Celebrate Your Way to Success
Hack Your Brain to Change Your Behavior
For most people, behavior change is something they dread. It's hard to do, they know they will have to sacrifice and deny themselves. They believe they have to summon massive amounts of willpower that's generally unavailable to them For me, thinking about behavior change is fun! (Don't hate me yet!) The more you dive into what you do, your thought patterns and how they connect you to your reality, the more power you realize you hold. Untangling behavior patterns takes work, but it’s well worth the ride.
Two roads lay before you at any moment.
Choose the same thoughts, behaviors, and actions as the day before.
Choose new thoughts, behaviors, and actions from the day before.
Simple, but not easy.
It’s important to realize that you can make new decisions right now that can change the trajectory of your life.
The way you interpret what happens in your life affects all your decision-making. When you are ready for new and more positive thoughts you must be ready to notice what thoughts trigger different emotional responses to your behavior.
So how do you change unwanted behavior?
All positive change comes from within. It requires you to learn about the sequences of your own thought patterns. It requires you to tune into some uncomfortable truths about how you’ve behaved up until now. It requires you to take full responsibility for your life, then you can start to untangle.
But you don’t need to beat yourself up or make yourself bad or wrong for your thoughts or your behaviors.
One of the ways I start my day is through a Kundalini practice. One of the kriyas I practice is the ego eradicator. This is a popular kundalini kriya designed to open you up to your inner power. When done properly it is an intense and powerful movement. It’s done by sitting with a straight spine, closing your eyes, raising your arms up and spreading to a 60 degree angle over your head. This is combined with a breathing technique called “Breath of Fire”, where you use your breath and your stomach like a pump. There are a lot more subtle details involved but this gives you an idea. For three minutes you hold your arms at 60 degrees and perform “Breath of Fire”.
This is the physically hardest part of my day. It’s hell. Or perhaps that’s the story I’m telling myself about it. Our brains don’t like hard things. Knowing this about my brain and the connection to this activity being hard and uncomfortable, become the cues I need to create my Tiny Habit® recipe to begin to untangle the mindset around it.
I can hack my brain before, during, and after to turn a dreaded activity into a positive one.
Discomfort feels uncomfortable so we feel unsuccessful when things don’t feel good. So before I start I do something that feels good, I tell myself ‘yeah, this feels good’ and I feel that way inside. Qigong is a great set up for me. It gets my body moving in a positive way that feels good to me. It warms me up and I feel good while I’m doing it. Then while I’m setting up to do something hard, like ego eradicator, I get excited. Saying to myself ‘I’m doing it! And I’m going to feel so good afterwards. I’m going to celebrate so hard.’ These thoughts go through my head before and during this kriya. After my three minutes are up I celebrate knowing that the three physically hardest minutes of my day are behind me. And I remind myself of how fortunate I am that this is the case.
This is how behavior works. You can let your brain and body know it’s okay by setting it up. This will help you not give up when things get hard.
When you can calm your mind around the uncomfortable, your thoughts don’t go haywire while under stress.
We all want good things to happen to us. We’ve all been in a place where we’ve gotten angry at something someone said or did or the success of another. Knowing more about behavior can help you stop beating yourself up and use those triggers as fuel to identify your own internal work, rather than connect to emotions and behaviors that keep you trapped in patterns that do nothing but harm you.
Taking the steps to design Tiny Habit Recipes around those behaviors can help you not only shift those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors but also design your life in a more health-conscious way.
This is different from goal setting because the work begins the moment you realize a new choice should be made. Instead of running from the uncomfortable feelings, emotions, and activity around it, you lean in.
Here’s an example of a Tiny Habit Recipe for frustration with someone: After I feel frustrated with them, I will take three deep breaths and then speak my response slowly.
You may not be completely frustration free, but this bit of space will allow you more agency over yourself and your response.
This is not easy, so it should be celebrated. We like comfort, so design comfort around the uncomfortable. Find ways to celebrate in the moment. It could be as simple as saying inside your head: Yeah, I did that! I did something different! Maybe you even got a more positive or less challenging response from that person. I bet that made you naturally feel good. Savor that feeling! It’s helping you wire in the habit.
Going back to the hardest 3 minutes of my day, ego eradicator, I use the pumping of my breath to repeat a mantra of encouragement and strength. With every exhale I repeat words of power and focus on my inner power. Celebrating the fact I am persevering. Then when it’s over I lower my hands and raise a glass of celebration in my mind. I did it! Now the rest of my day is a piece of cake. A big giant piece of cake from Brent’s Deli with Handel’s small-batch vanilla ice cream on top!
My focus comes from the celebration of completion. But really the celebration is the way I hack my brain to keep doing what I'm doing and to look forward to doing it again.
This has been one of the many benefits I've found through my involvement with Tiny Habits® and BJ Fogg. His work at Stanford University has been widely celebrated and his book is a New York Times bestseller. He has taken the mystery out of behavior change and breaks it down into components anyone can understand bringing us all a step closer to untangling the mystery behind behaviors that we all struggle to overcome. You can find out more here: Tiny Habits