Listen to the audio or read below for the transcript. This episode is 15 minutes long.
Happy Tuesday, lovely! I’m Andreea, your host here on The Introvert That Could Podcast. Every episode is a mix of tips on productivity, time management, and how to move forward when you’re stuck, with a sprinkle of motivation and a side of relevant personal stories. I want you to have all the tools and support you need to face the challenges of being an introvert and take action, because without action, there are no results. Let’s dive in!
Welcome to episode 14!
If you ever tried to change a habit or introduce a new one, you probably know what I’m talking about. You either lose motivation, or only do it for a few days and then go back to your old self, consider that you failed and that’s that. If that was you, I want you to know that it’s perfectly normal, it only means you’re human. And that you didn’t do it the right way. Yes, there is right way.
First of all, let’s understand why we form habits in the first place.
Someone asked me, why do we even need them when they’re so hard to change? And though I understand the frustration, here’s the thing.
Imagine if every time you went into a dark room, you had to stop and think what to do. But you don’t, you automatically turn the lights on. Your brain learned by repetition that if it’s dark, you turn the lights on.
Imagine if you had to think through every step when you’re driving, every time. Your brain would fry.
So once you found a solution for a problem, repeated it a few times and worked every time, it can now become a habit. The brain can now store the exact sequence by building circuits. And every time you’ll be in that situation again, that circuit in the brain lights up and you don’t even have to think about it. Because then you can use that time and energy on something else.
And from tiny actions, you can build whole routines, and then systems that just work, without you having to reinvent the wheel every time. Isn’t this great?
Now, the unfortunate situation is when your solution is not useful long term, but the brain already stored it. For example, my social media habit. I have a pattern of numbing myself with Facebook or Instagram when I’m overwhelmed or in a low mood.
At some point, I got overwhelmed and picked up my phone and started scrolling. I got instant relief, I got a break, it felt good. Brain said: ooo, this helped, see, she feels better. Let’s try to do it again. I did it again, it worked again. Ok, back in the subconscious in goes! So even if it gives instant relief, first of all, it doesn’t solve my problem, I still have loads to do when I finish the scrolling and long term, it made me addicted to social media.
The reality is, that our lives are what we repeatedly do. The quality of your life depends on the quality of your habits. From small actions, to routines, to systems.
Your life is what you repeatedly do.
All your habits share a specific structure. By the way, when I say Habit, you can also think sequence, pattern, repetitive thoughts you have, feelings, they all follow the same structure.
It all starts with a cue. That can be something you see, smell, feel, think about. It can be anything, and on its own, a cue is neutral, it means nothing until you make an interpretation, you have a specific thought about it, which makes you want to change your state. That’s a craving.
- you hear your stomach growling, you make that mean that you’re hungry and you should it. Then you take an action that you know will fix it. In our example, you eat food. And then get exactly what you wanted – a reward, you’re no longer hungry. So cue – craving – action – reward.
Here are a few more examples:
- See doughnut -> have a craving -> eat doughnut, -> you now feel satisfied.
- Get home from work -> you want to relax -> watch TV -> you feel better.
- Lunch time at work -> you feel lonely -> you open social media -> then you feel better.
I want you to see that at the core, all we want, what all of us want is to feel better, so whatever habit you have that you consider bad, stop judging yourself.
And now we’ll go through a few reasons why change is hard.
1. You don’t have a better way to get the reward.There are 2 points in this cue-crave-action-reward sequence where you can interrupt the pattern.
The first is the cue to crave step. You can make the cue mean something else, so it obviously requires a change in thinking.
- if you feel bored you could think that it’s ok to feel bored, and you allow yourself to rest, instead of trying to get busy or in some cases, eat.
The second way you can interrupt the pattern is to change the action, find a different way to get the reward. And this is tricky because you don’t always know what the habit gives you. The default when we have a bad habit is to judge it, and try to change it without first trying to understand. If you look at my social media habit, now that you understood that what I’m seeking is relief from overwhelm, I bet you see it with more compassion. If I found something else to give me that, I wouldn’t need the mindless scrolling anymore.
So my encouragement is to be curious about your habits.
And for some of them, you might have to dig deep, because they weren’t formed recently.
- I used to be obsessed with having a clean home, and it wasn’t serving me. I did fix that, but just very recently I realised why I had it. It was a protection mechanism. When I was a child, no matter how clean my room was, my mom used to storm in and tell me it’s a disaster. I always felt bad about it and I wanted to avoid that.
2. They’re automated.
If you want to study habits, just look at dogs, they do it best. If they hear sit, they think, oh I might get a treat. So they sit. And get a treat. Cue, crave, action, reward. This is how we train them.
