Welcome to Episode 4 of The State of You podcast! I am Bindi – thank you for joining me.
In Episode 4 we look at breaking bad habits and creating the change you want to see in your life.
In this episode I will share with you some steps that you can try yourself to break any habit, or create the change you want to see in your daily life. You will find these steps powerful if you surrender and believe in the process and know that you can control any behaviour – you’re already equipped with what you need to succeed. So if you’re ready, join me in taking these powerful steps to transform old behaviours into new.
If you’ve listened to my previous episodes you would have heard me mention Tony Robbins’ book – Awaken the Giant Within and a term also known as neuro-linguistic programming. I just pulled this very book out of my bookshelf – the very same one that changed my life about 25 years ago. The edges of the pages are worn and discoloured from age. I opened the book and the pages fall to where they willed and it fell on a page I had already folded the corner down on so long ago. Page 112 to be exact – why was that page so important to me then and why so now? It’s where we start to learn about the Science of Neuro-Associative Conditioning or NAC. It’s a step-by-step process that can condition your nervous system to associate pleasure to those things you want to continue to move toward and pain to those things you need to avoid to succeed consistently in your life without constant effort or willpower.
So – to put it simply – it’s our nervous system that is responsible for our feelings and we condition ourselves to have certain neuro-associations that dictate our emotions and behaviour. When we find ourselves in situations where we are bored, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, depressed – we tend to find a way to put an end to these feelings through habits like drinking, smoking, shopping, gambling, sex or even abusive behaviour. Until we can link pain to old limiting habits and behaviours and pleasure to new alternative ones, we will remain with any existing conditioning we have. But it’s more than just these neuro-associations we need to create lasting change – we also need to have a shift in beliefs. You need to have the belief that if you’re going to create change quickly is that you can change now. Have you noticed when some people change, it’s almost instant – just like the issue they created was also in an instant.
You also have to believe that you are responsible for your own change – not anybody else – it’s all you – 100%. You must believe that something has to change, and that you must change it and that you can change it – you are the key driver for your change.
As humans, we have a pretty amazing brain that we don’t always fully utilise. I know you’re thinking – Yeah right Bindi – there are some total numbskulls around! No – what I mean is that so much powerful processing happens behind the scenes in your brain that you aren’t even aware of most of the time. Any time we go through something really painful or something really amazing, our brains try to find a cause for it and record it in our nervous system to equip us to do better next time and make decisions about what to do in the future. Your brain looks for something unique, for something that seems to be happening simultaneously and also consistently. Over time when we feel enough pain or pleasure, we tend to generalise the consistency and become a bit predictable in the way we behave or react.
Like any science experiment, the wires can get crossed in mixed neuro-associations which end up a lot like self-sabotage. If your brain can’t find the clear path to what it thinks is pain or pleasure, it will go into overload and your decision making goes out the window. If you have very strong negative associations toward something you want more of in your life, it can outweigh your ability to take the actions you need to succeed. If you reach a point where you feel like you will experience pain no matter which path you choose you become stuck in a pain-pain barrier. This is when we often think the path of least resistance might be the best option, but it also ultimately leads to pain. It’s important to not let this overwhelm you or to become helpless at this point – try the six steps of NAC to break the circuit and create a new pattern.
NAC Step 1 – Decide what you really want and what’s preventing you from having it now.
Let me just repeat this for clarity – focus on what you do want – not what you don’t want – because the more you focus on what you don’t want – guess what? – you’ll get more of it! Be as specific as you can with this goal – it will give you the clarity you need to create that positive association to move toward. Be honest with yourself in what is holding you back or preventing you from having what you really want right now. Will you experience pain in making a change or will it be more painful to stay where you are?
NAC Step 2 – Get Leverage – Associate Massive Pain to Not Changing Now and Massive Pleasure to the Experience of Changing Now!
You know you really want to change, but you can seem to get yourself to do it. Everyone is capable of change, but not all are motivated to do so. The way we create that motivation is by creating a sense of urgency that is so extreme, you have to follow through no matter what. Smoking is a classic example of this – although I think there has been a massive paradigm shift in this in recent years – you often used to hear people say I really need to quit smoking – I don’t want to die of cancer – but I really enjoy it – the way it makes me relax. This is mixed emotions here – hello death versus chilling out – which one do you think is more urgent? One day you reach a breaking point where your decision is immediate, it’s urgent – because the pain of what you are experiencing cannot go on and its greater than your fear of the unknown ahead. You find yourself saying things like – I can’t live like this anymore or I’ve had enough – something has to change. Ever found yourself saying that in a relationship? The same principles apply.
This is where leverage comes in – we need to lift this burden that we have found so unmanageable. If you have tried time and again to make change but keep slipping back and failing – it means the level of pain for failing to change is not strong enough. There’s a story about a woman in America who kept promising to go on a diet with her friend and lose weight together but for some reason or another they both kept failing to do so. They didn’t keep their promise, because there wasn’t a strong enough case for them to stick to it. This went on for so long they reached a point where they made a commitment that if they skipped out on that promise again that each of them would have to eat a can of dog food. Sure enough, the pain of having to eat Fido food was just the catalyst they needed to stick to their commitment – both achieving their goal.
