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If You Think Building Habits Can Help You Reach Goals, This Will Change Your Mind

If You Think Building Habits Can Help You Reach Goals, This Will Change Your Mind

Usually when we want to achieve something, we try hard to build some habits, as we’re told that habits are the fundamentals of success. However, if we examine the functions of different parts of our brains, habits turn out to be something that hinder us in achieving our goals rather than assisting us. When we’re practicing our habits, we’re actually using the primitive brain, which is not the preferred one for achieving goals…Here’s why.

First we need to understand how our primitive brain works.

The “Primitive Brain”

The human primitive brain, otherwise known as the limbic system, has developed over millions of years. Our ancestors had three straight forward goals that they needed to keep in mind if they were going to survive. These goals were:

  1. Find food
  2. Find a mate
  3. Stay safe from predators

Humans had only their superior intelligence to rely upon. Unlike other animals we did not have great strength or speed, sharp teeth or the like. The primitive brain developed in such a way to help us achieve these three goals.

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When we saw the possibility of acquiring food we experienced high energy levels that prompted us to go after the food. When the potential to reproduce presented itself we experience great desire, and when we felt that we had pushed ourselves too hard we felt the desire to rest.

So our primitive brain is constantly telling us to seek out food and sexual pleasure; it also tells us to rest rather than motivating us to do some exercise.

On the contrary, the modern brain tells us to control ourselves…

The “Modern Brain”

The modern brain, otherwise known as the pre-frontal cortex, developed after many years trying to survive on one’s own. People decided that it would be easier to achieve the three goals of survival if they worked as a group; thus tribes were created.

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As humans started to cooperate and work as a group they needed to learn how to cooperate and work in unison. This meant that it was necessary to learn control over certain actions. Social rules were developed, such as:

  1. Do not seal someone else’s food
  2. Do not take someone else’s mate
  3. Respect others’ property and do not try to steal their shelter

To respect these rules and make sure we did not break them we need to develop a new type of intelligence. This intelligence would be used to control the basic desires of our primitive brain. The new intelligence may be referred to as self-control.

So it is up to the modern brain to override these primitive drives and to steer us towards higher goals. We constantly experience a fight between short-term desires and long-term goals. It is up to the modern brain to consider the consequences of our primitive desires and to make decisions that will help us in the long term.

So How Do Habits Hinder Us?

Habits are formed in the primitive brain and as such do not require thoughts. When we try to use habits to attain our long-term goals we are, in effect, telling our short-term brain to take charge. And the short-term primitive brain has different aims to the long-term modern brain. So the result will not be in keeping with our higher aims.

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When you set out to help your modern brain achieve its goals do not aim to create new habits.

You may have tried meditating at some point in your life and no doubt you experienced the difficulties associated with maintaining focus on one particular thing, for example your breath. Trying to force yourself to concentrate on something will often prove futile. This is because we are fighting a reward-based learning process that is caused by positive and negative reinforcement. A habit is formed when, for example, we see food, eat it and decide that it tastes good. For human being calories equal survival. We remember the rewards we experienced after we ate the food and repeat this process. It goes as follows: trigger behavior reward; see food, eat food, feel good and repeat. Then what should we do instead of building habits?

Use Curiosity to Break Unwanted Habits

In an experiment researchers told people instead of forcing people to, for example, quit smoking, they told people to be curious about their habits. They actually told people to smoke and be really curious about it. One of the participants said: “Mindful smoking: smells like stinky cheese and tastes like chemicals,YUCK!” She had decided on a cognitive level that smoking was bad for her. She was no longer captivated by her habit.

When the prefrontal cortex is not engaged we tend to fall back into old habits. When we are tired, stressed or involved in making tough decisions we can easily fall back into our old ways. Curiosity helps us take notice of our experience rather than trying to get rid of the experience (habit).

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As it says in the article titled: Using Curiosity to Break Bad Habits: “What does curiosity feel like?  It feels good. And what happens when we get curious? We start to notice that cravings are simply made up of body sensations — oh, there’s tightness, there’s tension, there’s restlessness — and that these body sensations come and go. These are bite-size pieces of experiences that we can manage from moment to moment rather than getting clobbered by this huge, scary craving that we choke on.”

When we are curious we stop fearing our habits and reacting automatically to our habitual patterns. We activate our modern brain and are able to reflect more effectively on what we are doing in a scientific and isolated way. So next time you experience an unwanted habit or find yourself focused on short-term goals try to engage your long-term modern brain and become curious about what you are doing.

Helpful Guide

Having a goal without good strategies cannot help you achieve what you want. However, with Lifehack Goal Setting System, you can efficiently attain the best result of your desire. For every goal you add, you will receive practical and useful articles that guide you through the process and achieve remarkable outcomes.

To start with, you can try these health goals:

Featured photo credit: http://www.theconnectedfamily.net via static1.squarespace.com

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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

27 Ways to Instantly Feel Better When You’re Down

27 Ways to Instantly Feel Better When You’re Down

Who has never gone through some ups and downs in the life? But some people can feel better in a quicker way than others because they’ve found their own remedies to heal the bad feelings.

If you haven’t found yours, these ways will help you instantly feel better and ditch that negative self talk when you’re feeling bad about yourself:

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  1. Listen to the songs you loved when you were in high school or university, this will recall you of the old good times.
  2. Write something. Write down how you feel as a way to express your thoughts if you don’t feel like talking to anyone.
  3. Draw something. Draw anything you want because no one’s going to judge your drawing skills.
  4. Read the postcards or letters your friends or family sent you before, remind yourself there are people who always remember you.
  5. Silently think of a day or moment which you truly enjoyed and try to recapture that very first feeling. Was it the day of your graduation? The moment you traveled with your loved one?
  6. Take out your photo albums and go over your childhood photos.
  7. Cry when you feel like doing so. There’s nothing wrong with crying; cry out all your fear and stress and just face the truth after crying.
  8. Sing loudly like no one can hear you. Do you know that in Japan, people always sing karaoke to relieve stress?
  9. Cook a nice meal for yourself or for your family.
  10. Read your previous diary entries and look at your great memories.
  11. Dress up nicely to feel happier.
  12. Don’t stay in your bed! Get your laptop or a book and sit in a coffee place.
  13. Take a walk outside and feel the fresh air.
  14. Sweat yourself! Go jogging or play some sports.
  15. Pick up the musical instrument you used to play a lot and start to play it.
  16. Tidy up your desk or wardrobe, you’ll feel good that you’re being productive and actually doing something.
  17. Watch some funny videos, sure you can find a lot of them on Youtube.
  18. Eat something you like, be it a chocolate cake, or an ice-cream. Just please yourself with the flavour you like.
  19. Re-read your favorite book and write down the sentences or passages that you love.
  20. Watch a new movie, there must be a movie which you’ve always interested in but had no time to watch it.
  21. Do something nice that no one will notice, say picking up a rubbish in the street and throw it to a trash bin.
  22. Call your best friend and just talk whatever you want! Human beings are social animals after all, connecting with people close to you will make you feel better.
  23. Do voluntary work and help people in need, you’ll feel happy and satisfied.
  24. Get drunk with your close friends at home – a safe place for you to get drunk and get crazy. Let loose and have fun with your very close friends.
  25. Write an email or a note to a friend who you care about.
  26. Get out of your routine life and meet new friends. Get out of your comfort zone! Meeting new people can give you new inspirations in life.
  27. Look into the mirror and smile. Act like today’s already a wonderful day. How we act affects how we feel. It’s difficult to go on feeling sad if you’re trying to smile!

Remember:

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It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.  — Epictetus

If you want to feel better, change what you’re doing because obviously what you’re doing doesn’t make you happy!

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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