Making New Year’s Resolutions; Don’t Let Your Brain Fool You.

It is that time of year again that we make New Year’s Resolutions, or at least consider making them.

Good for you if you have found an area in your life where you can make an improvement and are at the point to actually take action.

But be careful; don’t let yourself be fooled by your own brain.

It is what happens to most people. They begin with the best intentions and believe that willpower will do the rest.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, proven by the fact that about 90% of the people throw the towel within a few weeks.

Understanding how things work in your brain can make everything much easier and increase the chances of success dramatically.

When it comes to making changes in our life we have to line up two areas in our brain.

The first area is our prefrontal cortex, indicated by the circle on the left picture. It is the area where we plan, reason, solve problems and make decisions. For this reason, it is called our rational or cool area of our brain.

The circle on the right picture indicates what it is often collectively called our inner or emotional brain, also known as the hot area of our brain.

The function of our rational brain is to learn something as quickly as possible and the function of our inner brain is to consolidate those learnings and convert them into automatic programs also known as habits.

Keep in mind that our inner brain is, in fact, nothing more than a big recording and data machine. It is, in fact, an impersonal, non-thinking, emotionally reacting piece of body tissue.

The point is, however, our inner brain dictates 95% of our daily behavior and we are only aware of 10 to 15% of that behavior; everything else is on auto-pilot.

When you decide with your rational brain, residing in your cortex, to do something different in the New Year, it means that you are, in the end, depending on your inner brain for that change to happen. This means that you have to make some changes in that area of your brain as well.

Thinking that your inner brain will immediately follow the decisions you make with your rational brain is the mistake most people make.

It can happen, but not immediately. It takes time to over-write existing brain patterns in your inner brain. It is where that expression comes from; “it takes about three weeks to install new habits”.

Could well be, but it depends on what you want to change and how you do it. If you do it wrong, it may take forever to install new habits. On the other hand, if you do it right, it could happen much faster.

Point is, when you don’t do it correctly, you’ll invariably activate the defence systems part of your inner brain which is programmed to consolidate, not to easily make changes.

Because it can’t think or reason, it doesn’t understand that the changes you want to make are actually good for you.  Good or bad, the nature of your situation or habit really doesn’t matter; what is familiar and known is safe and everything else means danger.

The funny thing is, the moment you make a decision to change something in your life for the better, you do that with your rational brain. Your inner brain says nothing, thinks nothing and does nothing.

Until it senses that something in our outside your body is different from what it used to be…

The instruments it automatically activates to bring you back to safety are the basic survival instincts feed, fight, flee and freeze.

These instincts translate in daily circumstances into behaviour such as (excessive) eating, aggression, giving up and procrastinating, to name just a few.

Because they are linked to survival, they are tremendously powerful. Trying to tame them with your willpower is playing a losing game and setting yourself up for failure.

Don’t think you can ever change habits by going that route; it is not going to happen.

Change is the outcome of a true learning process that avoids activating the body’s natural stress responses and takes one’s internal and external circumstances into account.

In my presentations, break-out sessions/workshops and coaching I take the time to dissect the previous sentence and give my audiences all the what’s, how’s, tips and tricks so that they finally can achieve their goals and get where they want to be.

Lots of aha-moments and “wish I had known this earlier” is what I often hear.

And that without having to read another 200 to 400 pages self-development book stuffed with exercises hardly anybody can bring up the patience for to do them.

In other words, ready to save time and find out how we can work together to create lasting results for yourself or the audience you represent?

If your answer is yes then follow this link to my website and fill out the form to send me a message to get the ball rolling and make 2018 a year of consistently moving forward.

Have a great new start of the year and I look forward to your message and talking to you soon.

Patrick Streppel.