Your brain is awesome!
Every time you think a thought or practice a habit, a neural pathway is created in your brain. The more you repeat the thought or habit, the stronger that neural pathway becomes. Your brain is naturally wired to be efficient and it wants to take the neural pathway that you’ve practiced the most.
Sometimes those thoughts and habits serve you, sometimes they don’t.
When you decide you want to make a change in your life (whether it be a physical change or a change in the way you think about something), there is a period of time that this is bound to feel uncomfortable because you are now needing to construct new neural pathways that support the desired change. Your brain doesn’t like this. It wants to take the path it already knows.
You may get frustrated with yourself when you easily revert back to old patterns, but instead of telling yourself that you have no willpower, I invite you to be compassionate with yourself and say this instead: “My brain is efficient and this what it currently knows how to do. I need to keep practicing my new desired thought/habit to lay down new neural pathways.”
Why am I asking you to be so specifically scientific with your inner dialogue here? Because it’s giving your brain clear directions that a change is taking place. If you blame yourself for lack of willpower, you will give up too soon. Creating new neural pathways in your brain takes time and effort, and it helps if you keep reminding yourself of your intention. It ceases being about your character and puts the focus on the thing you are trying to build.
And building new neural pathways can be done.
You already have it!
All of your current thoughts and habits were practiced enough times until they became routine.
You weren’t born knowing how to mindlessly eat chips in front of the TV.
You weren’t born thinking thoughts like, “I will always struggle with my weight.”
You weren’t born with a dislike for yourself or your body.
You had to learn that.
The good news here is that if you were able to program thoughts and habits like these into your brain, you have the exact same power to program something else entirely.
Your brain is a powerful tool and it’s designed to turn the thoughts you think the most into your reality. It’s always working, so why not use its power to your benefit? Just because you’ve been thinking a particular thought for a long time doesn’t mean you have to keep it. You can harness your brain’s power by consciously choosing new thoughts and habits to focus on.
They key to making your new thoughts stick is believing the replacement thought. Maybe you can’t jump from “I will always struggle with my weight” to “I’m so skinny,” but your brain will probably accept a thought like, “I am learning how to take great care of my body.” Since your brain turns what you believe into your reality, believing a thought like this will lead to a very different result than if you believe that you will always struggle.
The key to making your new habits stick is repetition. The more you practice the new desired habit, the stronger that new neural connection becomes. With enough practice, that new neural pathway becomes the one your brain prefers and you will eventually begin to perform your new habit on autopilot.
In both cases, give yourself plenty of time. And more importantly, allow the transition to be imperfect. It’s totally okay if your path to success is not a straight line. It’s probably not going to be anyway, so don’t get hung up on the idea that it should be. Just keep the image of paving that new neural pathway in your mind and soon enough it will take root, and the outcome you will create with it will be your new reality.