We are often inspired to act on something GREAT that we experienced. Then life throws us a curve ball and we are back where we started. One of my personal stumbling blocks is understanding (and following through) what I need to do to live MY best life.
The internal fight is REAL. And what makes it worse is that we are so harsh on ourselves. You may know that I am an avid researcher. The brain fascinates me! In my last interview with Dr Abby Metcalf, we unpack what it means for the unconscious brain to process information at 11 million bits per second. Can you imagine?
Our identities are moulded long before our reasoning and rationality. So, how do we override our reptilian brain and unconscious thinking? And how can we change our self-sabotaging behaviour?
I’m on a quest to change my behaviour and evolve my identity. And I invite you to join me because it starts with simply saying, “I AM…”
- What makes us to stick to our goals, resolutions and dreams?
- We are inspired to act on something great but life happens that throws a curve ball and we are back where we started.
- We beat ourselves up for our failures and we just stop trying.
- Understand how your brain functions.
- Primitive brain – basic reptilian response to survival.
- Pre-frontal cortex – conceptual talents reasoning abilities and good judgment.
- The battle of the brain (parts) – flight, fright or freeze!
- How do we override our reptilian brain and unconscious thinking? Or how can we change our self-sabotaging behaviour?
- Identities are built around many concepts, dynamics and constructs. It is shaped long before your frontal-cortex has matured.
- Consequently, our (subconscious) thinking determines our behaviour.
- I explain the practical steps to change your behaviour and evolve your identity.
- It starts with a simple ‘identity savings’, accountability partners and little bit of (financial) sacrifice.
- It takes 66 days to build a good habit! And it all starts with “I AM”.
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Lisa Linfield: 00:21 Hello, everybody, and welcome to today’s episode of Working Women’s Wealth. One of my many frustrations with myself is knowing what I need to do to live my best life, but not actually being able to do it. It drives me completely nuts. I know I need to give up sugar, that I’m totally addicted to it and that it’s seriously bad for me. I’m fine throughout the day, but it seems to me that I lose it at night. I know I need to wake up early and exercise every single day, but when that alarm goes off, I struggle every single morning with myself. It is a fight inside my head that is seriously real. So I’ve always been interested in answering the question, “What makes us stick to our New Year’s resolutions?” And I don’t mean those that we only make on New Year’s Day. I’m also talking about those resolutions we make after we hear an inspiring speaker who motivates us to change our ways.Lisa Linfield: 00:21 Hello, everybody, and welcome to today’s episode of Working Women’s Wealth. One of my many frustrations with myself is knowing what I need to do to live my best life, but not actually being able to do it. It drives me completely nuts. I know I need to give up sugar, that I’m totally addicted to it and that it’s seriously bad for me. I’m fine throughout the day, but it seems to me that I lose it at night. I know I need to wake up early and exercise every single day, but when that alarm goes off, I struggle every single morning with myself. It is a fight inside my head that is seriously real. So I’ve always been interested in answering the question, “What makes us stick to our New Year’s resolutions?” And I don’t mean those that we only make on New Year’s Day. I’m also talking about those resolutions we make after we hear an inspiring speaker who motivates us to change our ways. We’re all fired up. We know why we need to do it, we know what we need to do and for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, we get it done. And whilst we’re doing it, we feel energized and motivated and full of hope and then life happens and we end up where we started before the resolution. In fact, we often end up worse, and the reason why we end up worse off is that we actually have just chipped away a little weenie bit more of our self-esteem, either because we’ve reinforced our subconscious beliefs or because we actually end up beating ourselves up in our head for being a failure. “You see, you can’t stick to any daily exercise.” “You see, you’re useless. You can’t even give up sugar when you know how bad it makes you feel.” “You see?” And it goes on and on and on if you’re anything like me. For some of us, it’s our health. For some of us, it’s things we need to do about our wealth and for others, it’s things like making daily sales calls. For many small business owners, it’s working on our business instead of in our business because we really love our craft and we actually really prefer to work in our business because we hate the sales and marketing. For many at work, it’s putting in those boundaries that we know we need to do. The ability to say no and not take on everyone else’s junk. So because I struggle with it so much in myself, it’s a question I often ask many of my podcasts guests and it’s something I actually read up a lot about. Over the last few weeks. I’ve had an epiphany that I wanted to share with you and it starts with understanding how our brains work. As an analyst and a scientist, I find it far easier to do things if I understand why something happens and then that’ll give me a model that helps me sort out my thoughts as to how I can change it. After that, I