Now Change That Habit
Now Change That Habit
Have you been trying to make changes in your daily habits? Finding it difficult? One of the most helpful insights regarding the brain and habit formation has to do with a substance called myelin. Understanding how myelin works was one of the great discoveries of recent decades. According to Dr. George Bartzokis, professor of neurology at UCLA, myelin is so fundamental that it is “the key to talking, reading, learning skills, being human.” (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code)
Myelin is a white, fatty substance that acts like insulation and keeps the electrical signals in neurons from leaking out.
The way to form new habits is to create new pathways and neural networks for signals to travel down. The habit of listening more and talking less is a new pathway. Taking more time for the family is a new pathway. Changing your diet, altering your attitude, walking every evening, joining a small group, and incorporating praise into your prayer life are all new pathways in your brain. The stronger those pathways, the stronger your new habit.
Myelin can make that happen. But it will only work its magic if we force those nerve cells to fire through consistent effort, because myelin only forms if it senses electrical activity. Little effort, little myelin. ( Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code)
Here are some keys for building great mental insulation during your habit creation journey:
1. Pray for God’s support, guidance, and sustaining grace.
2. Pursue something that is beyond your reach, beyond the edges of your ability. It needs to be not so far away that you give up and not so close that you only utilize the old neural paths. (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code)
3. Break your new habit goal down into very small pieces and
focus on one of those pieces at a time. Practice that, get it down, then move on to the next. Build up your new networks over time piece by tiny piece. If you don’t seem to be making progress, break it down into even smaller tasks. As you conquer pieces, put them together into what researchers call “chunks,” which then become chains like linking paper clips together. ( Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code)
4. Target your practice, be very specific, and don’t flail around. Ask, “What can I focus on today?”
5. Recognize that new habits require failure. It’s a biological necessity. There is no other way to expand your thinking and lifestyle beyond the status quo. No mess, no success. (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code)
6. Be patient. The time it takes is the time it takes. You cannot dictate to your neurons!
7. The more myelin you build, the more fluid and automatic each step eventually becomes. (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code)
8. Old habit pathways are still around and we are especially vulnerable for the signals on our new brain pathways to “jump track” to old patterns when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or
Tired – HALT for short. (M.J. Ryan, This Year I will)
9. Congratulate yourself for every ounce of effort.
10. Keep your eye on the prize. Don’t lose track of the big picture. Don’t get all tangled up in one of the bushes and lose sight of the forest. Picture yourself living that new habit. See yourself in detail walking around sporting your new lifestyle. Own it. Possess it now in your mind. Imagine the sense of accomplishment, greater happiness and health, and deeper fulfillment and satisfaction that will be yours.
Knowing the inside story of how your brain functions during habit development can give you a crucial advantage in your journey toward success.