We went to the cinema last night and confronted an old habit. Generally, when you go to see a movie, right after you have your ticket you step up to the concession stand for a snack purchase. Yesterday we looked at one another. “We are going to get a Coke, aren’t we?” she said. She looked like I felt. “Well, do you really want a Coke?” I replied, “We could split one.” We paused and looked at the choices, each of us thinking about what it would mean to get one.
I thought it would mean that going to the movies would equal having a syrupy drink, it might mean going to the cinema less often–and we like seeing shows at the show. “Let’s have a tea.” We asked and found out that if you want tea, you have to get in a separate line, one where they don’t sell popcorn. Score! I hate theater popcorn anyway, so now we don’t have to get in the line and think about getting it. By the way, Screenland theater at Crown Center in Kansas City has real popcorn flavorings, including melted real butter! I will buy popcorn if I am there.
Getting popcorn and a Coke at the theater was just a habit. It was like having a cigarette at the bar. It was like getting a beer. Now we go to a bar for the entertainment and drink near-beer. It’s our new habit.
Now when we go to the theater we will get a large iced tea that we can share. At only $2.50 each for concessions, how is that any less than a win and a NEW HABIT?
There is a scientific reason why we had the reaction that we had standing in the concession line. Our ganglia region of our brains were firing a habitual behavior pattern for us, so that we would not be bothering the higher regions of our brains for what to do next. No need to make decisions, these things have been decided years ago. The same thing that makes you grab for your pack of cigarettes after dinner, instinctively, is the thing that makes you think you want a Coke at the movies. The distress you feel when you realize there are no cigarettes in your pocket is your higher regions of your brain being bothered to determine the next step, since the previous next step is now not available.
You have to be able at that moment to associate why you want to form a new behavior right at that instant. Yesterday I told myself, “I don’t think a sweet coke would taste that good right now.” You might tell yourself, “I have been two weeks without tobacco, and now is not a good time to start up again”. Same thing.
This is also why I think my method of changing behaviors “One Small Thing At A Time” is more effective for me than changing it all at once with a diet. My ganglia can control all of the things I am not changing, and I am bothering my frontal lobe only worried about the Coke, not the popcorn, not the butter, not everything all at once.
According to an article in Psychology Today, here are the things to do if you want to form new, beneficial habits to displace old, destructive habits:
Habitual thinking and behavior are a result of powerful neural pathways in our brains, and memories that are automatically and unconsciously accessed; we get brain chemistry rewards every time we access those memories;
Unconscious thought processes can predetermine, without an individual’s awareness, decision-making bias and actual decision-making;
Emotions are the key driver to decision-making, not logical, analytical thought; our logical processes are often only rational justifications for emotional decisions;
Your brain will put up defensive mechanisms that will try to protect you from change;
Because the brain operates in a quantum environment, our perceptions and self-talk alters the connections and pathways in our brains. Whatever we focus our “attention” on changes or creates new brain connections;
Managers should focus on desired new patterns of thinking and behavior to help employees change, not analyzing and trying to fix the old patterns because the latter will only reinforce the problems.
Here is a great method to easily break your bad eating habits:
The more habits you break, the easier it gets to break the next habit. You see, breaking a habit is a process, which can become habit itself. Put another way, you can establish the brain wiring for breaking habits. This means that if you do the work to break enough habits, breaking a habit eventually could become relatively easy for you.
So here’s a trick for you. Create the wiring for breaking habits by breaking a bunch of easy habits. Save that big bad habit until much later, after you have several successes under your belt.
ONE SMALL THING AT A TIME. Oh yeah, and don’t be hard on yourself when it doesn’t happen right away. Changing is hard, and it’s not because you are weak. It is how you are wired AT THE MOMENT. You can change it by continuing to change, not by kicking your own ass every time you fail to change and then reverting to old habits. Practice changing, One Small Thing At A Time.