need to create for myself a step-by-step plan. So the first step is to understand why we don’t make the changes we know we need to make. And it turns out that it comes down to the workings of the physical brain. The thing we have in common with most animals is our primitive brain. It’s the lower part of our brain that helps us to function. Our breathing, our need to eat, our need to reproduce as a species and our safety and protection are all managed by this lower, more primitive brain. Many of the functions we have there are common even to reptiles who also need to breathe, reproduce, and protect themselves through the instincts of fight or flight, and often this lower brain is referred to as our reptilian brain. The biggest thing that separates us from other animals is that we have the upper part of our brain, the logical, rational, and more advanced part of our brain. It’s got amazing conceptual talents where we can move from the physical things of life, what we see, what we hear and what we can touch to designing things that don’t currently exist, like a new life for ourselves or inventing something like a smartphone or a car. It also helps us to make logical things of the world that we live in to analyze what’s around us and make conclusions. And research shows us that it’s this part of the brain that most adults use to think with, especially what they call the prefrontal cortex. This is the part that responds with good judgment to the situations we’re faced with. The problem is it’s only fully developed at the age of 25 and before then we rely on the primitive part of our brain to do most of our processing functions. That’s why it often seems that a teenager can only fight, flight or freeze and live in a constant state of fear of missing out on any of the action. So what happens to us is that there is a constant battle of the upper-brain and the lower-brain. The upper-brain tells us that there is a new life, a new way of being, and creates a vision of who we could be or how we could change our life for the better, and the lower-brain protects us from anything that is hard. It will use the animal instinct to fear to keep us in our territory of safety and security. It’s the lower-brain that has the built-in center that causes us to fight and flee from the unknown, and it always assumes that out there is a threat and out there is territory that belongs to someone else territory that couldn’t and shouldn’t be ours. So this constant battle between the upper and lower-brain is what keeps us in a state of wanting to be something new, but protecting ourselves and staying exactly where we are. And then we come to the subconscious. It’s like a computer’s operating system. Every single piece of physical computer hardware comes with an operating system that is such a hugely important part of the brain of the computer. But, in actual fact, there are very few of us in the world that know what it is except that every now and then our computer or our phone will tell us that there is an update that is ready to install for our operating system. And we know that the only thing about this is that it’s so big and so important that we have to be connected to Wi-Fi in order to install it. The brain has that same operating system called the subconscious. Usually, it sits there where we don’t know anything about it, but every now and then it surfaces itself in a way that makes us think or realize that things are not necessarily as rosy as it seems. So this brain is a remarkable piece of kit. As you were learning last week with Dr. Abby Metcalf. The conscious brain can process at 50 bits per second, but the subconscious brain can process at 11 million bits per second. So here’s the question, which one do you think is more powerful? 50 or 11 million? It’s no contest. Clearly, it’s the 11 million version, the subconscious brain, that has more power in it than the things that we can come up in our logic-brain and in that subconscious-brain, that’s where our sense of who we are or our identity sits and a large part of our identity can be expressed in two, two-word statements; “I am,” and “I can.” And then their opposites: “I am not,” or, “I can’t.” Now, identity is also a crazy concept because it is formed from so many different pieces of information. What our parents said to us, what the bully on the playground told us when we were little, what we see around us in society and hear and see in the magazines and pages out there. What we felt in the dynamics of the family, what our six-year-old self told us we were and weren’t. So much of our identity is formed before we are 25, that means it’s formed before we actually have a fully-formed upper-rational brain to logically argue it out with that primitive brain of ours. And so we accepted as fact that child-like interpretation of the world, that that nasty girl on the playground said about us. As I watch my 12-year-old daughter navigate life right now I see these little, you know what’s. Let’s call them little monsters saying things to her that they don’t mean. They are nasty things that are intended to elevate themselves in the group as each one of them jockey to be accepted by the bully who, most often, is one of the most broken girls. And so as I learn about all of this, I wonder how much of my subconscious operating system is so deeply flawed because it’s based on the inverted comments effects of a child’s world. So let’s bring this all together to answer that question, “Why can’t we change our behavior?” And to do the second step, which is to look at the model that will ensure us that we can change our behavior. To do that let me tell