How to Trick Your Brain Into Accomplishing Anything
Change is hard. Psychologically, we are hardwired to resist change. We are comfortable in the familiar, even if we know that it is not good for us. Bad boss, unhealthy eating habits, emotionally draining relationship – it doesn’t even matter if we know the “change” we need is a necessary one.
Familiar, you see, is also safe. We know what to expect, and how to act or react around it. Change, on the other hand, is threatening and our brain reacts by going into panic mode and resisting change.
Now, when we set up goals in our life, we have a tendency to make lofty goals to accomplish great things. Just consider your New Year resolutions. Our brain works against us, and hunkers down to stay with what feels comfortable. Change is too scary.
The Secret to Successful Change
In order to reach our goals (yes, every goal!) we have to fool our brain into not recognizing that anything is changing. Change therefore needs to be so minuscule that our brain does not feel threatened and comes along for the ride.
A way to do this is through a practice known as Kaizen which is based on a Japanese management principle. Although originally meant for organizational change, we can also adapt it to help us in our personal change plan.
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One of the features of Kaizen is that results come from many tiny changes over time – these tiny changes accumulate into big changes.
The idea is that rather than setting the goal, for example, to walk 30 minutes on the treadmill, we break it down into baby steps.
Instead we can tell ourselves that we will walk for 10 minutes. Ten minutes ?? Really that seems silly. Come on, 10 minutes is really nothing – that isn’t really a change – anyone can do that! No big deal.
Now you see how we are, in fact, just breaking down the challenge and speaking to ourselves in a more manageable way.
Our brain is comforted because we are not asking for a huge change – we are only asking for 10 minutes. We trick our brain because once it is comfortable with 10 minutes we can add 5 minutes like this: Five minutes ?? really, that seems silly. Come on, 5 minutes is really nothing – that isn’t really a change – anyone can do that! No big deal. And so on….
This method is far more effective than outlining big goals that we don’t accomplish and then we are left with nothing. Instead by making tiny impracticable changes over time we are able to make significant changes and stick to them.
How will you break down a big goal you have to make it more achievable?
Dr. Ines K. Roe has been helping women in transition rediscover themselves for over 20 years. If you’ve been feeling unfulfilled, are frustrated with your sense of accomplishment in midlife, or simply need guidance on your path to holistic well being, join her ecourses.
I’m pretty sure that’s the idea behind one day at a time. Which I’d like to master with eating. So maybe one day is too long!
Great suggestion and great timing. I know there are more than a few of us who have already slacked off a bit on those New Year’s goals. Slow and steady wins the race for sure.
When I worked in corporate change management we used Kaizen philosophy. Those initiatives that worked took small, well defined, manageable bites. Great way to take on big things (like cultural and philosophical shifts) and make them work!
Sometimes, especially when life is spinning in the wrong direction, however, our brains need to be shaken up and need to know we are doing it! Two very distinct sides to that coin Ines! Great post and suggestions!
This makes so much sense and it’s why when I just went back to Jenny Craig we decided to start with a smaller goal of losing 15 pounds rather than the overwhelming 30 I really need to lose.
My brain is totally a sucker for this way of thinking. I can manage almost anything if it is in small doses.
Thank you, I’m going to give this a try. I was going to get on the treadmill for 30 minutes today but, 10 minutes seems so much easier!
Is that why they say good things, come in small packages?