I got to observe what it took for my dogs to change a habit. Sorry if you heard this story before. After we moved into the marina with the boat, we changed the door we use to get out. The boat has doors both at the front and at the back. And after almost 2 years on board, they had a habit. When they woke up in the morning and felt the need to pee, they went to the front door to show us they need to go and we took them out. But things changed. So for a while, we had to retrain them to use the other door. Every morning they just forgot. So we had to remind them, and in the beginning they were looking at us like we were crazy or we didn’t understand the cue. “Mom, wait, you’re going in the wrong direction”. And then, bit by bit, they learned. It was so funny to watch them walk towards the front door, and then realise that oh, it’s wrong, and turned around. They had to undo those existing connections and create new ones. They had to unlearn their old habit.
You probably experienced this with changing location of objects around the house, or getting a new phone. Alin has a new phone now, that doesn’t have a home button anymore, and every time I pick it up it takes me a second to think, ok, how do I exit this app? When something is automated, you need to bring it back from the subconscious into your awareness, otherwise you’ll go with the flow.
3. You’re trying to change from the wrong direction.
Imagine your life as a circle with a few other circles inside. The circle that sits in the centre it’s your purpose in life. This dictates who you are, your identity, which is the next layer of the circle. That’s your beliefs, traditions, values that make you take action. Those actions, habits, behaviour, that’s the next circle towards the outside, one more layer. And the last layer contains the results you have in your life, and your environment, and that includes people and objects you’re surrounded with.
So here’s the wrong way to change: start with the outside layer. Try to change your environment, other people, the external world, hoping that will change you. That never works. Relying on the outside to produce change is you handing over your power, your life to something or someone else.
One step closer to the inside of the circle is your Behaviour, your actions. Changing only that will probably produce some results, but very short lived because you can’t continue forever. Why? Because those actions are not aligned with who you are. You are lying to yourself and you can’t do it for too long. So then you go back to your old habits because that’s what you believe in! This is why the weight loss industry will never go away. Because all they give you is a meal plan and and an exercise routine that you execute for a while, without changing anything about how you think and what you believe in. Result? You gain weight back. Believe me, I’ve been there a few times.
Winning the lottery won’t make you rich if you don’t know how to be rich. You’ll either hoard the money or spend them all, taking you straight back where you started.
To create long term change, you need to start from the inside layer. Yes, change comes within.
Knowing this, here’s a basic plan you can follow.
I know you cringed at the word Purpose, so let’s call it vision, because Purpose tends to be misinterpreted. You might think that it needs to be something that will impact the whole world and be of service to others, basically be another Oprah or Mother Theresa. And that puts unnecessary pressure on you, because not all of us need to do that. But every one of us is here for a reason, be that raising a family, teach, inspire others or just be the best you can be. For a long time, all I wanted was to live an extraordinary life, that’s it. It was just for myself. So the question is: what do you want?
Moving one more layer towards the outside, who do you need to be to achieve that? And feel free to move to this one even if you didn’t define your purpose yet. Could be something like: a good mom, a successful business owner, a rich woman, a mentor, a healthy person. Pick an identity. You know how you say about someone that went through a change, “I don’t even recognise you anymore, it’s like you’re a different person”. Here’s the thing: they are!
That being said, what else makes someone who they are if not their beliefs and values? So ask yourself, what does it mean to be what you chose just now? What does it mean to be a good mom or a rich person? What do you need to think or believe in?
And finally, what do you need to do? And then you do that over and over again. And every time you do an action that belongs to this new personality, you reinforce it. You become it. And good news is, you don’t have to get it right every time, just most of the time.
That being said, there’s more to habits than pure repetition it seems. If this confused you in any way, do know that it’s ok. It means it prompted you to think differently and that means you’re ready for change.
You can absolutely have and do everything you want in life, and I can help you build the habits that will get you there. Change was only hard because you didn’t know the right way to do it.
So I want to invite you to be one of the 20 people that will join my new Better Habits Bootcamp first. It’s a mini course I’m building to help you introduce new habits to start taking steps towards your vision. We’ll define a purpose and a new identity together, I’ll help you understand yourself and your current habits better, give you the strategies you need to introduce new habits, and you’ll get a bonus training on how to fix a bad habit. Plus, I’ll also offer some tools on how to do what you know you need to do even if you don’t feel like it.
I will open the bootcamp to 20 students only because I want to give you full attention and help you make it a success. And as a thank you for being one of my first students in this course, you get a 50% discount and a bonus private coaching session with me.
If you want to know when I launch, hop on the email list so you don’t miss it. My email list is always the first one to know about new offers.
This was it for this episode, but if you want to continue the conversation, I’d love to hear from you! Comment here or find me on Facebook and Instagram. But the best thing you can do is sign up for the Life Lesson Letter, the weekly email I send out every Thursday with new content and insider-only freebies and details. Sign up now and you’ll get instant access to all available goodies, including the latest PDF “From overwhelm to taking action: 6 steps to find more time in your day, declutter your to-do list and get things done“. Just go to coachmeamazing.com/lifelessonletter
Thanks so much for being here and I’ll catch you on the next one! Have an amazing day!