Does this sound familiar? It’s a new year and a new decade, and the new you is ready to follow suit. Motivation and ambition are running at an all-time high. You’re finally going to reach those goals you’ve been striving for; you’re finally going to take those first few steps towards actualizing your dream. And then… Three weeks into the new year and you’re back to the old self, stuck in old familiar thoughts, habits, behaviors or emotions, living out of the same unconscious programs, and succumbing to your environment (or the people in your environment), which expects you to act and behave a certain way.
For many of us, while there is no question that we possess the desire to change, change does not come easily. First and foremost, it requires a will of the mind to be greater than the unconscious body-mind. But beyond that, it also requires daily, positive habits and routines designed to keep you in alignment with your goals.
The Brain Is the Organ of Change
The concept in neuroscience called neuroplasticity demonstrates that the brain alters itself every time we learn something new. Our nerve cells are specially arranged by what we learn, what we remember, what we experience, what we feel, and what we envision. Our 100 billion brain cells are always communicating with the rest of our anatomy. If you learn even one new piece of information today, brain cells will make new connections within the living latticework of your nervous system. In other words, when we really change our mind, the brain changes…and then we can affect permanent, lasting change.
When you take the time out of your busy schedule and begin to intentionally dream a new reality, for instance, focusing on your goal of losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising daily, etc., just remember that your brain is rewiring itself to your desires, and that your body is being reconditioned in order to prepare itself for that new event. Therefore, if you mentally rehearse (think about what you are going to do) daily – what it would be like to experience any transformation – there will be internal changes taking place that will begin to help you achieve your goal. So, if you want to make change stick, here are seven initial steps to start you on the path.
Write a clear and simple resolution statement. This tells your brain you’re serious about change. Make sure your mission statement creates a positive feeling for you. Avoid words such as ‘not,’ and make your resolution specific. Instead of saying you want to eat healthier, say, “I will eat a fresh healthy salad once a day so that I look better and feel better about myself.” Your intention is your mental compass. The clearer your purpose, the better you know where you are going and how to get there.
2. Sponsoring Thoughts
List out five strong reasons about why you want to change. This is the biggest secret to making change stick. You should feel passionate about the change you want. Be specific. For example, if you are interested in losing weight, one reason could be to wear your mother’s wedding dress for your wedding ceremony in five months.
3. Review, Rewind, Prime
Create a plan, then review your action steps daily. To get yourself in the right state of mind, when you wake up in the morning, review your desired specific behaviors for the day. When you go to bed at night, review the day to see if you stayed in alignment with those behaviors. This exercise literally sets up your day so that you stay conscious of your change, and when done at night, it begins to set you up for success the following day. If you imagine yourself making the necessary decisions for that day, you will begin to prime your brain to automatically follow your intentions. Your mental rehearsal can install the neurological circuits in place to use when executing your changes appropriately. For instance, questions like: “What do I have to do to get there?” Write down the steps. “When do I need to have those steps taken?” Decide what steps you can take this day or even right now. Review and remind yourself of the entire plan, and then take the first step. Think of this as reviewing your map on your journey to change. The more you do it, the easier it is to get to your destination.
4. Align Your Behavior to Match Your Intention
Hold yourself accountable by demonstrating change throughout your entire day. One of the hardest parts of breaking a habit is to not make the same choices you made days, weeks, or months prior. When you decide what you are not going to do that day, it will help keep you on task. The biggest reason most people fall short of their vision relates to giving into familiar feelings. Get clear that when those feelings, cravings, and bodily urges come up during your day, you are not going to give in to them. This is when you take your ‘new you’ for a test drive. Your daily goals will always be in alignment with your ongoing intention. Think of this step as small destinations or towns you arrive at along your journey.
5. Track Your Changes
Create a reward system for yourself. If you can create a chart that you can see or a ledger you review daily, and then check your wins off daily, you will begin to make your discipline and changes a new habit. At the same time, you’ll be building a new feeling of self-esteem, worth, and belief that you actually are doing it. If one day on your journey you fall from grace, make the choice to get back into your routine the very next day without wallowing in failure, guilt, and self-depreciation. These emotions will surely undermine your efforts and cause you to return to the old self that may have already felt that way for too long.
6. Come Out of Your Resting State—Change Your Energy
Change can be uncomfortable. When we are in the midst of change, it feels unnatural, unfamiliar, and uncertain because we are no longer ‘being’ the same person. This is called the unknown. We are changing how we think, how we act, and how we feel. Therefore, each day when you begin, you must lift yourself into a new state of being and raise your energy. Questions like—How would I have to ‘be’ today to master my day? or How would I feel in my future when I am this person? — these are key ingredients. Just remember that you can’t get up from your meditation today as the same person who sat down. You must be in a new state of being and live from this level of energy. Get excited that you can conquer yourself in some way
7. Cue Your Environment
There is nothing more satisfying than to have little reminders in your life to keep you on track. Place pictures, notes, word phrases, and/or vision boards where you can see them daily, such as at your desk, on the refrigerator, or pasted to the bathroom mirror. You can even listen to motivational lectures, books, or inspirational music while you exercise. These will keep you on task by reminding you that what you are doing is important. The more you stay conscious of your future, the more inspired you will be to overcome your present reality.
These are a few starter steps, The rest is up to you. There is much more that can be done to ensure that you can make change stick. What is important is to know that it’s possible to change. True transformation is possible—and it’s possible for you!