you about the epiphany I had when talking to Dr. Kelly Donahue, next week’s guest in our pre-interview preparation session. You see, I’ve been exercising twice a week for seven years now since I started paying for a personal trainer to hold me accountable. I always say, “If you want to change something or get something done, you need to ensure that you do two things: get an accountability partner, and invest the money that you need either in learning or in that accountability partner that it slightly hurts your pocket enough to ensure that you won’t quit on the process that you start.” So my question to you is, “If you met a person who exercised every single week for seven years, twice a week, would you say that they are a consistent and regular exerciser?” Most people would answer, “Yes.” The challenge is I, the person consistently exercising for seven years, would never in a million years say that I’m a consistent, regular exerciser. You see, for most of my formative life, I could never stick consistently to exercising. I’d start for three or four weeks and give it up. I would absolutely rock up for team things, but to me, team sports and playing a sport on a team was not what I would call exercising or the exercising for health we do as adults. I also would never say that I exercised regularly because somewhere at mid-school a regular exerciser was defined as a person who did more than four sessions of exercise, and back then we believe that that was what you needed in order to be healthy, an almost all or nothing approach. So my subconscious identity, when it came to exercise, is that I’m a loser. Remember the two phrases of identity; “I am,” and “I can,” and their terrible opposites. For me, my identity when it came to exercise is, “I can’t get myself to exercise consistently. I am not a regular exerciser and I’m definitely not self-motivated,” because even though I played sports teams my whole younger life, that was more about fitting in and belonging to the team then it was about the enjoyment of the sport itself. So that identity, together with a story that I told myself, “That the only reason you would possibly exercise outside of a team sport was that you would exercise to lose weight while you dieted,” meant that my 11 million bits of thoughts have been stacked against me for these last seven years. And so many of my interviews in the last month, the concept that our thinking determines our behavior has featured, whether it be in the behavior at work with Ellen Kern Christmas Hutchinson or Tammy Gooler Loeb, or whether it be our behavior and our personal relationships with Dr. Abby Metcalf and next week with Dr. Kelly Donahue. So I got to thinking about the fact that our subconscious thinks at 11 million bits and our conscious only at 50 and that so much of our thinking, therefore, must come out of our subconscious. That thinking that drives the behaviors we’re trying to change. And so much of that comes from identity statements of “I can” and “I can’t.” And so I then had my aha moment. For the last seven years, I fought with myself before every single gym session. “Should I? Shouldn’t I? Do think I can miss? No. Yes. No,” and I always end up reluctantly getting into my car and heading over to gym, mumbling and grumbling because I pay the money to my trainer whether I show up or not. And the reason for this mental fight, as tiring as it is over seven years, is that fundamentally the 11 million bits of subconscious are telling me that I am not a regular, consistent, self-motivated exerciser. That I am not on diet, I’m not interested in losing weight and so I should not be doing this exercise thing. Needless to say, the 50 bits that are telling me that I should exercise because I’m committed to my long-term health and strength as I want to be strong enough to play with my grandchildren when they come in 20 years, those poor 50 bits of logic, were fighting a losing battle. Fortunately, for the seven years, my money-brain overrode all of this chaos. I was not going to waste the money I paid every single month for my trainer, “Full stop, be quiet. Every single thought of you out there,” and it struck me that the key to the model of changing your behavior lies in the power of changing your identity. And that’s why as much logic and good reason and good planning that we may have, we cannot will ourselves to change. Those 50 bits are just not strong enough. And so my aha moment was to understand that how I saw myself, the statements I believed so deeply about myself was the key thing that I needed to change in order to successfully install the new habits that I wanted for my better life. And so the step-by-step plan to change behavior would need to be. And so we come to the third part of the model, which is the step-by-step plan to change behavior. That would need to be that, firstly, we identify the behavior that we want to change. Next, we look at what the underlying “I am,” and “I can” beliefs or the opposites that are playing out in our behavior are. Not what we’d like them to be, what are we believing that’s making us not change our behavior? And then thirdly, we identify what those “I am” and “I can” beliefs need to be in order for us to change. And then we start a simultaneous process of number four, implementing the change we need. Through either sheer commitment to that change or riding that motivational wave or, more successfully, in my opinion, getting an accountability coach that you may need to pay for in order to make sure that you can actually implement the change for long enough that you can number five, change your identity. And make sure that