If you’re looking to create healthy habits or wanting to learn how to stop giving in to your unhealthy habits (procrastination, negative self-talk, overeating, hitting the snooze button instead of going to the gym, over drinking or spending too much) then I’m about to share with you the first thing you need to pay attention to before you begin.
Now, I’m sure you’ve felt that pit in your stomach, that sense of let down, that arises from weeks, months or decades of self-sabotaging behavior.
Self-sabotage is knowing what you WANT to do, but doing the opposite…or occasionally doing what you say you want, but never doing it consistently.
Occasionally, but not consistently, doing what you say you want can be one of the most crazy-making ways to erode self-trust, self-confidence and have you pissed at yourself.
Doing what you want occasionally shows you DO want the result you’re after. But, you blame yourself for lacking the willpower or motivation when you can’t make yourself do it. I’m here to explain why neither are to blame and what you need to start with if you want your new habit to really stick.
First, let’s look at where this one-step-forward-two-steps-backward behavior comes from and how to eliminate self-sabotage for good so you can become that self-disciplined person you aspire to be.
The Invisible Link Between Habits and Self-Confidence
It’s easy to see how letting yourself down once in awhile can be a little disappointing. However, self-sabotage left unattended will fester and abscess eventually developing into anger, frustration, helplessness, and even hopelessness. (…and you wonder where that negative self-talk comes from?!)
It’s my experience that when you’re out of integrity with yourself – meaning you’re not keeping your word to yourself when you say you’re going to exercise, get up earlier, or go to bed earlier – you erode your inner trust with your Self.
You wouldn’t have a relationship with someone for very long if they let you down all the time. You couldn’t trust them! How much would you respect, appreciate or want to take care of them? Not much.
The relationship with your Self is the most important one you have. If you don’t keep your word with yourself eventually you’ll lose self-trust – and that is the foundation of inner confidence.
If you know you can trust yourself, just like you can trust another person, you can have confidence in what you say, what you’ll do. This is the convergence of maintaining healthy habits, self-trust and self-confidence. You can’t have one without the others.
If you are suffering from a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem, it’s likely you struggle to maintain healthy habits.
You’re about to learn the way to create healthy habits that last. This will have you keeping your word to yourself and rebuilding inner self-trust.
Your self-confidence and self-esteem will skyrocket.
Turning Self-Sabotage Into Success
I’m blessed I get to work with a lot of very successful people; people who are usually incredibly disciplined in some areas of their life. Yet even people who are succeeding in one, or a few areas of life, can have those areas where they can’t seem to get themselves to commit to healthy habits.
Why is that?
Then we all know, or have heard of, someone with incredible discipline muscles. They get up at 4:30 a.m., run five miles, meditate and plan their day, and then drink a kale and protein shake before 7am. They get themselves to do the hard things that we don’t all seem to be able to do. They never waste time, and their accomplishments are often astonishing.
How do they do it!? Are they anomalies…or can we all learn to live this way?
Listen to me…you can be, do or have whatever you’re willing to commit to.
Now, you may not want to have those specific things in your life – I totally get it.
But, couldn’t you use the superpower of self-discipline to get you to follow through on your personal commitments? Everything you want will be as a result of you being in integrity with yourself…your inner happiness relies on you keeping your promises to yourself.
Before diving into how to instill habits that last and being more self-disciplined, you need to understand why you’re getting the results you have today. It’s important you know what’s not working and why.
Let’s look at what’s driving your decisions, your behaviors and ultimately, creating the results you have in your life.
Your Mind’s Habit Director: The Pain and Pleasure Principle
The Pain Pleasure Principle, in a nutshell, says that people are inherently motivated to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. Pretty straightforward concept.
What I will point out is that you have unique specifications of what pain and pleasure are to you. Allow me to explain with a brief example…
Consider the meditation master who’s sat in stillness and silence for 20 minutes a day for 20 years would likely tell you it brings her great pleasure. Now compare that to the go-getter who cringes at the idea of being alone for 20 minutes, let alone sitting still or in silence that long; daily meditation equals pain and suffering to the go-getter. Consider…what is painful to you could be perceived as pleasurable to someone else…and vice versa.
Suffice it to say each of us have criteria we’ve stored in our mind based upon a lifetime of painful and pleasurable experiences, stories and memories.
“The pain-pleasure principle lies at the core of everything you do, and of everything you are. Your beliefs, values and psychological rules are all built upon this principle. The decisions you make, the actions you take, and the habits you indulge in, are all based on this principle…You are therefore who you are today because of how you have interpreted and acted upon the experience of pain and pleasure in your life.” – IQ Matrix
The underlying message I want you to understand is that what you’re motivated to do or not do is based on what you’ve linked pain and pleasure to in your mind.
Do you see it?
…and that’s it!?
Ok, time to learn how to use this concept.
Get Leverage With Pain and Pleasure to Develop Healthy Habits
As a habit specialist, I often see people struggle when they try to motivate themselves, or use mere willpower, to stop hitting snooze, to avoid eating sugar, or to pause and take a break (yes, taking breaks are habits – they’re tied to self-care and some people have linked up pain to taking breaks! Shocking…I know).
