because we like consistency and because change is challenging our habits start to resemble our personalities or maybe our personalities are really just a bundle of our most dedicated habits. I have read that of every 11,000 signals we receive from our senses, our brain only consciously processes 40. Although I can’t find the source of this information, it isn’t that hard to believe. Life is overwhelming and our habits create the routine we use to manage life. Sadly, it is also true that bad habits are easier to develop but harder to live with, and good habits are harder to develop but easier to live with.

No habits define us more completely than the ones that control our mind. My ongoing experiment to stop the negative talk is turning into an epiphany. After just four days, I hardly had to move the bracelet at all today. I am overcome by how quickly the act of applying consistent, conscious attention works on eliminating a behavior that I have publicly committed to stopping. Those are the keys according to some research on the art of cultivating better habits.

First you have to be committed and being publicly committed is most powerful. But even the act of writing down your commitment can dramatically increase your odds of success. Next, we can only really change one habit at a time- for deep brain resurfacing there is no multitasking. The new behavior or way of thinking must be practiced for 30 days, although I have read 21 days elsewhere. Without question, the longer you consistently practice a new behavior, the more likely it will become a permanent fixture in your life makeup.

Replacing my negative talk with either silence of some positive spin isn’t like giving up cigarettes or some other habitual comfort. It turns out all that negative talking was not really feeling that great anyway. It’s absence over the last few days has felt like getting a vacation from some critic that moved in and has been taking over more and more rooms in my brain. I know Some habits are harder to break than negativity because they feed or comfort us in some way. Who knew how easy it would be to let go of the negative narrator.

I am now a big believer in the wristband method, in fact it has replaced my watch, so now when I am keeping track of something, it is something that really matters. It is an easy trigger that helps me to stay conscious of what I am working on letting go. All this easy clarity with what I say or now don’t say has however brought me closer to the center of the issue, which is how I think. Although I am heartened and inspired by the relatively fast and self-reinforcing changes in my communicating, I can see now that just going after the words that come out of my mouth is not going to do it. I am going to have to step up the wrist band approach. Tomorrow I am going to start to move the band each time I have a negative thought, whether I am the only one who hears it or not.