What a creative and honest video about the journey to achieving our dreams. Like the protagonist in the video, many of us DREAM about living a better version ourselves but get detoured along the way. How many of us can relate to the negative self-talk she experienced along the way and the drain that it placed on her energy level? The self-sabatoging behavior combined with the negative self-talk made achieving the goal virtually impossible. Will power is not enough to counter these powerful forces. However in the last two blog posts, we have been learning a proven 7-step strategy to overcoming these negative behaviors and achieving our goals.
Now we are ready for the next important step in creating permanent change: identify replacement behaviors. These are the actions that we will take INSTEAD of our usual disempowering behaviors. You’ve heard the saying “an empty space is soon filled.” Well it is not enough to simply STOP doing something that is unhelpful to our goals; we must also START doing something that advances us to our desired outcome. If I tell you to stop thinking about pink elephants, that’s all your mind fixates on. However if I tell you to concentrate on describing your mother’s smile, your focus on your mother will block out any distracting thoughts- including pink elephants.
One of the reasons why diets do not work is because they focus people on what they are stoping rather than what they are starting. I worked with a great nutritionist who helped to cure me of my sugar addiction using this principle. Rather than asking me to STOP eating sugar, she told me to eat as much green vegetable and protein as I could. I never felt deprived because I was always eating and I never missed the sugar because my body’s chemistry was reset by the protein and green vegetables. I no longer “craved” sugar.
What you focus on gets magnified. So if you focus on STOPING your disempowering behaviors, their power will grow. Likewise if you focus on STARTING new empowering behaviors, they too will grow. This is the part of the change process where we often experience the most difficulty. We decide that we want to start eating vegetables instead of cake or start getting up early exercise instead of sleeping, but we don’t. So let me share with you the million dollar secret to replacing disempowering behaviors with more empowering ones.
In order to effectively replace a disempowering behavior, the alternative behavior must accomplish two things. First it must be easy and attractive and secondly it must meet the same need as the disempowering behavior. You see why we can’t proceed without doing the work in step 2 of analyzing the disempowering behavior? Our bad habits may not move us toward our goals but they are easy to do and fulfill important needs. Any actions that can effectively replace them MUST have these characteristics as well. So if you want to replace unnhealthy eating habits with more healthy choices, you have to make the healthy options just as EASY and ATTRACTIVE. Telling yourself (or your child) to eat the broccoli just “because it’s good for you” won’t work.
Yet, even if your alternative behavior is easy and attractive, it will not be effectively implemented regularly unless it MEETS THE SAME NEED as the disempowering behavior. Remember the law of positive intent? When we have an unmet need, our brains focus on behaviors that in the past allowed us to meet that need. In order for our alternative behavior to be successful in these situations, the replacement behavior must legitimately fulfill the same need.
So the journey of creating permanent positive change requires serious introspection and creativity. This is the real work of change. Are you ready? Brainstorm at least three possible replacement behaviors for each disempowering behavior you identified in the earlier two posts. Once you have your list, screen the behaviors to see if they meet the criteria for a effective replacement: easy/attractive and fulfills one of the universal needs. Please involve as many people as possible in this brainstorming process so that you can benefit from the collective wisdom of your community. Good luck and I look forward to hearing what you come up with in your process.