Ever notice you have every good intention to ‘change’ and within days or weeks you are back to doing what you have always done? Self–sabotage often happens when we attempt to lose weight, change our finances or even improve relationships.
There is a solution, but it requires an understanding of the brain’s built-in filtering system – the Reticular Activating System. One of the roles of the RAS is to filter the information that your brain responds to. This filter only lets you ‘see and notice’ the things that already have the greatest number of reference points in your brain, i.e. what you are familiar with. It filters out all of the others – without this filter, you would be overwhelmed by the over one million bits of information coming into the brain every second.
How does this impact your goal setting? The RAS is programmed to let in what it is most familiar with – supporting the habits and patterns we have grown up with – whether they are good for us or not! The RAS safeguards the familiar and protects us from the unfamiliar – not good when you’re trying to make life changes!
Setting big goals can threaten our ‘comfort zone’ (what we are familiar with) and almost certainly cause the brain to go to work to figure out how to get us back to ‘safety.’ That is the role of our RAS – protecting us by keeping us focused on the familiar.
Without re-programming the RAS, we usually end up reverting back to old behavior even if it doesn’t serve us . . . simply because it is familiar and ‘comfortable.’ Equipped with this knowledge we can create a game plan that works with the RAS and not against it. Knowing how to start makes all of the difference in how we finish!
The following are some very simple, beginning techniques to begin the reprogramming process. For more input in this area, contact our office for information on our “Start Smart and Finish Strong” seminar or a private consultation with Cheryl (719-487-3171).
How can you reprogram the RAS?
- Stop and breathe! When we are ‘breathing’ in a relaxed manner, the RAS ‘thinks’ we are calm and thus safe – we can be more open to change and seeing or doing things differently.
- Begin with easy steps. The brain remembers what is easy and resists what is perceived as hard. For example, if you decide to start an exercise program by doing 100 pushups a day (and you can barely do 10), you have set yourself up for failure. Instead, start with ‘wall pushups’- maybe 10 or 20 at a time. Once that is easy, move to the stairs or a counter, slowing increasing what you do each day. Celebrate the small successes and begin to train the RAS that pushups are ‘easy and fun’. Then go to the floor and keep creating ‘baby step’ successes. Keep celebrating those little successes. Just an out loud shout out of self-congratulations will do the trick. And ‘suddenly’ you will have created a new habit that will lead you to achieving that ‘big goal’.
- Notice your jaw and face. When we are stressed, our jaw tightens and our face gets a ‘pained’ expression. The more we can relax our jaw and keep a smile or relaxed expression, the RAS ‘thinks’ things are ok. Then go do that thing you are resisting while you are in this relaxed and positive state. Again you are slowly reprogramming the RAS to accept new behaviors as positive instead of dangerous.
- Look up and smile. Just trying holding a negative attitude while looking up and smiling – – can’t be done. Look down and frown and the RAS gets ‘concerned. When looking up and smiling, your RAS thinks all is ok and that means you can more easily move forward.
- Bless others. If you tend to have challenging relationships and/or critical attitudes, start blessing the people in your life. (i.e., family, friends, boss, team, etc.). You can’t focus on being mad/criticizing when you are blessing. This doesn’t mean you agree with them or even condone their behavior. It simply means you are going to put your brain into a positive state so that it can move out of the negative state that is impacting you and free you up to create more of what matters to you!
These are simple steps and there are so many more. Implementing any of them begins the reprogramming process so that you actually can create what matters to you! Remember, when you ‘Start SMART, you can Finish STRONG!”