By now you already know from studying habits – or merely experiencing it in your life – willpower doesn’t work. Relying on your willpower to change behavior alone is futile.
When you’re trying to change your behavior you’ve got to look beneath the strategies, actions and behavior. The underlying beliefs, images, memories – the things you’re linking pain and pleasure to in your mind will determine the feelings and the resulting actions you take (or don’t take).
Whether you’re fat, sick, or broke – those are merely effects. You cannot transform an effect until and unless you deal with the cause(s) behind it.
The main reason you end up procrastinating with your health and fitness goals, saving or investing your money, or having better relationships is this…
At some level, you believe that taking action at this moment would be more painful than just putting it off.
Think about it…when was the last time you put something off for so long that suddenly you felt pressured to just do it? Suddenly, you just did it and got it done.
You did it because the perceived pain of not doing it got too big. You suddenly found the motivation. How did you do it?!
This is where your mind runs a mental Return on Investment (ROI) scenario. Your mind weighs the costs (or consequences) and benefits (or pleasures) of taking or not taking action in the moment.
Let’s go a little further into where this comes from.
The Cost-Benefit Analysis of New Habits (The ROI of Change)
What happened in those situations when you were able to take a task you were delaying for so long but finally sat your butt down and got it done?
The Return on Investment scales shifted in your mind.
You re-evaluated what you linked pain and pleasure to. Suddenly, not taking action became more painful than putting it off.
Imagine putting off paying your taxes until next week…and the next week…and now it’s April 14th. What do you do? You get it done!
Or you get a painful medical diagnosis…and, after the shock subsides, you’re online buying running shoes, shopping for organic veggies, and joining the local gym that afternoon.
Or you have an intense conversation with your beloved and in a heartbeat you’re setting aside the phone, putting away the laptop and planning date nights.
The perceived pain or consequences of putting it off became greater than the pain of getting yourself to do it. That’s true leverage.
The Types of Cost-Benefits in Your Mind
As a pain/pleasure motivated creature, there is also the factor of time that plays a part in your decision making. With time, there are four factors you’re weighing with each decision:
- Short-term pain.
- Short-term pleasure.
- Long-term pain.
- Long-term pleasure.
In addition to these four, keep in mind there will be varying degrees of intensity of pain and pleasure ranging from low to high. The higher the intensity of pleasure or pain you perceive, the more of an influence it will have on the decision you are about to make. On the other hand, the lower the intensity of the pain and pleasure the less of an impact it will have on your decision-making process.
To help you see how you’ve already used this in your life, think about something you’ve accomplished or completed that was very meaningful or important to you – it had a big payoff. It didn’t come easily, or took a long time to achieve, but you eventually completed it.
When you were considering going for that achievement did you initially perceive there would be less or more intense pain along the way? How did the time and intensity of the pain weigh into your decision to pursue that big or long-term goal?
You formed a picture or imagined the pleasure of achieving it and surmised it was worth the effort…so you did it!
Pain and Pleasure – They’re Not Equally Motivating
One thing research has found is that people will do a lot more to avoid pain than to pursue pleasure. We are pain-avoiding creatures by nature.
But here’s the thing – we don’t move away from real pain. We move away from what we believe will create pain…and that’s based upon something we made up, long ago experienced or someone told us may lead to pain. We don’t really know!
Pain to the mind can be motivating, yet people will often tolerate a lot of pain before they’re willing to make a committed change.
My experience has shown me that most people must reach their “ENOUGH” moment. The “Enough Moment” is when they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired; they’re not going to tolerate whatever they’ve tolerated up to that point.
They finally make the pain in their mind of not doing something so great they are motivated to do something about it. The pain of avoiding now becomes their driver.
Malcolm Gladwell refers to this as The Harajuku Moment; a moment in time where you have a revelation that this must happen now…and fast. In other words, it is the exact moment in life when you decide to do something and drastically change your life.
That moment when you realize that the pain of staying the same (fat, sick and unhealthy) is greater than the pain of changing (eating healthy, exercising more, sleeping better). In your enough moment you link up in your mind and create the motivation to finally commit to create lasting changes in your health and fitness levels like never before.
Hack Your Brain to Become Self-Disciplined
Are you wanting more self-discipline? Remember where we started this article…those people who have instilled the daily rituals and behaviors that lead to the results you want? Here’s what they’ve done to build the self-discipline habits…and you can, too.
In your subconscious mind and nervous system you’ve linked up some positive and some negative associations to the things you want. You may have inadvertently created some mixed messages of pain and pleasure signals competing in your mind; this often leads to self-sabotage.
You want it, but can’t be consistent to follow through. You really want to change, but darn it you keep doing that thing!
The amount of pain and pleasure your brain derives from each routine or behavior helps it to select what will end up as a habit and what it will keep resisting to not form a habit. The routines we’ve linked up enough pleasure to and enough avoidance of pain if we don’t do them is what we do on a consistent basis…and ends up creating a habit.
