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Making a change - successfully

Updated: Feb 28, 2021

Whether we are adopting a new nutrition style, vowing to parent differently than we were parented, or encouraging our children to learn a new skill with our direction and support; change demands more than just making a commitment.

All of us human beings enjoy being in the familiar. When situations are familiar, they feel right, not necessarily because they are, but rather because we are used to feeling a certain way. The situation may or may not serve us, but without tools, we stay stuck in a "familiar loop” just because stepping out into the unknown is uncertain, foreign and downright scary. This pattern of behavior repeats itself unless we make a conscious effort to change our behavior and step into the unknown.

That is easier said than done. Let's go over the three steps necessary to see change through.

The first step to embracing change is learning.

Since our brains are wired to stay in the familiar, taking on a change must start with ingesting new information. When we learn, new neural pathways form in the brain. The more we learn, the more we solidify those new networks, creating highways of habit, making change possible. The opposite is also true. When we exchange our old habits for new ones, those old neural networks slowly start to prune away, hence the term “use it or lose it”.

*Dr. Joe Dispenza explains…When we think a thought, those networks of neurons that fire in our brain create electrical charges. When you fire and wire the same circuits in your brain over and over again because you keep thinking the same thoughts, you are hardwiring your brain into the same patterns… If you’ve been doing the same things for years on end, those circuits- as well as the rest of your neology- are more readily and easily activated…And it actually becomes easier to go unconscious every day because you keep mentally and physically reinforcing the same habits over again- creating the habit of behaving by habit…That’s why I say you have to think greater than the way you feel to make any real, lasting changes.

How can we think greater than we feel? One way is through mental rehearsal and continuous learning. Fueling our drive with information on a continuum allows us to stay focused, while forming new habits. If we decide to make a change, then drip feeding our brains with the information and reasoning needed becomes the catalyst for new neural pathways to form.

But learning alone is not enough to create change and make behaviors automatic. Many of us have all the information and answers and yet are unsuccessful in consistently implementing the behaviors needed to yield change.

The second step is implementing consistently, over a long enough period, to create and reinforce the new habit. New research shows that change demands that we stay consistent over the course of at least 66 days**. Our brains wire new “highways of habit”, or neural pathways, with continuous practice. This means that we need to initially set out on our path to change with the intention of practicing for over two months before reaping the benefits of having formed a new habit. Knowing this information removes any expectation for a “quick fix” and becomes the foundation for our growth mindset, which encourages long lasting change.

The third step to etching out change is to gradually make it your own. We do that by fine tuning our actions within the new habit, to best match our personal preferences. 10 years ago, I made the commitment to invest in my health with the intention of preventing disease. Learning from the best in the field, I gained an abundance of knowledge, however, not everything that I learned suited my personal preferences. What was right for others was not necessarily precisely right for me. I went through a long process of trial and error with myself, to recognize what felt right for me, and to make this a comfortable and sustainable lifestyle. Figuring out what jived with my taste buds, how to set myself up for success already at the grocery store, my ideal portion size, and how to navigate social situations was part of an ongoing process that I discovered, and still continue to fine tune today.

I now know that just as I need to fuel my body with nutritious foods, I must fuel my mind as well. I continue to stay curious about how to eat for health by learning, checking in with myself regularly, reflecting on my choices, and being open to change when something does not feel right inside. Through this ongoing process, I am open to embracing change in my life while solidifying my patterns of behavior on a continuum, to make the change more automatic.

I invite you to implement these steps as an on going practice when adopting change. They support you and become your anchor by keeping you focused on the process until it becomes a highway of habit and ultimately, becomes the new familiar.

*Dr Joe Dispenza, Chapter 2, Becoming Supernatural


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