How to easily and smoothly train your brain into a new habit
One of the things I’m asked most often when coaching is how clients can develop and sustain new, healthy habits rather than the old ones they want to change.
There is no doubt that changing a behaviour can take time and effort. One of my favourite ways to understand this is the Conscious Competence Ladder. There are many versions of this, with one of the earliest being documented by Martin M Broadwell in February 1969. When making behaviour change, this is the process;
- First, you are an unconscious incompetent (you don’t know that you need to change a behaviour).
- Through awareness (possibly through coaching) you become a conscious incompetent (you become aware that behaviour change is necessary but you’re still performing the ‘old’ behaviour).
- Having identified which behaviour you’d rather do instead you become a conscious competent (you can do the new behaviour but you have to keep practising as it’s not yet automatic).
- And finally, having practised, you become an unconscious competent (you no longer need to practice as your new behaviour is automatic).
There are many ways that you can work your way successfully towards your goal. Here are some to try:
Practice frequently - bring your mind to it every day until it becomes automatic.
Start simple - change small things and you’ll be buoyed by your success.
Make it easy - if you’re changing to a behaviour you don’t like, it’ll be really difficult to make it stick.
Check the ecology - this means that you need to make sure that the context for change is good. For example, if you want to lose weight but stock your cupboards with yummy treats, you’re making it harder for yourself.
Find a buddy - this helps you to stay accountable and gives you someone who will encourage you to maintain your progress.
Mind your language - if your new habit isn’t yet automatic tell yourself that you haven’t made it...YET!
Remember, there’s no such thing as failure - only feedback about whether a strategy has worked or not.
Using a ‘swish' technique - imagine yourself doing the behaviour you want to change. Then, imagine yourself doing your new behaviour. When you’re clear on your new behaviour, go back to old behaviour, and 'swish' it to one side, replacing it with your new behaviour. Do this several times.
Replace the loss - if losing your old behaviour will leave you with a gap, make sure you replace it with something pleasurable to stop the temptation to go back to it.
Of course, a good coach is an expert in supporting you through this process and can make life change smooth and easy. And, using NLP is one of the most effective ways of quickly reprogramming your brain.