It’s that simple. And yet it still takes work in the form of repetition to retrain your brain. You’ve got to spend time building new associations in your mind and nervous system. And know that it’s not 21 days for new habits to form – it’s more like 60 days. This is where hypnotherapy is really effective as a faster way to rewire the subconscious mind.
Emotional Eating Habit Example
Emotional eating can become an unwanted habit when you link up positive, or pleasurable, emotional rewards to certain foods. For example, every time you complete the habit loop of rewarding the brain/body with forbidden foods when you feel lonely, tired, bored you’re building links in your mind. You’re training your brain that food gives you pleasure and that feels a lot better (at least in the short term) than those negative emotions. You reinforce it even more rapidly when you reward the body/brain with sugary, carb-heavy, processed foods because they’re so addictive.
We’ve all been there and now you know what’s behind your mental programming. Let’s look at how this could look.
Empowering New Habits Process – Breaking Down and Rewiring New
The key to becoming more self-disciplined is ultimately linking up in your mind massive pain to NOT changing. For this to work, you want to spend time really stirring up the pain. Below I’ve put together a few of the questions you want to ask yourself as you kick-start reframing your unhealthy habits and reprogramming new ones.
You start with getting real with yourself about the costs, the negative consequences of your actions…or inactions. You’re looking to trigger your own personal ENOUGH(!) moment. Be honest and answer the following:
- What limiting behaviors, actions (or non-actions) are holding you back?
- What are the thoughts, questions, emotions and beliefs tied to these non-supportive habits?
- What are these behaviors costing you? Physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Financially? Spiritually?
- What are you missing out on as a result of indulging in this behavior (or not taking action)?
- What has this behavior cost you in the past or over your lifetime?
- What specifically must change? Why do you want that and what pleasure, massive pleasure, can you link to it?
- What limiting behaviors, actions (or non-actions) are holding you back?
- What regrets do you have as a result of this behavior?
- If you’re honest with yourself how is this behavior causing you massive pain in your life?
- What will you miss out on, suffer, lose, or not have over the next five years if you continue to indulge in this behavior?
Now take a moment to consider what you’re doing from a slightly different angle by asking yourself:
- What are some of the positive consequences you derived from indulging in this unhelpful behavior?
This alternative perspective gives you a glimpse at the underlying motivations of your old behavior. All behavior has a positive intent.
Once you’ve stirred up the negative inside your mind and nervous system, you’re really feeling the consequences…the yuckiness, the sadness, the disgust, the losses are so great…then on to the next step.
Looking back at all the pain, the suffering, the negative and even underlying motivation…it’s time to burn that into the brain.
Say to yourself…
“ENOUGH! I won’t stand for this ANY longer.
This must change now!
I must change this now!
I can change this now!”
Now lean in the direction of building massive pleasure to what you want instead. It’s time to choose a new behavior that is aligned with your goals.
Here are some questions to get you thinking and exploring::
- What if you already achieved your goal…What actions would you take? How would you behave? How would you define yourself?
- What specifically must change? Why do you want that and what pleasure, massive pleasure, can you link to it?
It’s important you reinforce these new positive associations and remind the mind of all of the negative consequences of not changing…and reinforcing that over and over and over until the mind gets it! Expect it to take a while…the brain learns by repetition.
In those day-by-day moments of decision, those sometimes “weak” moments when you’re triggered (to your old behavior), it’s important to have a mantra or a question to help guide you in the direction you WANT to go.
For example, a question I helped instill through hypnosis with a client who was wanting to make better food choices was to ask herself anytime she ate, “Ultimately, is this taking me closer to or further away from my goals…from my desired outcome?”
When you link massive pain to your unhealthy behaviors or emotional patterns, you will avoid indulging in them at all costs. Reinforced with questions that prompt you to remember what’s ultimately most important to you!
“When it comes to finding peak levels of motivation, it all comes down to how much pain and pleasure you associate to achieving and to not achieving your goal. Therefore if you seek high levels of motivation, then you will need to associate as much short and long-term pleasure as possible to achieve your goal and as much short and long-term pain towards not achieving your goal. You will of course probably need to go through periods of short-term pain along your journey towards that goal, however, this short-term pain should not deter you from your journey if there is enough long-term pleasure associated with achieving your goal, and enough long-term pain associated with not achieving your goal.” IQ Matrix’s super in-depth article on pain and pleasure.
Focusing on the behavior, or the effect, will never lead to lasting habit changes. You’ve got to work at the level of belief, the cause behind the behavior described above, that lies within the subconscious mind where your behavior patterns arise from.
Change your thoughts, change your underlying thinking, change what you link pain and pleasure to and you’ll much more effortlessly get yourself to bed on time, choose healthier foods, and take a break from work.
Changing habits isn’t always easy on your own. You’ll only know for sure how good life can be if you’re willing to do something to get started.
Take the first step now…and sign up for your free phone consultation for a hypnotherapy coaching session today. Let me help you make those changes!