You may have heard that 92% of people who made a New Year Resolution will be wavering or have given up by now. Yes, just 8% will make that leap to change their habits and give birth to a new way of living.
If you are one of the 92% who made an absolute decision to get up earlier to exercise or meditate but now find yourself horrified at the alarm going off, and snuggle back into your warm duvet. Don’t despair! Because so many people have the same experience and now science may be able to explain why change is hard to sustain.’
New research has shown no matter how much you want to change your habits; your brain may scupper your intentions of bettering yourself.
Scientific research is showing the brain prioritizes short-term gain over long-term reward. This isn’t a new idea as in the late 1960s and early ’70s , Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel ran an experiment where he gave 4-year-olds the choice between one snack-treat right away or two in fifteen minutes. Years later, Mischel checked the adult participants in the so-called Marshmallow Test, to see how their lives had panned out. He found that those who had waited did better in life in all sorts of ways. Lasting relationships, better jobs and they scored higher on the ‘happiness’ scale.
Similar experiments by psychologist George Ainslie, showed that pigeons discounted the offer of large portions of grain in favour of smaller amounts they could get immediately.
It might not surprise you to know that humans behave the same way. So when you turn off that alarm in favour of an extra half hour under the duvet rather than going for a run; your brain is favouring the immediate short-term reward rather than the long-term gain of a healthy fit energised self. Somehow, the link between the small action of going for a regular run becomes separated from the reason for doing it.
However, Ainslie noticed a fascinating fact. Pigeons could change their mind and wait for a larger portion if food wasn’t on immediate offer, and both small and large amounts were 8 and 10 seconds into the future. Somehow when both rewards were in the future it was easy to wait for the delayed but larger reward.
Somehow both animal and humans were wired to bypass long term gain if there was an immediate reward. However, when there was no immediate reward it was easier to choose the action that would bring longer term gain. As humans we can use our cognition to change this natural selection process when we clearly identify with all the life changing opportunities and happiness the change in behaviour now will bring in the future.
So how do we use this natural ability? It is a beautiful and simple process.
You have to project yourself to your preferred future and experience all the longed for changes as if they were happening now. In short this means that you use all your senses and visualize that brilliant future. And to use another term – you hypnotise yourself!
Another scientist backed up how important it is to identify with your future. Hal Hershfield showed that when people drew 2 circles – one labeled Future Self and the other was Current Self. Participants who saw the circles as near each other or overlapping were much more likely in tests later to be able to hold off for delayed but greater financial reward.
For nearly 2 decades I have used hypnosis on myself and others to achieve long and lasting change. This new piece of science helps explain why hypnosis has been so powerful in building new ways of acting and thinking.
Become 1 of the 8% who succeed in changing their life: So how do you make sure that when you want to change your habits in order to make life in the future wealthier, more successful, happier, kinder or fitter. The trick to make the future seems as if it is happening now, then your brain will prioritize the bigger gain. You just have to find sneaky ways to bypass the sort term gain preference of your brain. And that is all about repeatedly giving attention to your future life.
5 Tips on how to overcome your brains resistance to new habits
- Create a dream board. Think about that future how it will look and feel. What opportunities will it open up? Where will you go on holiday? What will it mean for your family? Where will you live? What will you wear? What will your relationships be like. Ask yourself these questions then find pictures in magazines that represent those answers. I have a picture on my dream board of a woman standing by an Arga – I’m not bothered about the Arga but the expression on her face is one of quiet contentment and cheekiness. And I really resonate with that. So find those pictures that give you the feeling of how life will be for you too. Put as many or as few pictures and quotes on the board as feels good for you. Then put it in a prominent place so you get to see it every day.
- Day dream. Yes, I am actively encouraging you to ignore what your high school teachers said and day dream for a few minutes every day. Let your mind play with the idea of how life will be in the future you are working towards. Think of the same questions as above and go through what your daily life will be like from the moment you awake to the time when you lay your head on your pillow. Explore that life with your senses and feel the emotions you will feel. The more detail you add in, the more you will overstep the habits that keep you where you are now.
- Act as if that future time has already happened. Once or twice a week, act as if that future were already here. So, if you want greater wealth and you love cocktails and fine dining – go for one delicious cocktail in a posh hotel or bar. You don’t have to have the money to the taxis, meal and treating friends but surround yourself with the environment that is to come. This all adds to convincing your mind to defer short term gain in preference of life long big changes.
- Check your beliefs aren’t sabotaging your progress. Because as Henry Ford said ‘Whether you believe you can or whether you can’t – you’re right.’ So if you believe that you will always fail, find help from a local hypnotherapist or an Emotional Freedom Therapist. Your life as it is right now is the sum of your beliefs, so make sure your beliefs are working for you not against you.
- Take a small step towards your creating your new life every day. One phone call may not get you the job that you want but 30 may! Be steadfast and keep prioritising the small actions that lead to the future change. This is an old quote but it sums this point up. ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,’ and of course the next and the next and the next……….. So when you reach for the snooze button – remember this is just one run that bundled with all the others and together they will bring you fitness and tone back.
Hope this serves you.