you change your identity through repeating the identity statements I’m about to teach you. So let’s use my desire to exercise daily in order to break down these five steps. So that first phase, the first three steps are the identifying steps. And you first need to ask yourself, “What am I believing that’s in opposition to what I want to achieve?” And so when it came to me, I was believing that, “I’ve always wanted to achieve consistent, regular exercise,” but that I’ve always believed that, “I’m not a consistent regular exerciser.” So if my thoughts become my behavior, I actually will never be a consistent regular exerciser. So when it comes to the implementation steps, I needed to change and say my regular short, quick “I am” or “I can” statements as many times a day as was humanly possible. So I implemented these statements, “I am a regular exerciser. I am a consistent exerciser.” And when I wanted to land the daily self-generated exercise without the money argument of a trainer, I started to say, “I am a daily exerciser,” and an amazing thing happened. The quality of my hour with my trainer changed. For the first time, I wasn’t subconsciously fighting every exercise and trying to do as little as possible because my brain was fighting to say, “This is junk. I’m not an exerciser.” In the last few months, I’ve started to squat deeper, plank flatter and put more effort into every little exercise I do. I wasn’t self-sabotaging and that was because I actually started to believe that I am a person who exercises regularly. I also found another interesting thing. You see, I tend to have an all or nothing view to my identity. I learned this when I was going with my little six-year-old daughter to therapy. The therapist asked her to say any good “I am” statements and she could hardly come up with one. It absolutely broke my heart. So the therapist asked me to tell her some “I am” statements. So I said, “Jess is kind,” her response was, “No, Momma, I’m not.” And the therapist then said, “Why do you say you’re not kind if your mom says that you are kind?” And her response was, “Momma, yesterday I was nasty to my sisters.” So I then looked at her and asked her, “Do you think Momma is kind?” And she said, “Yes, absolutely.” And I then said to, “But, Jess, yesterday when Momma was tired and at the end of her tether she was nasty to Della. Does that make her not kind?” And she looked at me with confusion because the penny was starting to drop and she said, “No, Momma, you are kind.” It was then that I realized how much grace we give others in our opinion of themselves and in our view on their identity, but how hard we are and how all or nothing we are on ourselves. So when I started to say, “I am a daily exerciser,” I had to work very hard to truly and deeply believe this. And the reason why is because of this all or nothing harshness. If I missed one day my brain would tell me, “You see, you’re not a regular exerciser. You’re not consistent. This is going to finish now because you don’t do exercise every single day.” So I came up with an approach where my subconscious and my conscience could absolutely be okay with deciding that the past mark was 50%. That if I did something more than 50% of the time, I could claim that this was something that I was. You see, I could begin to believe the two statements of, “I am a regular exerciser,” and, “I am a consistent exerciser,” because I had the data for seven years. So I started to use willpower to start off this exercise daily thing. And what I then did was every time I did it, I jotted it down in my diary and each day and then each week I would score the number of times that I actually did exercise that day versus the number of times that I didn’t. In the first month, I scored 25 out of 29 which is 86%, so whilst I can still feel myself arguing with that identity of, “I am a daily exerciser,” I now feel my identity starting to shift. Maybe I am a daily exerciser. At the moment, I still put caveats because I’m early on in this process, but I am seeing a magical shift starting to happen. That it’s using less and less willpower to have that behavior and more and more momentum that the change in identity is helping me keep going. Your identity is not going to change immediately, but as Robin Sharma and his book, The 5 AM Club says, “It takes 66 days to create a habit.” So I’ve committed to 66 days of willpower-based daily exercise and with it 66 days of saying, “I am a daily exerciser. I am an early riser,” and at day 36, where I am now, I have done 32 out of 36 days of exercising and 30 out of 36 days of early rising and it’s getting easier and easier to believe it and to start finding ways to make sure that even if I don’t wake up at 5:00 AM that I still find the 20 minutes to exercise that day. Usually, with the all or nothing approach. If I missed one, I’d just tell myself, “I’m useless,” and give up on everything for that day. If you truly want to change something, you have to change your identity. If you want to have a successful side hustle, you have to change the statement in your head from, “I am not an entrepreneur, I am an employee. I am never going to have a successful business,” to, “I am a business owner. I believe that people who start businesses can be successful.” If you’re always telling yourself, “I’m not good enough, I’m not kind enough, I’m not smart enough.” Start by saying, “I am enough.” That’s it. Every single day, many times a day. Just say to yourself, “I am enough. I am enough.” Short, sharp, identity sayings and this is what you need to do. Do start changing your behavior. I am Lisa Linfield. Have a great week.