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Your brain IS working against you

Earlier this month I spoke at a conference in Indianapolis and someone asked the question, “Why is it so hard to change habits?”

We’ve all felt it…you want to try something new, like ordering the salad but the familiar lure of the greasy cheeseburger immediately has you in its grips. Ok, this is a simple example, but think of something BIG you want to change. 


Why is it so hard? 

Our brain’s whole purpose is to keep us safe and conserve calories. Remember, centuries ago everyday was an act of survival. And though the modern world has evolved past slaying an actual beast everyday to live, our brains have not evolved. 

We develop habits, routines and patterns out of the brain’s desire to minimize calorie spend. Most of these are created out of subconscious necessity, not conscious intention…but they’re there. 

Each time we repeat the same patterns, habits, and routines we become more and more familiar with the rules of the game attached to those decisions. Back to lunch:

Order the cheeseburger

Agree that it’s delicious and was the right choice, next time you’ll order the salad

Eat too much

Get a little heartburn

Take the Tums

Start dozing off after lunch

Reach for caffeine to get you off the struggle bus

Each step may not feel great, but we’re familiar with the whole experience. We know how the “rules of the game” unfold on this path and this is what our brain prefers…even when the outcome does not serve us. 

…even if it’s an abusive relationship

…even if it repeatedly gets us into debt

…even if it's not healthy for us

…even if it causes us extra work

Know the rules = familiar = minimal calorie spend = safe 

(even if it’s getting us terrible results)

Unknown rules = unfamiliar = big calorie spend = risky 

(even if it lands you the business or life of your dreams)

When our brains have to choose between the familiar and the unknown, left to its own conditioning, our brains will always choose the safety of what's familiar.

Remember this the next time you want to make changes in your life or business. It’s going to take extra energy (e.g., extra calories) because you’re asking your brain to consciously choose something new. 

You’ll encounter emotions, like fear, uncertainty, instability, and irritability because you’re stepping into an arena where you don’t yet know the rules. Similar to playing a new board game for the first time. Expect these things. 

And it will actually take 3 rounds of 21 days to create the new habit. Yep, longer than what most talk about. 

Bottom line, this is happening inside your brain when you want to make changes. Awareness helps you know the rules toward change. 

So, how do you do it anyway?

  • Plan for a 63-day runway.

  • Expect to get tired…you’re learning new rules!

  • Dedicate yourself to the future picture of success - it’s worth it!

  • Be gentle with yourself and ditch any negative self-talk or shame.

  • If you fall back on the old path, switch back to the new asap…it’s a hiccup, not a failure.

Need a better container to make changes in? Let’s have a chat:

Lastly, it feels great being back on the road and speaking in front of a live audience!

Until next time, 


Plus a few other links of interest:


1. TIMEOUT, a 2-day private coaching retreat! Travel to the resort town of Traverse City, Michigan for an escape from distractions to clearly think, regroup, prioritize, and plan. 


2. Could your team benefit from upgrading their leadership? Inquire about Leadership Essentials Academy, a 6-month leadership training & coaching cohort for new and emerging leaders.


3.  Time for a new journal? Pick up a new copy of my Know Thyself Journal for daily support towards your most important intentions for the next 90 days.


4.  Are you into individual assessments? Here is a link to take a free Core Values Assessment (CVI). It only takes 10 minutes and measures your innate, unchanging nature. Take it yourself and feel free to forward it to a friend, too. 


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