The adage ‘Old habits die hard” is exactly why habits such as going to bed late, skipping the gym, or checking emails and messages in bed are so difficult to change. But thanks to neuroplasticity, change is always possible. Whenever you’re ready to make the shift, you can change your neural pathways and create positive habits.
The adage ‘Old habits die hard” is exactly why habits such as going to bed late, skipping the gym, or checking emails and messages in bed are so difficult to change.
From a brain and coaching perspective, habits are old and ingrained neural pathways – ways of thinking and doing - created over months, years or even decades of repetition. An example might be the all-too-familiar route to work: you use the same road and intersection every single day such that you’re in ‘auto-pilot’ mode.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good thing we can find our way home on autopilot without having to dissect every aspect of our journey. But what if you discovered there’s a quicker way to get to work? Would you willingly embrace change recognising the benefit to your morning routine? Or, would you resist change and stick with the route you know? What if resistance to change is impacting your body, relationships and happiness levels? When entrenched habits hold us back and undermine our personal resilience; when we do things simply because it’s how we’ve always done things, we are hindered from progressing in life and work.
Letting go of old habits is challenging. It creates discomfort and uncertainty, and requires significant effort and determination.
Fortunately, thanks to neuroplasticity, we can forge new pathways and create new habits that better serve us.
This video on Neuroplasticity from Sentis, available on YouTube, shows us how adaptable our brain is.
What does it take to create new habits
Here are a few powerful ways to retrain the brain, override old pathways and create new and healthier habits: :
1. Decide on your goal – Define which new habits you want to create to build your personal resilience. Do you want to create optimal sleep habits? Or, do you wish to make better nutritional choices? Rather than embracing numerous goals all at once (thus, setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment), go slow and take one step at a time. We don't need to create a full blown mind map but perhaps one branch at a time.
2. Be accountable – When best-selling author Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, recognised the need to change her sleep habits, she turned to Cindi Leive, Glamour magazine’s editor-in-chief, for support. As they worked to eradicate their old sleep habits and replace with new, life-enhancing routines, they checked in on each other to see how the other was doing. Studies prove that if you have a specific accountability appointment with a person, you will increase your chances of success by up to 95%!
3. Consistency and commitment – New pathways require repetition and consistency to be created and ingrained over time. If your goal is to sleep more hours, for example, putting away blue light emitting devices such as mobiles, computers and TV every day at the same time helps your brain understand when it’s time to stop working and start resting. Every brain needs routine and so does yours.
4. Celebrate – We often do not celebrate our small wins, perhaps because we fail to see the benefits of our new habits. Reflecting on new habits, the benefits and impact to your life can be rewarding and, in fact, motivate you to continue to create new habits, new neural pathways and the life you want.
Ready when you are.
Thanks to neuroplasticity, change is always possible. Whenever you’re ready to make the shift, you can change your neural pathways and create positive habits.
For real change comes from within. Change can only truly happen when the desire to lead your best life is ignited within you. Change is ready when you are!