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Breaking Bad Habits

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Breaking Bad Habits

I had the recent pleasure of attending a lecture with Dr Joe Dispenza author of Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, You are the Placebo and Evolve Your Brain. Dr Dispenza was presenting at the Mind Heart Connect Conference in Queensland, the first conference of its kind in Australia, that explored the connection between the mind and the body through new and emerging techniques such as ‘Tapping’.

Dr Dispenza’s lecture was one of those ‘hold on to the top of my head, so my brain doesn’t explode’ type of experiences. Of course, being a stress management specialist, fascinated by emotions and the brain, this is my go to type of educational heaven. I can’t help it; I’m a neuroscience meets epigenetics meets ‘woo woo’ type of a gal.

Anyhow, I wanted to share some of what I learned from Dr Dispenza’s lecture (all misinterpretations are mine). As a small business owner, they may be useful if you have been struggling to break certain habits such as procrastination, disorganisation or unhelpful emotions from getting in the way of your growth.

To start, we go all the way back to …

Emotion, the driving force behind all our habits, actions, behaviours and attitudes.

Our body makes a chemical, and that chemical is an emotion. The particular emotion the chemical cocktail becomes is a function of ‘meaning making’ or adding meaning to an event or a series of events that preceded the emotion.

When we consistently practice emotions (and their associated behaviours or responses), they become an inherent part of who we are. They can become our ‘go to’ or ‘habitual’ emotions and reactions. Eventually, we may respond with the emotion and its domino reactions without conscious thought. We are triggered and move into an automatic response before we are aware – our body knows it better than our mind.

If we have the emotion often enough we also become neurologically organised to support the dominance of this emotion. Therefore, not only are we emotionally predisposed to the emotion but we are also physically predisposed to it.

Think about this in relation to your habitual emotions/behaviours. Have you ever responded to a situation with an emotion that on reflection was irrational or out of context? Did you find yourself slipping into ways of feeling and thinking that were hard to understand and seemed unrelated to the actual experience?

Perhaps you have noticed certain themed emotions associated with certain business situations. You might feel as though you are on emotional automatic pilot. For example, tax time blues or start of the week anxiety. Note: We can experience these emotions well beyond the situation they originated from and so may struggle to rationalise them.

Others also experience us through exposure to our dominant emotions and habits. They might start to connect them to our personality. For example, we might be described by others as ‘anxious’, or ‘irritable’. Or we might be known for our procrastination or disorganisation.

Whilst we might be aware of this and even actively trying to change it here’s the crux of the matter. If 90% of our emotions today are the same as yesterday why would we think things will change? Especially when our mind and body are primed to support the same responses. We will continue to do things the way they have always been done.

Experience – Think – Feel – React – Experience – Think … etcetera.

We cannot expect a change in our reality without significant intervention. Especially when the limbic system (emotional centre) in the brain operates 200 times faster than the cerebral cortex (conscious decision-making centre). Wishing it was different will just not cut it at this point. According to Dr Dispenza, we struggle to think beyond the way we feel. Our habits are the physical expressions of our emotions; a redundant set of behaviours that become unconsciously encoded in the body.

To change our habits means to become creative in both our internal (emotional) and external environments. To change is to be greater than our body and our environment. This is a big ask even as change can take us away from the normal chemical continuity of our emotions.

That chemical continuity (regardless of the emotions that are derived from it) feels like ‘us’. The ‘known’ of who we are is comforting in its familiarity. To change can feel extremely uncomfortable. We tend to flee into the familiar rather than move forwards into the future or the ‘unknown’. According to Dr Dispenza, “Genius is being uncomfortable and being OK with the discomfort.”

So where might that lead those of us who are acutely aware that some of our emotional responses and habits are not serving us as bosses, business owners or leaders in our field? Stay tuned for my next article where I describe how rehearsing change mentally can really make the difference.

In the meantime, I refer you back to the books I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Until then try making a simple list of the habits and emotional responses you would like to change.

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