If we can successfully build up sustainable habits our conscious and instinctive mindsets will be in harmony without raising any conflict. If we can do this, we are bound to pursue these sustainable good habits automatically so we will feel great about ourselves each and every day.
Here are a few things I do so I can build good habits:
- Set up a list of all my daily excuses and work hard to break free of these excuses on a daily basis.
- Indicate a few small goals to stick to. Wake up half an hour earlier; as soon as I get up, drink at least 2 glasses of water; do some early morning work out; breath mindfully for a ten minutes; start meditating every morning for 30 minutes; go running for half an hour when I get back from work.
- I should continue these routines for several weeks.
- I should slowly raise my daily goals, for example from half an hour to one full hour, from 10 minutes to 12, and so on.
When I’m working on building good habits, such as breathing mindfully every morning, there are times that I’m feeling some resistance. Resistance to changing my habits and changing can cause scare. Change is often leading to uncertainty and most of us don’t feel at ease when we get out of our comfort zone, no matter whether this will make us better and happy or not. Most of us so satisfied with how we live that it has almost become an addiction.
I can feel my inner instinctive side telling me to stop. It is telling my brain things like ‘I don’t have any energy to wake up and do some exercise’, or ‘only 5 more minutes more’, and ‘please let me sleep on for 30 more minutes.’ My brain is pretty good at making excuses, though there is a part that tells me ‘You will feel much better all day if you motivate yourself to get into a new habit.‘ But then again: ‘No, it’s so difficult, it’s so painful, and it’s so much work!’
Dual Thinking Systems
The dual process theory has learned us that there are two different thinking systems. System one, the fast, instinctive, almost automatic way of thinking, and System two, the calculated, slow, and more logic-based way of thinking which is relying on logical reasoning and rationality. System one is used by us when taking most of our actions and System two is the one that we consult in situations when we must make more calculated or thoughtful decisions.
System two (the conscious side in me) knows that every-day exercise is absolutely beneficial for me. System one (the instinctive side in me), on the other hand, is deciding if I actually go ahead with exercising or not. I can only go ahead and do the things I wanted to do, change my habits and do my exercise, if I allow my conscious side (system two) to take over and defeat my instinctive side (system one).
Let’s give this some more thought for a moment, and let’s be honest with ourselves. What would happen if I would tell you to stop reading and begin to exercise right? What would you do if I tell you to start meditation or go work one some other good habit that you intended to pursue right away? Do you notice what’s going on in your mind? There’s one part of your brain that tells you to do it, while another part tells you no!
Let’s consider some excuses that you were allowing yourself, and let’s also take into account why my instinctive side wins. I really can’t promise to myself that I will wake up at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning, that I will be meditating for half an hour, that I will go running in the park, that I’ll do 20 squats, or that I’ll be drinking 10 glasses of water each morning.
Doing things like that is something I can only be dreaming of….Hah!
So it’s far better to set only small goals for yourself. Just set some goals that your mind can say YES to, even your instinctive mind. To give you an example, just set your goal for tomorrow like this: tomorrow I’ll drink 2 glasses of water when I wake up. I will jump 10 times, and I will spend only five minutes on breathing mindfully. Make it practical and feasible!
Scale It Up Steadily (But Slow)
It makes thing a lot easier if you will slowly increase your exercises. Go from 10 jumps to 15, drink your 10 glasses of water not just in the morning, but through the entire day, and go for a run in the park when you get back from the office instead of in the morning – yet).
When you will take these small steps, one at a time, you will start feeling better about yourself. You’ll see that your instinctive side starts getting more positive and that it will eventually change. The whole idea is that you can use just a little willpower when you start, allowing your instinctive mind to adjust and build up positive evidence. The next time, your mind won’t find the exercises difficult or painful.