This article is the first of five. In this one you will learn how habits and behaviour are stored and why it can be so tricky to break them without the right approach.
I work with people on a regular basis helping them to recognise and change limiting patterns of behaviour and I also run trainings to help them learn skills to dramatically increase their happiness in life.
From doing this I’ve started to notice some interesting things…
Five years ago I was solely doing personal training – during that time I would have clients that got fantastic results that lasted and others that struggled to even lose any fat.
Now this can be annoying because back then I didn’t understand how the mind works and just how much of what we do (our behaviour) is outside of conscious control.
See I had clients that would tell me how unhappy they were because of their size, how they were tired of feeling this way and how they just wanted to reach a certain level of health and fitness so they could enjoy their lives more fully.
This was all well and good but they would STILL even after me telling them the right and wrong foods to eat, the right portion sizes for them and so forth, they still ate all the wrong things and a load of it.
I’d get annoyed and they would feel like failures because they felt as if they couldn’t even control themselves.
Lets stop here… And as we fast forward to now, I can look back and realise exactly how and why they struggled…
What a lot of people don’t know is that you have a conscious mind (logical mind) and unconscious mind (emotional mind).
Your conscious mind:
Is the part of you that thinks logically and tries to make sense of things and is actually quite limited and can only handle roughly seven things at a time. (try this: with no breaks, ‘ums’ or ‘ahs’, as fast as you can, name 7 different types of cars or types of food… Now if you’re like most people then you likely got 3-5 before having to break slightly to ‘refill’ your conscious mind with more data from your unconscious).
Your unconscious mind:
Is the part of you that works in the domain of imagination, it is where all your values, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, memories, behaviours and habits are stored. Where as the conscious mind is limited, the unconscious mind is expansive and completely capable of amazing things. Essentially your identity is stored at the unconscious level.
Here’s the problem:
Most people have no connection between their conscious and unconscious mind and that’s the reason creating change and getting the things you want can be so hard, it’s because you are consciously trying to work with unconscious processes without the knowledge of how to do it. (would you try and fix a car without first reading a manual or learning how? If you did it without first learning how, how would the results differ if you were to compare it with the result you’d get if you’d first read or learned about it?)
All learning, behaviour and change is unconscious…
So back to the story,
These people were all struggling with weight-loss or that’s what it seemed to be, as I look back I now notice that they didn’t struggle with weight-loss, no, they struggled with all their unconscious programming and that is what caused the fat to appear in the first place.
The reason that they couldn’t control their eating habits is because that is something that is an unconscious process (a habit) and with no connection between the conscious and unconscious mind, unfortunately the unconscious mind always wins and that’s why people fall victim to their habits so often, its because the conscious mind is a thinker and the unconscious mind is a ‘do-er’.
Lets have a think about what makes people become obese shall we:
Our habits and behaviours are the things that either get us what we want or what we don’t want, the things we do and don’t do will either help us or hold us back.
Over-eating, not exercising, drinking lots of alcohol, smoking, gambling, drugs and so forth are all habits, all just behaviours and as you’ve just found out, that is the domain of the unconscious mind.
We go through life and we watch what is happening around us, our friends, parents, other family members and as we do this we are essentially constructing a model of the world that is filled with values, beliefs, attitudes and so forth and these things let us know what we think is right and wrong and what can and can’t be done.
During this time we pick up lots of habits and limiting behaviours as well and the key is to learn how to find, challenge and remove all these limitations.
Here’s a couple of questions to bring some of your habits and behaviours into conscious awareness to open the door for change:
(you will use your imagination in the following exercise)
- What are things that you’re doing that you want to stop doing?
- When, if you were to know, do you think you could have started doing that behaviour?
- How did you start doing it? Was somebody else doing it around you?
- Staying back in that time, consider whether that habit was a good or a bad one to start… Consider how it had affected the person/people who you may have learned it from…
- As you do this, start to notice other new and better ways of behaving.
- Imagine coming back into the now and ask yourself “When would now be the best time to STOP those old habits and behaviours?”
- Next write down all the things you are doing to change now and all the things you are not doing..
- Now imagine living the rest of your life as a victim of those old habits, notice how bad it feels…
- Now stop and notice that you have a choice, in fact you always had a choice, you just weren’t aware of it…
- Keep practicing this, bring your unconscious habits into conscious awareness and each time you fall into a pattern begin to break it and do something else because its your right to live an amazing life.