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As a zoologist by training, I developed the Emotional Mastery techniques found in my new book Change from Within from studying wild animals. Out of this research, and the main way this work differs from other self-help philosophies, is that I don’t believe our thoughts control our behavior. Our belief systems, often unconsciously, are our true behavioral dictators. Our thoughts (like our words) are good indicators of our beliefs, but if you just focus on changing how you think without addressing the underlying beliefs, your efforts will only be a surface “band aid” solution, and the unhealthy behavior will eventually reassert itself.
If you want a genuine long-term fix for unhealthy behaviors, you have to change the underlying beliefs that are triggering your actions. Thankfully we have a built-in guidance system for uncovering our belief systems. How we feel. Our emotional body is like a weather vane for all of our beliefs. Change how you FEEL and you will change how you behave.
Unfortunately, we spend years in school being taught to think and never one lesson in how to feel, which leaves us at a disadvantage when it comes to empowering ourselves emotionally. The following steps will show you how to flex your emotional muscles so you can start to see long term results, and change from the inside out.
Here are 5 quick steps to transform any unhealthy behavior by changing the underlying emotional hooks:
1. Start by paying attention to how you feel. Before, during and after the behavior, what was your emotional state? If this is an old pattern, you will probably struggle to stay conscious of how you feel before or during, but afterwards think back on your actions. How does it make you feel? Write it down.
2. Go below the “surface” emotions you wrote down, to identify the underlying insecurity. For example, say you feel like an idiot or are embarrassed by your behavior, the root insecurity might be “I feel like a loser” or “I feel I’m not good enough”. To get the most out of this process dig deep and be brutally honest about your insecurities.
3. Say out loud “I accept I feel … “ and name the insecurities from step 2. Contrary to what you may think, acceptance doesn’t make things worse; it’s simply the honest acknowledgment of where you are at. In order for this Emotional Mastery process to work, we have to be in true acceptance. (Refusing to accept how we feel is like walking into the emergency room and refusing to tell the doctors where it hurts, but still expecting them to make us better.)
4. Look for the gifts or wisdom of feeling this insecurity. As I say in workshops “every negative emotion has something positive to teach us”. If you’re really struggling with this step, how are you a better person for knowing how it feels to experience this? Hint: are you more compassionate? Understanding? Patient?
5. Stop beating yourself up for your behavior and start thanking this part of you for trying to make you a better person. This disempowering behavior is actually teaching you to be more compassionate, understanding, patient, etc. Once we see it as a gift instead of a curse, we get into appreciation, one of the highest vibrational states we hold.
Congratulations! You’ve just transformed the emotion attached to your unhealthy behavior from self-abuse to appreciation, aka self-love. There are two schools of motivation: one of abuse and one of encouragement (another aspect of self-love). Which one do you think gets healthy, long-term results? Only after processing the underlying emotional hook of the insecurity into a positive, can we then “pre-pave” an empowering and healthy course of action. In your mind’s eye now visualize how you wish you’d behaved instead. Get really specific and pay attention to how you would feel as you played out this new behavior. When a similar situation arises in the future (and it will) you can then start practicing your empowering, healthy new action.
If you want to understand and practice this transformational process in more detail, read Change from Within: A Journal of Exercise and Meditations to Transform, Empower, and Reconnect.