The greatest leverage you can make for yourself is the pain you feel within – not on the outside. Understanding that you haven’t lived up to your own standards can be the greatest pain in your life. It’s in our best interests as humans to protect our own identity and who wants to be a walking contradiction? The pressure we place on ourselves is far greater than that of any outside force – pushing the change from within. To get the leverage you need, you need to ask yourself pain-inducing questions. What are the consequences if I don’t make this change now? What will it cost me mentally, physically, emotionally, financially or spiritually? Make that pain so intense, there is no other option in your mind but to change. Visualise it, feel it, push it as far away from you as you can – because this is something you are saying goodbye to right now.
On the other hand, you also have to ask yourself pleasure-inducing questions. If I change how will I feel about myself? What other things would I be able to do if I make this change? What will this change mean to my health and my future? Feel those endorphins? I hope you do. Picture where you will be in the future having made this change and what opportunities it will open you up to. Know that you’ll be filled with so much happiness, health, and joy in making this decision. Focus on it, bring it closer to you because this is now what you are pulling yourself toward.
NAC Step 3 – Interrupt the Limiting Pattern
Creatures of habit tend to have patterns of behaviour that limit them from breaking that habit. And just like the grooves in a record never change, giving you the same sound each time, if you scratch those grooves and scramble their pattern, they’ll never sound the same again. The same is with your memories or associations with a behaviour or event. If you have a situation that makes you feel mad, upset, frustrated or angry, follow the first two steps of NAC. Change your association with it, give yourself leverage – if you don’t change, how will you feel?
Now you need to scramble the pattern – see the situation as a movie in your head – just watch but don’t get upset or react. Take that same situation and turn it into a cartoon – use whatever characters work for you, do it over a few times. Think about that situation now – how do you feel? Why does this work? Basically, because all our feelings are based on images we focus on in our minds and the sounds and sensations we link to those images.
NAC Step 4 – Create a New, Empowering Alternative
The failure by most people to find an alternative way of getting out of pain and into the feelings of pleasure is the main reason most people’s attempts at change are temporary. Once you have clarity on what you want and what was holding you back from having it, you’ve got your leverage, you’ve scrambled the pattern, but now you need to fill the gap with an alternative that will give you the same pleasurable feelings without any negative impacts. There are several ways you can find this alternative and that can be through the help of a professional, it could be doing the things you should have been doing in replacement of the old limiting behaviour – such as exercising and eating well or helping others or working on a business plan. If you are truly stumped, you can simply find the answers by modelling people who have turned things around for themselves. Do what they did – there’s a great chance they had alternatives to replace old behaviours.
There’s research around drug addiction that shows external pressure rarely has lasting impact and that taking on a replacement behaviour will play the major role in your life.
For me, my addiction wasn’t drugs – I often self-medicated with food or alcohol and as soon as I replaced those old harmful behaviours with alternatives that were healthy, organic, gluten-free, grass-fed, free-range, sugar-free – not only did I feel a million times better, they became what I craved and wanted to learn more about. It’s playing a big role in my life and my weekend habits are now more around finding great organic goodies whilst growing my own organic produce, rather than heading to the bottle-o. People often say to me how to do you do it – how do you quit sugar – I love it so much – I am like well sugar didn’t love me so we had to say goodbye and I don’t miss it – you become accustomed to not liking the taste of it anymore and savouring much more flavour in other things.
NAC Step 5 – Condition the New Pattern Until it’s Consistent
The simplest way to condition something is to do it over and over again until a neurological way is created. Imagine that new alternative and doing that until you get out of pain into feeling pleasure quickly. Your brain will associate this as a new way of getting a result on a consistent basis. Your brain can’t tell the difference between something you imagine and something you actually experience. By conditioning, you clear the way to automatically travel along the new path.
You also need to reinforce this new behaviour by rewarding yourself for succeeding. Set a series of milestones for yourself and make sure you reward yourself for doing well. This doesn’t mean a binge is a reward – your reward must be a positive support for you on your path. It can be as simple as saying to yourself – I am so proud of you – well done and recognising that. I hate to connect the dots but have you noticed that when training a dog it’s positive reinforcement training – usually with a treat or reward? This is no different – any pattern of emotion or behaviour that is continually reinforced will become an automatic and conditioned response. Reinforcement is responding to a behaviour immediately after it occurs, while punishment and reward may occur long afterward. Just like training a dog right?! Timing is everything here.
It’s important to ensure you schedule reinforcement but not to a point of fostering complacency. The most important thing to remember is to reinforce the desired behaviour immediately. Reinforcement and conditioning is the key to long term change – without a reinforced pattern – it will disappear.
NAC Step 6 – Test it!
The last step is to test it will work in the future.
Are you clear about what you want and why you want it?
Make the commitment you need to get the leverage on yourself.
Interrupt your pattern
Make sure pain is fully associated with the old pattern
Make sure pleasure is fully associated with the new pattern
Align with your values, beliefs and rules
Make sure the benefits of the old pattern have been maintained
Imagine yourself behaving in the new way in the future
Even if you just do the first 3 steps of NAC – you will definitely get the change you want – once you have that the leverage and interrupted pattern will be enough to look at things in a new way.
NAC techniques have been incredibly helpful for me throughout my life. Once you have mastered associating pain with old patterns, it becomes a lot easier. I often find it helps to think of how awful you used to feel under the old behaviours and imagined watching myself on camera in everything I did. It quick snapped me out of some habits I am now glad to be free of.
I hope episode 4 has helped you to think about grabbing life by the reigns and breaking some bad habits today – or creating the change you want to see in your life.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to episode 4 – if you would like to share your story, please visit my website at www.thestateofyoupodcast.com and send me an email.
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