Hack Your Brain and Break Bad Habits (3-Step Method)

If you’re like most people you create a schedule, either mentally or you write it out, you know what you want to do the next day, and then, for whatever reason, it all falls apart.

Why is that? You know what you want and even how to achieve it, yet at the end of the day you’re nowhere near where you need to be, but you know you had enough time to get done what should have been done. Where in the day did it all go wrong?

Typically, what derails your plans and prevents you from getting done what you set out to get done are a few bad habits. These bad habits might be mentally programmed into your brain without you even realizing you have bad habits.

These bad habits then siphon off energy and, more importantly, time, from the rest of your day. So, by the time the day is done you still have several bullet points on the checklist you haven’t finished yet.

You don’t need to accept this as a way of life though. You just need to learn how to hack your brain and break bad habits all at the same time. In fact, here is a three-step method for how you can do exactly that.

Motivate Yourself

If you’re just running through your daily routine without an end goal, you have no motivation. This is why companies that don’t offer incentives to their employees often suffer. The worker has no reason to push themselves because they won’t get anything out of putting in the additional work.

You need to motivate yourself. Look at your bullet point schedule. Now, think about why you’re doing each. Do you want to increase your sales numbers, so you can reach an end-of-the-year bonus? Perhaps you want to lose weight and your struggling fitting working out into the schedule. Maybe you just want to live longer.

Everything you do should have an end goal. Once you have identified the reason behind everything in your day it becomes easier to motivate yourself.

Why do you need to fit that 45-minute cardio workout into your day? Because you want to drop weight. Why do you want to drop weight? Because you have a wedding you want to look good at, or a vacation you want to wear a bikini during, or you have a high school reunion coming up and want to show off to your old classmates.

When you have an end goal in mind you can easily motivate yourself. You’ll find simple motivation works well for just about every task. You may want to use visual motivation to help you out, such as a photograph of the beach your visiting, or even of a model you’re aiming to look like by the end of your diet. In order to break bad habits and make better choices with regards to your schedule, you need to hack your brain with motivation.

According to Burpa, 26 percent of Great Britain’s population makes an annual resolution for New Years. However, just 12 percent of the population keeps their resolution. 50 percent said they abandoned their resolution because they lost motivation. Why did they lose their motivation? Because they didn’t have a reason for their goal. They wanted to get back in shape, but why? If they stopped going to the gym, what would they immediately lose? Nothing.

(Source)

New Years is a great point in time to create a resolution and mark new goals because it’s the beginning of a calendar year. It’s a fresh year, so it’s easy to mark progress. However, the problem most people have is they don’t have a reason for their goal. They want to read more but don’t have a reason. They want to make more money but don’t have a reason. These people fail before they even start because they don’t have a reason behind it.

This is where you can succeed where other’s failed. By having a goal, or a reason for doing what you’re doing, you’ll maintain your motivation. This, in turn, will help you be part of the 12 percent that keeps a resolution.

Practice Your Developing Motivational Skill

You can’t just snap your finger, say “hey, I’m going to do this work, so I can make more money” and expect it to work. Yes, motivation is key, but it still takes practice. You can want to get better as much as the next person, it’s doing what you need to do to get better that sets you apart.

Practice helps a task become muscle memory. If you’re used to waking up at 9 am every morning, but then need to start waking up at 6 am, those first few days are as difficult as it comes. However, as your body slowly adjusts it becomes easier and easier until you wake up at 6 am without even setting an alarm. Why? Because your body adapts to what you’ve been practicing.

This is also why bad habits develop. If you have a bad habit, it didn’t just pop up overnight. You did it once, then maybe again a few weeks later, then a third time a few days later. Eventually, the bad habit turns into routine, and it feels like muscle memory.

You need to correct the muscle memory. Yes, it can feel like stopping a moving locomotive before pushing it backward. The process of stopping that bad habit is difficult, but this is where motivation comes in.

After you’ve discovered your new motivation, focus all your energy on this the first few days. You’re not going to eat that midnight snack because you want to lose the weight, or you’re going to put in the extra 20 minutes of work and not check social media at the end of the day.

The first days of motivation work well. You’re gung-ho about it. It’s something you want to do, which makes it easier. Your motivation may start to wander, but at this point, your muscle memory isn’t as strong either.

This is where you need that motivational push over the edge to charge your batteries back up and complete the task of hacking your brain and correcting your bad habit.

How can you do this? You need small goals to reach. Yes, you have your end goal. This is where you want to be, but there’s usually a big distance between A and Z, so would it really hurt if you took that day off, or let your diet slide just one day?

Back slides stop your motivation and cause you to slip backward. With small points of motivation, you can see progress on your journey. Instead of focusing on dropping 20 pounds, cheer yourself on for losing that first pound. You’re closer than you were a few days prior. Or you want to write a book, and hitting that 400-page mark seems impossible, but you’ve already written five, which is five more than you had. Break your journey up. After all, every great road trip has points to refuel and stretch.

Use motivation to focus on little goals. Before you know it, you’ll be at the footstep of the main goal.

When you rewire a bad habit, it isn’t just about identifying motivations for improving yourself, it’s also about identifying what causes the bad habit. As the graphic from Zapier below points out, if you want to change a habit you need to identify what cues you to perform the habit (sleeping in because you’re tired, eating ice cream because it makes you feel good), what kind of false reward you receive from the habit and the routine that leads you up to it.

(Source)

Basically, you’re replacing the bad habit with a good one, which means your rewiring your brain to no longer focus on the rewards of a bad habit but the motivational rewards of a good one.

Apply

As you start off, it’s easy to stumble. You’re motivated and you want to achieve your goals, but you’re also so programmed with your bad habits it’s difficult. If you want to quit smoking it’s easy to go a few days without smoking, then see someone smoking, feel the craving, and succumb to your craving.

When this happens, you have one of two options. You can let yourself fall back down the hill, back into your bad habit, and give up all the momentum you started, or you can let it be a blip in the radar and keep moving forward.

Practice makes perfect. Every great athlete will tell you that. Michael Jordan didn’t become the greatest basketball player of all time because he could dunk from the free-throw line the first time he walked onto the court. Tom Brady didn’t go from a sixth-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan where he had to split time with a younger player only to become the most decorated player in the history of the National Football League without falling short from time to time.

According to Medium, it takes 66 days to form a habit. This is just over two months. If you stick with your motivation and focus on your goals, all you need to do is put in two months of work. By that time, it won’t even feel like work anymore. It’ll just be a habit. A good habit.

(Source)

It’s all about applying, practicing, and pushing forward. Both wanted the best of themselves and never settled for second best. For some, it takes longer to discover greatness, for others it’s right there, they just need to apply themselves and grab it.

The same is true for you. You can do great things if you put your mind to it, motivate yourself and practice your motivation every single day. Eventually, this motivation becomes second nature and everything you do will feel like muscle memory. You just need to make sure what you’ve developed is good muscle memory and not the bad habits of old.

In Conclusion

Bad habits don’t just happen. Habits take time to develop. However, you don’t need to accept these issues as truth and let the bad habits dictate what you do moving forward. By discovering why, you want to do what you do, using it as motivation and applying what you’ve discovered, you can become a better version of you. Yes, it does take practice and you will need to rewire the emotional part of your brain as you undo the bad and install the good. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it and don’t let yourself fall back should you slip up, you’ll discover that you can be great in everything you do and anything you put your mind to

 

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