Here’s an important question (or 3): What is the one behavior you are struggling with most lately?
What one behavior in your life would you most like to change?
What one behavior do you feel is contributing the most to negative thoughts and feelings?
I’ll give you few seconds to think…
1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand…
OK, got it?
It’s important that you are clear on your biggest behavioral challenge right now so that you can relate what I’m about to tell you to your own situation.
Over the next, maybe…5 to 7 minutes… I’m going to share a personal experience illustrating a simple method for changing your behaviors in any area of life.
But first, some discussion is in order about the root cause of your behaviors.
Your behaviors are a direct result of your feelings which are a direct result of your thoughts which are to a great degree produced and influenced by your deeply held subconscious beliefs.
Our tendency is to forget that this is how it works…
…So we find ourselves thrashing around trying to change our behaviors through willpower and self-discipline.
But our willpower is like a tiny ant compared to the powerhouse mammoth of our subconscious beliefs, and it just gets trampled over.
We simply cannot permanently ‘will’ ourselves to change a behavior that our subconscious mind is committed to carrying out. It’s not even a contest.
So we fail!
Then we feel super discouraged because usually once we fail enough times, our entire inner herd of dirty, grimy thought pigs breaks down the fence around their mud pit and starts running rampant all over the beautiful, once-peaceful flower gardens of our mind — spewing forth stuff like this: “I’m not good enough to get over this. I’m flawed. I’m weak. I’m out of control. I can’t control myself. Am I going crazy? What’s wrong with me?…blah, blah blah.”
You know the drill.
Then we find ourselves in that perfect spiral vortex heading straight into the pit of negativity as we grasp for anything outside of ourselves to help soothe the pain…to no avail.
If not, you’re either in denial or you’ve never tried to improve any of your behaviors before. I’m going to assume neither of those are likely…so I’ll trust you’re still tracking with me.
The problem is, even though we sense that we are our own worst enemy and we’re fighting against ourself, we can’t quite see how, and usually we don’t know what to do about that (or we can’t remember).
Well, here’s the deal: The best thing we can do to effectively change our behavior has nothing to do with the behavior itself.
It has everything to do with the root cause of all of our behaviors: Our subconscious beliefs.
Remember how it works? Let me simplify it so you can see it easier:
Subconscious beliefs influence Thoughts.
Thoughts create Feelings.
Feelings produce Behaviors.
Behaviors reinforce Subconscious Beliefs
And so the cycle goes. That’s why we get into vicious cycles or virtuous cycles.
But if we want to change the cycle from vicious to virtuous…where do we start?
The best place to start is using conscious thought to change subconscious beliefs.
But our temptation, and natural inclination, is to use motivation to attempt to fix our situation.
But here’s the critical part: We need avoid focusing on external change and focus instead on internal change.
All of us get tripped up on this part at some point.
We get motivated, we feel empowered, so we dive back into that new year’s resolution or that 30-day weight lost challenge! We will make it happen this time!!!
Then we fail!
That’s because we focused on fixing our behavior instead of changing our beliefs.
Just because we’re temporarily motivated and feeling good, doesn’t mean our subconscious beliefs have changed yet.
Here is the action we need to focus on: Re-programming our subconscious beliefs through repeated affirmation.
Our subconscious mind is the big huge mighty invisible mammoth in the room that nobody ever wants to acknowledge…but which will crush and trample over everything that tries to stand in it’s way…
…Or carry those who are riding on it with ease over any obstacle in its path.
The key to changing our behavior is to stop fighting the mammoth, stop trying to avoid it, and instead simply direct it where you want it to go.
Ride the mammoth, don’t fight it.
Are you with me?
If you want a long-term change in your behavior, your subconscious beliefs must change.
And you can either:
A) Do nothing and hope that they somehow just change for the better. (Maybe you’ll get lucky! Your beliefs are being influenced all the time by a lot of factors, but do you really want to leave your life up to chance or hope?)
B) You can take the reins and use your free will and agency to purposely change them yourself.
The best way I know of to change your subconscious beliefs consistently is through repeated affirmation over time.
So here’s my most recent experience with that:
Since my family moved homes last summer, I had slipped back into the habit of eating sugar and refined carbs frequently.
That’s not a behavior that does well for me for many reasons. But the most easy to explain are that it produces mouth pain, inflammation, and gas…
…None of which I like.
But unfortunately I found myself feeling more and more controlled by sugar and carbs and eating them more and more.
Which reinforced subconscious beliefs of lack of control and weakness, which led to negative thoughts, which produced bad feelings, which encouraged eating more sugar. You see the cycle right?
It always works that way. I was in the ‘vicious’ version of the cycle.
I found myself breaking out of the cycle consistently through all of my other positive habits (See the Truly Amazing Life Habits checklist).
I would get back to feeling centered, forgiven, loved, and feeling wonderful again, and I would have highly productive periods.
But inevitably my body would want to eat food again. Weird I know. It’s this pesky habit I have.
And soon enough I would find myself eating sugar, even though there were plenty of other healthy options.
And I’d be starting my way back into the negative cycle.
For some reason it took me quite a while to remember to do the simple process of using affirmations of truth to change my subconscious beliefs in this one area.
I had slipped into trying to force a change of behavior on myself. And it was working exactly as you would expect it too…not at all!
But a couple weeks ago I was talking to a close friend about his challenges with exercise, diet, and weight loss.
He has had a goal for over two years to lose 40 pounds, but still had not made any sustained progress on this goal.
He is a super smart, successful business man and wonderful father who has accomplished a ton of other amazing things in that time period. But getting into a healthier lifestyle was his main goal, and so far he had made no progress.
As you can imagine, he was dealing with a lot of negative thoughts and feelings about himself in this area, which were negatively impacting his quality of life.
