One of my frequent topics that I use for this blog is in changing and mastering our habits. I believe strongly that it is not our motivation or...
One of my frequent topics that I use for this blog is in changing and mastering our habits. I believe strongly that it is not our motivation or strategies so much as it is our subconscious, automatic behaviours that determine most of our actions. Since our actions inevitably create the force for which we create changes, then mastering these processes is critical if we want to be effective. If you can install empowering and effective habits into your daily life then you will be far more effective with every conscious action you can carry through.
Following these thoughts I personally have spent a lot of time altering many of my habits to get more out of my life. From adopting a strict vegetarian diet, abandoning television and installing a powerful wake-up routine at 5:30 AM, changing these habits have given me far more control, energy and focus for my life. I have even written about these patterns in my series, Habitual Mastery, which happens to be the most successful group of posts on this website.
Over the past two weeks, however, I have been really questioning a possible missing element to my past strategy for changing habits. I feel that beneath all the habits I have installed there are underlying habits that are miniscule and completely subconscious. These habits appear in my physiology, how I hold my body, they also appear in the larger scale habits I partake in every day. These 'micro' habits also seem to have a far greater impact on success because they set the emotional foundations and direct conscious behaviour.
If you've read any of Anthony Robbins work you know that the way you hold your body has a specific impact on your emotions. And emotions, as we can all attest to, have a far greater impact on our behaviour than our conscious actions. If you are feeling unmotivated and lazy, that is reflected by the subtle changes in your body. Often creating an adjustment in your body can trigger a complete emotional change. Standing up straight, breathing deeply and moving forcefully can often create a lot of motivation.
Most of the habits I have changed through trial periods have been what I'll refer to as 'macro' habits. Things like diet, exercise patterns, or activities like television may have a large subconscious element to them, but they are usually large enough that we still have a fair amount of conscious exertion on them. Even though I have conditioned myself to make morning runs, I have never had a point in time where I haven't been consciously aware I've been running.
These micro habits don't work in the same way. Although this micro habit would be conditioned biologically rather than environmentally, think about your breathing. Most the time you are breathing you aren't even aware of it. In fact you have been breathing this whole article and only now that I've pointed it out have you even given it a thought.
Micro habits can take the form of physiological changes. When you are feeling unmotivated, depressed or procrastinating, that is reflected in tiny patterns you run with your body. Maybe you start to hold your head lower, you move more slowly and your facial expressions become more sluggish and drooping. These small patterns are self-reinforcing because they build an emotional state that started them in the first place.
Micro habits can also take the form of mental thought patterns. These self talk can be subconscious or conscious. When you are feeling depressed, for example, you may begin by thinking about your problems. You may begin to see these problems as unsolvable or outside your control. You may start exaggerating and focusing in on the pain of this situation which magnifies it. By doing this you amplify your depression and negative thoughts.
These micro habits can even be a very simplified procedure for doing things. Maybe when you are unmotivated you do things in a particular way that is distinctive from when you feel normal or energized. You may do things more slowly. You may also spend time delaying between steps in your actions. These small micro habits of procedure will then influence your ultimate results.
Micro habits can't quite be tackled exactly the same way as macro habits. Changing a thought, physiology or procedural habit that occurs within the span of a few milliseconds to a minute is far more difficult to consciously control than, say, deciding what to eat or when to exercise. Despite this problem with micro habits I think I have a solution that can allow you to alter these habits through three basic steps.
Before we start, I want you to participate in this process with me. Take out a word processing program or a pad of paper and a pen. It will only add a minute or two to reading this article and it can be a great way to vastly improve your effectiveness. I want you to think of an area where you would like to have better performance in. This could be your pattern for working, eating, reading, sleeping, driving or even a more generalized pattern such as your response to stress, excitement or social situations. When I did this in my journal I used my process for exercising, so that is the example I'll use with you.