The key to habit change is cognitive acclimation.
Whatever new thing you start doing, your brain needs to get used to the fact that this particular habit makes it feel good, and that you like doing that activity.
Here’s a case study from my own life.
Core strength has always been my weakness, and it’s caused me some moderate back problems since college. But after suffering an inguinal hernia about a few years ago, not to mention having surgery to remove it, the time had finally time to commit to strengthening my abdominal, low back and other core muscles.
And the goal wasn’t to have washboard abs, rather, to get into the habit of improving that part of my body.
The hard part was cognitive acclimation. Training my brain to feel good when doing those exercises.
Because at first, doing daily core work was painful and exhausting and embarrassing. It’s like that funny workout gym tshirt that reads, planks hate you too.
Does anybody enjoy that kind of thing? How could it be different for me?
But after several months, the ritual of doing crunches and planks not only made me feel stronger, but also made me feel proud of myself for being proactive with my physical health.
That was the key to the habit sticking. After all, one of my goals in life is to make myself proud. That’s not a sin or and indulgence or an ego trip, it’s just part of my motivational system, and it works to help me sustain habits that make meaning in my life.
Today, core work is something I actually look forward to doing on most days. Because that feeling of strength, but also pride, is waiting for me. I’ve allowed myself to have a simple relationship with this activity so that it may become a meditation.
Anytime I record another successful instant of that routine, it’s satisfying. And if a day or two go by without doing the core exercises, I forgive myself and move on.
What habit are you still struggling to uphold? Think about what story you have to tell your brain to make it feel good while executing that habit.
Find a way to direct the process in a way that regularly leads you to successful outcomes.
In time, you’ll get into the groove, you’ll lay down the right neural path, and you’ll wire your brain to want that good feeling as much as possible.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How could you better lubricate your process of habit change?