by Sara Hyzdu, Founder of Why Grey Matters
Sara was our guest expert speaker to our Be. members in January. Here she shares more great tips for building strong habits to achieve your goals.
CHANGE IS HARD
Why is it so hard to follow through on making a change in your life? I’m not talking about the things we think we should do but don’t feel particularly passionate or excited about. I’m talking about the things we really want to do but don’t.
Take a New Year’s Eve resolution, for example. We identify something we desire and set a goal to achieve it. Sure enough, within weeks if not days, we are disappointed in ourselves because we’re already falling short.
It’s not you, it’s your brain. This is not about making excuses, it is about recognizing the brain’s natural tendencies and limitations then learning how to manipulate your brain to get better results. I’ve spent over a decade researching the brain while working with hundreds of clients to improve their performance, and I do this by teaching people how to unlock the full power of their brain. While the starting point is to set goals and discuss how the brain impacts my clients, it really comes down to helping them create new habits that last.
I’ve catalogued what conditions need to be true for the brain to actually follow through and created a brain hack, called DailyMAC. A DailyMAC is a micro-action you take daily. MAC means “micro-action” but it also stands for 3 specific ways to trick your brain into following through.
TIP #1: M for MINUTE
The action you set cannot take longer than a minute to complete. This is important because the brain is never going to feel motivated to take on anything new if that task feels big, uncertain, or challenging. The brain looks at daunting tasks as threats and is designed to shut them down. That means any action we take towards change needs to be just as easy to do, as NOT to do. Obviously the changes we make are bigger than one-minute tasks, but it is important to identify this first step to start you on the path. This will make it easy to take subsequent steps towards the bigger change.
TIP #2: A for ACT THEN FEEL
Take action to learn how you think and feel, not the other way around. We often don’t take action due to hesitancy or uncertainty Rather than freeze up because you don’t know how to accomplish something, the best thing to do is to just try something. Our brains make decisions based on emotions, so when you commit to just try it, you will know quickly how it feels and tweak the action to something better. This step also includes acknowledging whether that action feels good and why. Emotional connections to actions help inspire you to continue doing that action moving forward.
TIP #3: C for CONDITION TO TRIGGER
Tie any new action to an existing condition to trigger it. The brain is lazy and often runs on autopilot so the action you take needs to be tied to something you are already doing, or else your brain won’t remember to do it. A new habit needs to be tied to something you TRULY DO DAILY, like waking up, eating lunch, driving home from work, etc. Connecting a new habit to an existing condition will trigger your brain to complete both the new and the old together.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
To bring all three conditions together, I recommend using a WHEN, THEN routine.
WHEN is the condition that triggers, and THEN is the minute action. If my goal is to get in shape and I’ve decided a daily jog is a part of that, my DailyMAC might be:
WHEN I wake up, THEN I will put on my workout clothes and running shoes (once you have your clothes on you will be more likely to run at some point during that day). The power is getting started; when the brain completes something, even as small as the MAC, it provides a burst of dopamine, a reward chemical that gives you the energy to keep going.
One more tip with your DailyMAC is to acknowledge yourself (internally say “good job” or pump your fist in the air for example). This will release another burst of reward in the brain. This is because the brain doesn’t differentiate between something real and imagined, so you get a bonus reward and extra energy to keep on going.
So the next time you identify something big you want to achieve but don’t know where to start – start with a DailyMAC. Before you know it, those small, meaningful micro-actions will lead to big changes that last.
About The Author: Sara Hyzdu is a high-performance coach who helps leaders unlock breakthrough results. She is the creator of NeuroInspire®, a program that uses brain insights to create meaningful habits that last. To make the shift from simply operating to truly inspiring, sign up for her free tips on how to unlock the full power of the brain.