How to form good habits when your brain is hardwired to remember the negative ones more?
Neuroscientists have shown time and again that a positive experience takes far, far longer to register in our brains. Negative experiences stick almost immediately and never seem to leave. Can we change how our brains work? Of course.
If you take just a few seconds to truly take in the feeling of the positive reward that you experience as a result of a good habit, you make it more likely to repeat that behaviour over time.
I call this habit ‘encoding’ as it registers, or imprints, if you will, the reward deep in your brain to make that behaviour more likely in the future.
Ie: At the end of a creative session, take a deep breath and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. Being present in the moment allows the reward of creative work to be stronger and more likely to be repeated in the future. We all seek what feels good.
“What steps can I take to help me feel better and get out of this slump?” Taking steps to change instead of faking an upbeat front can do wonders in helping you to lift those heavy, grey clouds off your shoulders.And remember, small wins add up to bigger wins, and more reasons to start feeling happier, more confident, and in the perfect position to feel positive…when you really mean it.
- The above is mostly used for fitness and exercise and increasing the reps. But it can be used as a form of “Tiny Habits” to improve one’s habits.
- Every habit or behaviour has an activation energy, there is a certain amount of effort required to start the habit
- The more difficult or complex a behavior, the higher the activation energy required to start it.
- Smaller habits require smaller activation energies and that makes them more sustainable. The bigger the activation energy is for your habit, the more difficult it will be to remain consistent over the long-run. When you require a lot of energy to get started there are bound to be days when starting never happens.
- Add a catalyst to your routine to speed up success
- One way is to structure your environment well: how can we structure those environments to make good habits more likely and bad habits more difficult?
- Enable your surroundings to become a catalyst for your behaviours
- The right environment is like a catalyst for your habits and it lowers the activation energy required to start a good habit.
- Examine your habits closely and see if you can eliminate the intermediate steps with the highest activation energy
(i.e. the biggest sticking points).
- Each intermediate step has its own activation energy. When you’re struggling to stick with a new habit it can be important to examine each link in the chain and figure out which one is your sticking point. Put another way, which step has the activation energy that prevents the habit from happening?
- Developing solutions that remove the intermediate steps and lower the overall activation energy
required to perform your habit can increase your consistency in the long-run.
There are two major weapons that we can deploy. You cannot eliminate resistance but you can make the sucker eat dust. Day after day. Here’s how.
There’s the front-end work that can begin the process:
- Effective habit design,
- Placement of triggers
- State changing exercises
Then there’s the back-end work that helps change deeply held patterns below the surface:
- Long-form journaling
- Mindset coaching
Doing one without the other gives resistance an unnecessary advantage. Similar to balancing a bicycle on one tire, it’s possible, but ineffective in the long term.
The creative work, whatever that is – launching a venture, starting guitar lessons, practicing meditation – is critical to the work with resistance. This is the foundation of the battle.
5 minute journal:
I read The Success Principles by Jack Canfield recently. It’s a massive book with a ridiculous amount of tools to change your life. I highly recommend it.
Below, you’ll find the most effective tool I extracted from the book. It’s a simple question that you can ask your friends, your partner, your co-workers or your team.
It’s a tool similar to compound interest. As Albert Einstein said, “compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world”. It seems small, almost insignificant. But over time the pure momentum and the improvement that can happen is hard to imagine.
Can you imagine if you you could incrementally improve an area of your life daily/weekly over a period of a time? The growth curve would look similar to the graph above.
Remember, the human mind cannot fathom the power of an exponential system. It works linearly.
If you start out with $100 at the beginning of the year and you were able to increase what you have by 1% every single day, at the end of the year, you would have $3,778.34 = $100 * (1 + 1%) ^ 365. That is 37.78x what you had at the beginning of the year. Read that again, if you improved just 1% daily, you’d be 37x better at the end of the year!
Now that you understand the power of an exponential question, here’s the question:
You could apply this in the case of a business context with a business partner.
“On a scale of 1-10, how well do you think we’re running the business?”
You could apply it with your salsa teacher.
“On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with my progress?”
You could apply it with your relationships.
“On a scale of 1-10, how deeply fulfilled do you feel in our relationship?”
Asking this question is going to take courage and is going to be wonderfully rewarding.
Ask this question often! Remember every time you’re asking this question, you’re applying this system of incremental growth to this area of your life. Enjoy.
Remember: The goal is not to get a perfect 10 every time. The goal is to learn ways to incrementally improve.
Where do you think you can apply this question? Just hit reply. I’ll read every email.