You’re only conscious of a small fraction of your thoughts, emotions, habits, and choices. The rest of it happens in your brain unconsciously, without any effort on your part.
In this way, a lot of us are hypnotized for most of the time. We don’t make many conscious choices about what we say or do, but instead we tend to follow the same routines over and over again.
For example, how often do you eat the same foods on a weekly basis? You know there are many different choices out there, but you tend to default to the ones you are most familiar with, like a machine.
This tendency to unconsciously repeat yourself can be helpful sometimes. It allows your brain to make choices without having to dedicate a bunch of mental resources to constantly analyzing every decision.
It’s good to be on automatic sometimes otherwise your brain would get tired and overworked very quickly.
However, sometimes you need to snap out of our “automatic behaviors,” especially if they aren’t helping you work toward a particular value or goal you’re trying to achieve.
You can’t fully escape your hypnotized ways – you can never be completely conscious all the time, that would be impractical and unrealistic.
The best you can do is use the little bit of consciousness you do have to switch out your negative “automatic behaviors” with more positive “automatic behaviors.”
Here’s how to override your automatic behaviors:
- Just choose one change. Remember that your mental resources are limited. If you try to change too much too fast, you’ll spread yourself too thin and fail.
- Start small. Change takes patience and dedication. It’s best to start with something very small and achievable, so you can stay motivated in the future.
- Pick a time. It’s important to have a plan when to work on your change, so find some free time in your day to actually schedule your new activity.
- Set a reminder. Set a reminder at some point during the day so you don’t forget. Don’t take your memory for granted – sometimes you need the help of technology, like an alarm on your phone or laptop, to “wake you up.”
- Visualize yourself doing it. Take a short minute right now and visualize yourself physically doing the thing you want to change. This will mentally prepare you for it when it’s finally time to actually do it.
- Tell a friend. Tell someone about your plan to change – this will give you more motivation to fulfill your commitment. Another bonus is to choose a loyal friend who is actually going to push you to make your change.
- Stay consistent. Like all habits, the more you do them the more automatic they become. Once you reach a certain point, your new behavior will become second-nature to you.
- Build from there. After one new habit becomes automatic, you can begin shifting your energy and focus to another new habit. And then that habit becomes automatic – and you keep building from there.
Successful people aren’t special – they just have the “right” automatic behaviors in place. And when they don’t, they have enough awareness and effort to switch one automatic behavior for a better one.
What automatic behaviors do you have? One good start is to make a complete list of your daily routine.
We’re creatures of habit by nature. We depend on our routines to have a healthy and functioning mind, and we often find comfort in following these routines – that can have both its benefits and its costs.
If your routine isn’t working for you though, it may be a good idea to make some small, steady, and conscious changes. Over time – maybe months, even years – you can build a completely new set of automatic behaviors.
Learn tools to daily growth in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement