Part IV: Principles & Daily Practices for Self-Change
“Opinions are of very little value, it’s your commitments
(what you do with your opinions) that count.”
~ Wayne Dyer ~
“Your real values and your true beliefs are
communicated by your actions.”
~ Brian Tracy ~
In the previous part I described how most of my behaviour is intuitive, automated and happens in-the-moment. Furthermore, I explained that in order to create lasting (long-term) changes in my behaviour, I have to work on the context of my Life, as well as creating new habits (consciously design new plans for practices and deliberately execute the new behaviours one day at a time until they have become automated and internalized).
In the first Part I wrote about how my tendency to explain my behaviour and my need for predictability may hold me back in seeing new possibilities for my future in the first place.
In the second Part I described how my need for exploration, adventure and novelty (embarking on journeys into new, uncharted territory) may be extinguished by past hurts (trauma/abuse), excessive stress, mood altering addictions, narrow & rigid thought/action repertoires, co-dependency and whether or not all my needs are met in a quality manner.
In the third Part I covered various concepts in social psychology and the mechanisms of how the dynamic Self-schema works. By integrating all these concepts I can alter how I am being. I can change my behaviour by applying the ideas in Self-Change Projects.
Therefore, the final Part of this book kicks off by describing what Self-Change Projects are and how to make them work in order to achieve lasting changes in behaviour.
Principle: Smart & Systematic Implementation
Enter the ‘Self-Change Project’
“Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”
~ Dragonball Z ~
In order to change my behaviour I have to start doing something different. If I want to do something new, I have to know exactly what that new behaviour is and how I’m going to implement it. Therefore, I first set a goal and then create a specific action strategy of what, why, where, when and how I’m going to act. I create these plans in the context of what I call a ‘Self-Change Project’.
A project is a plan, proposal, scheme or undertaking that requires concerted effort. (thefreedictionary.com)
More specifically, a Self-Change Project concerns the implementation of a new behaviour that I want to turn into an automated and internalised habit. It is a conceptual area of my Life that I decided to create because I found it useful.
The conceptual area of the Self-Change Project may always be there, but the specific content of that area will differ. As soon as I internalize a new behaviour and turn it into a habit by consecutive execution (consistently acting out the new behaviour); I can choose to place a new behaviour in the Self-Change Project area. The reason for this systematic approach to changing behaviour is for the reason I already the described in the previous part, most of my behaviours are automatic, intuitive and in-the-moment. I only have a limited capacity for my attention (Kahneman, 1973) and therefore it is smarter and more strategic to focus my conscious willpower on one highly specific, written action plan for changing my behaviour.
This written plan should contain the following elements:
– Exact specifics of what the new behaviour is
– When will I do the new behaviour?
– Where will I do the new behaviour?
– For how long does the project last?
(estimate how long it will take for the behaviour to be internalized)
Furthermore, the Self-Change project has to take into account my current capacity for challenge. I have to assess whether or not it I will be able to ACTUALLY DO the new behaviour consistently and I have to be brutally honest about this.
“I think I will.” and “I hope so.” aren’t going to cut it. If I fail to implement the new behaviour, this will only build a negative reference experience for trying to bring about Self-Change. It’s wiser to start with a less challenging goal and succeed in turning the new behaviour in an automated, internalized habit, instead of trying something that is too challenging and failing.
Next, it is important to also address the why of implementing a new behaviour. Tony Robbins states that knowing exactly why you’re pursuing a new goal helps you to get motivated and gives you the necessary emotional leverage to succeed. Clearly defining all the benefits of a new behaviour and picturing the long-term positive effects of achieving a goal will provide me with the motivation necessary to exert my willpower in actually doing the new behaviour.
Finally, it is important to allow space for rest, recovery and renewal and not stress yourself out too much by putting yourself under too large amounts of challenge.
This is also why I focus on bringing down stress levels (from lifestyle factors as well as unresolved past hurt), so that I have more space and capacity for challenge available.
The key principle in creating and applying Self-Change Projects is to alternate between periods of (1) challenging myself by executing new behaviour (pushing my comfort zone) and (2) retreating back into the safe haven for rest, recovery and renewal.
In the next paragraphs follows a summary of what a Self-Change Project is and some concrete examples for how they work.
A ‘Self-Change Project’ is a period of time which I dedicate to installing a particular new habit into my Life. For this time period all my willpower and energy is focused on creating a new habit. This means I will do this behaviour NO MATTER WHAT.
I don’t care if I fail in all my other aspirations, as long as I do the action that is the goal for the current Self-Change Project, I’ve succeeded. If I attempt to implement fifteen new behaviours at the same time, it will be way too overwhelming to manage.
I will be challenging my comfort zone way too hard. It’s wiser to commit to a set number of days and focus on just implementing one new behaviour that I want to create a habit of. When this habit is fully in place, it becomes more automatic for me and I can implement something else.
It is absolutely VITAL that I will do the new behaviour consciously on all the consecutive days that I had set out to do the new behaviour. It is key not to move on too early to a new behaviour, before the one I’m working on is a firmly rooted habit in my Life.
So what does this look like in practical terms?
Let’s say I want to implement 3 new behaviours:
Sleeping from 10 in the evening ’till whenever I wake up for 5 out of 7 days of the week
- Exercising 3 times a week
- Quitting alcohol/smoking/any other addiction
The most straight-forward approach would be to just try to do all three at once, starting now. A Smart and Systematic approach would be to create Change Projects for each behaviour and implement these new behaviours one at a time and start with the next one when having succeeded at the prior ones. This challenges my comfort zone more adequately and it gives my mind clarity on what the goal context is for any Self-Change Project I’m in. I always know I can succeed, because I know that all I have to do is this one thing. Then, after I’ve consciously acted out the new behaviour for a couple weeks, it becomes a habit I don’t have to think about anymore and I can start a new Self-Change Project with another new behaviour.
I find that the length of a Self-Change Project should be anywhere between 20-60 days, depending on the difficulty and frequency (how much times a week do I plan on doing this behaviour) of the new behaviours. I suggest every person experiments with these for themselves and find out what works best for them.
Also, I find it really helps to write down the times I’ve consecutively done the behaviour and when I fail to do the new behaviour I start counting again. This way, I can track my progress and I don’t have to remember everything. Writing everything down gives clarity.
Example Self-Change Project:
Goals: Do ‘new action X’ every day for the next 21 days.
Day 1: Did ‘new action X’, 1/21.
Day 2: Did ‘new action X’, 2/21.
Day 3: Did it, 3/21.
Day 4: Did it, 4/21.
Day 5: Fell of the wagon, did not do ‘new action X’, 0/21.
Day 6: Did it, 1/21.
Then I keep going until I reach 21/21, give myself a pat on the back and start designing a new Self-Change Project.
I don’t cheat on this, for it’s only disabling the efficiency of my self-change.
This simple strategy is easy to do and very effective. When repeated attempts at changing my behaviour have failed, this may lead to learned helplessness (“I just can’t seem to change this thing no matter how hard I try.”)
When this happens, it works wonders to just lower the goal difficulty, succeed at an easy Self-Change project and steadily increase the level of challenge as my capacity for it grows.
The next book piece drops at Wednesday February 15th on the topic of Integrity, Self-Trust, Locus of Control and Being with the Weirdness…
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