Y ou’ve likely had the experience of driving along, perhaps talking to someone, day dreaming, or listening intently to the radio, then suddenly realize that your car is automatically taking you to a familiar place, likely work or home, that you were NOT intending to go. This common experience happens because of the amazingly wonderful, yet sometimes frustrating, power of habit. When you’ve practiced a behavior enough that you perform it automatically or with very little effort, it’s because your brain has developed efficient neural pathways to execute this behavior habitually.
POWER OF HABIT—WONDERFUL & FRUSTRATING
Effortless behavior can be wonderful when it supports your long-term goals since the scarce resources of energy, will power, and focused attention aren’t needed. Yet automatic behaviors, which you execute efficiently without thinking or effort, become frustrating when they block or undermine your longer-term or more significant desires.
POWER OF CONSCIOUS AWARENESS
What’s the antidote to efficient behavior you’d rather not have always controlling your actions? Conscious awareness! You might think of it more readily as focusing or paying attention. With focused attention, you can notice what you’re doing and thinking. This momentary awareness creates an opportunity for you to choose, with intention, the actions that will support your higher aspirations. Of course, using focused attention and choosing actions other than the automatic behavior will require more effort, energy, and maybe even will power.
Distracting yourself from automatic behaviors that are effortless and rewarding in favor of choosing, in the moment, a harder course is FAR more difficult if the harder course is ALSO confusing and uncertain. If that harder, confusing, uncertain path is not linked strongly and clearly with something that matters significantly to you, forget it! High probability you’ll continue on the fast and easy path.
Tried and true yet too easily dismissed: Goals, lists, and intentions! Do these seem boring, pie in the sky, unnecessary, not your style, or worse—you fear they might turn you into a tightly wired robot? Let go of any notion that goals, lists, and intentions make you robotic, stifle your creativity, or structure away your flexibility. They are quite the opposite!
Goals, lists, and intentions become gifts that allow flexibility, nurture creativity, and most importantly, they greatly increase the probability that you’ll get where YOU want to go!
GUIDES FOR THE JOURNEY
Goals, lists, and intentions that you review and reflect upon regularly are powerful tools for creating conscious awareness and combating resistance.
• Treat goals as if they were short-term destinations.
• Treat lists and intentions as directions that guide your actions and allocation of time.
When you create realistic goals, manageable lists, and clear intentions you are mapping a course for your success.
You are creating guideposts for your journey and for course corrections when automatic thinking takes over or when you get off track—a characteristic of being human.
Goals, lists, and intentions are essential tools because we are imperfect and prone to wonder off course. These essential tools counteract the power of habit to derail AND propel the power of habit to save us.
Any time you notice you’re on the fast and easy path to somewhere you don’t want to go, whip out your goals, lists, and intentions. Amazingly you’ll have at your fingertips the destination, directions, and motivation, which YOU created, to pull you along and ease the transition to the harder course, which YOU chose.
Practice this frequently and your brain will develop efficient neural pathways to execute THIS behavior habitually, making the route to success the fast and easy path!
Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash