5 Steps to Changing our Internal Messages
What We Tell Ourselves... About Ourselves
Let’s just say it. Habits are hard.
Good intentions lead to heroic effort, which leads to satisfaction and reward, which leads to repeated success.
Hmm… not always.
Why is that we can get everything in place (a habit behavior outlined, a trigger that will prompt the behavior, a reward that motivates us), complete it once or twice, and then fall away?
Was our reward not big enough? Our trigger not obvious enough?
Maybe. It’s worth looking at both of those factors.
But sometimes, the problem is simply the belief we have about ourselves, and about the actions we take when faced with the discomfort of doing something that is new, painful, energy-draining, or anything else that feels negative.
Often that message is this:
When I don't feel like it, I don't. That’s just who I am.
This message we tell ourselves applies to habits and routines, but also to anything else we find challenging or difficult.
I don’t push through. I’m lazy/cowardly/weak/whatever.
It takes a shift in your mindset to recognize what you are truly saying to yourself. Because the real message is this:
When I don't feel like it, I don't because I simply decide I won't.
That’s honesty. It’s rare that we cannot do the thing we feel we should do. The truth is that we decide that we won’t.
Another realization is in order here. Once we see that we’ve made a decision not to act because we don’t feel like it, the next step is recognize this truth:
When I don't feel like it, I still could, if I were to make myself.
That’s another powerful shift. The recognition that we not only do we have the ability to accomplish something, but that we also have the ability to make ourselves accomplish it.
The next step is a decision. A big one.
When I don't feel like it, I will make myself.
Now we’re taking action. We’re getting somewhere. This is where setting up habits and Habit Chains starts to happen. We have a plan and we are motivated!
The habit trigger, or perhaps the scary opportunity, comes along and we push through, after which we’re able to say…
I didn't feel like it, but I just did it anyway!
Yes! Success! But this is where it gets dangerous. Because while it’s true that we did the thing, we have not necessarily changed the underlying belief about who we are as a person. About what we always do when faced with a challenge.
The last step on the path of change is to get to the place where we can say…
When i don't feel like it, I push through to do it anyway. That’s just who I am.
Most of us cycle through steps one through four over and over again. New plans, new resolutions, new motivation, but never new beliefs.
How do we get to the new belief? By getting through step four over and over and over again.
You’ve heard all the wisdom about how long it takes to ingrain a new habit – some say 21 days, some say 90 – but whatever time you think makes sense, realize that the repetition is not so much about getting that habit on autopilot, or having a successful “streak” of accomplishing it, as it is about retraining your brain to believe that this new behavior is something you always do. That’s it’s your norm. That it’s who you are.
Breaking a “streak” is detrimental not because you’ve reset your autopilot to zero, but because you’ve made it harder to believe this new message about yourself.
And the beautiful thing about changing this message about yourself is that it crosses over to other challenges. If you identify as someone who pushes into discomfort rather than avoiding it, that belief will carry you into a multitude of uncomfortable daily actions as well as big, scary challenges.
When I don’t feel like it, I push through to do it anyway. That’s just who I am.
For help with setting up habits, see the 7-Step Map under the "deeper" link below.
your best next step
go more in-depth with this topic
Create a simple plan for the habits and routines that will keep you healthy in all areas.See the 7-Step Map to Powerful Habits
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Create a daily workflow with habits, your Dream Projects, and all the elements you need for Impactivity.See the Organize Guide