It quickly became clear to me that the reason he continued to struggle was because he kept focusing on trying to force his behaviors instead of changing his beliefs.
At one point in the conversation he said something that really jumped out at me so I wrote it down: “I am horrible at systematically accomplishing things on a daily basis.”
I said, “Whoa, hold on! Did you hear what you just said?”
“Do you see how that deeply rooted belief is in direct conflict with your goal to workout and eat healthy every single day?”
Then I told him how he could change his beliefs using repeated affirmations.
Such as telling himself the opposite for example: “I am amazing at systematically accomplishing things on a daily basis.”
Seeing that his challenge was rooted in his beliefs was the reminder I needed personally that the simple solution to my challenge was exactly the same: Change my beliefs.
But even still, I personally resisted doing it for a few days. I was ‘too busy’ to stop and write down my thoughts.
Finally I wrote down five statements that I felt would be important for me to believe and remember each day: 2 of them about the negative consequences for me and then 3 positive statements.
Contrary to popular belief, not all affirmations should be positive.
Repeating the truth about potentially negative and painful consequences can often have even greater impact on our behavior than remembering the positive truths.
That’s because part of our brain is designed to flee pain at all costs.
So it’s important to frequently remember the painful, truthful realities — because we will tend to avoid thinking about them. Hiding from the truth is not helpful though.
Statements about negative or painful outcomes motivate one part of our brain, while positive thoughts motivate a completely different part. See my article on the croc, mouse, and dolphin brains for a refresher on that. It’s really important to understand how our brains work.
So as an example for me, here’s one of the statements of truth reminding me of the pain I would experience if I kept eating sugar:
“Eating sugars and refined carbs leads to inflammation, gas, pain, and eventually disease.”
***Note: My body is highly sensitive to sugar…so those foods are more problematic for me than for many others. Not everyone is impacted the same way by the same foods.
And on the positive side here’s one statement:
“I love myself and my family, therefore I eat high quality, healthy food, no matter the inconvenience.”
Basically, I just wrote down statements that illustrate these two things:
1) What is the negative reality or pain I will experience if I don’t do what I want to do?
2) What is the positive behavior I want, why do I want it, and what are its benefits?
It doesn’t need to be complex or perfect. Just write what you want and do not want and why.
After I wrote those statements I committed to re-writing each of them every single morning and every single night for the next 30 days in a small notebook I keep by my bed.
That very day I felt myself shift out of the victim out-of-control-mode, into feeling good and having very little resistance to eating how I want.
It made a dramatic effect on my behavior and I have felt very little struggle to eat the way I want since I started doing it.
Before that, literally every day for months, I had struggled at least to some degree with eating…or had found myself settling or just giving up on it.
It was a remarkable reminder of the power of subconscious belief.
And more important…the fact that I can use my agency to direct my subconscious beliefs.
Your personal struggle may require more time in re-working the subconscious. Sometimes it takes weeks or months of constant repetition to change long-held subconscious beliefs…
…So please don’t assume this will be an instant fix.
But it’s not complex. We simply need to stick with the simple commitment of re-writing our truthful statements twice daily no matter what…even if we’re tired. We need to get those beliefs deeply embedded in the subconscious as habitual thought patterns, so consistency is key.
Writing them down really forces us to slow down and absorb and own the thoughts. That way we make sure they get deep traction in our brain. Reading them and repeating them out loud is also good, but writing them down repeatedly is the most powerful.
So…how about you? How about that one thing you have been struggling with?
Do you see where you need to focus your effort in order to end the struggle?
If your immediate thought is, “Yes! I can do this, I’m going to go make a workout and diet plan right now!”
That’s not the answer.
Feeling motivated and then jumping right into external fixes is like digging up your entire yard to try to find a pipe-leak that is running up your water bill, when all the while the leak is under the kitchen sink inside your house.
You’ll never find the leak if you keep digging outside.
If you want lasting change, avoid the temptation to change the things outside of yourself first.
Where should your focus be?
Focus on changing your subconscious beliefs.
Your next step is to write down your thoughts and affirmations and commit to repeating them.
When I told my friend the only thing he needed to focus on was fixing his belief…he really struggled to believe me on that.
In fact, he actually said this: “It’s hard to change a false belief just by thinking about it positively.”
And you know what…he’s right! It is harder to do it that way.
It’s much easier to change a subconscious belief by repeating the negative and painful consequences of your current actions, in addition to repeating the positive aspects of what you want to believe.
In any case, he wanted to believe me, but he was partially stuck on the belief that affirmations don’t work or it’s too hard.
So his mind kept persuading him he needed to take action, use his willpower, make a plan, and go ‘make it happen’. He kept talking about his workout plans and how he was going to change his schedule, and everything else he was going to do…
…None of which included: “I’m going to re-write my affirmations twice per day minimum.”
I had to bring him back to it at least four times…because like most of us, his mind had convinced him that he needs to fix the things he can see and touch.
I hope he got the importance of changing his beliefs though…I haven’t heard back from him yet.
And I hope this gives you some hope and clarity on what to do about whatever that one thing is you’re struggling with most.
You can change your subconscious beliefs. It’s simple. Don’t make it out to be hard or complex.
Just write down the painful and positive truthful reminders. Then keep writing those multiple times per day, every single day.
Come let us know how it’s going for you in the TAL Family group. Join the discussion and ask questions if you get stumped on anything.
Make today amazing!
P.S. – Perhaps the biggest obstacle to changing our subconscious beliefs is pinpointing which of our own beliefs are causing our hangups. It can be challenging to see our own beliefs sometimes! If you share your situation with us in the TAL Family group, we can help you narrow in on what’s going on in that crazy awesome head of yours 🙂
Chief Life Lover
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