Why is it that we don’t live healthily while we know perfectly well what a healthy lifestyle is? Why do we let disappointment guide us, when we know it’s better to let this emotion settle down first? Why don’t we do what we know is right? Why is it so difficult to stick to good intentions? Why does our mind-set revert back so easily to clinging to set behaviour? These are all questions that relate to developing a mind-set that is focused on change.
In this article, I will explain what you can do to embrace and maintain a new mind-set. With this new mind-set it’ll become much easier to stay true to new intentions or adopt new habits.
What are our main guides and distractions?
Our brain has two mechanisms that have a great impact on our behaviour. These mechanisms are negative emotions and conditionings. (In this context, conditioning is learned behaviour that has developed under certain circumstances and has turned into a habit). Obviously, these two mechanisms are closely linked, but if you wish to understand your mind-sets, it helps to make a clear distinction.
Negative emotions play a pivotal role where mind sets concerned. The fact is that the brain consists for a large part of emotions and the consequences of these emotions. Often, your conditioning is created through repeated reactions to a negative emotion.
Say you want to go to the gym, but at the same time, you really don’t feel like it. Your negative emotion “don’t feel like it” transmits signals to the thinking brain, which then focuses on these negative emotions. The follower network of the brain is now activated. The follower network will come up with all kinds of reasons to justify “don’t feel like it”. And before your know it, you are (literally) following the thoughts that spring from the “don’t feel like it” emotion. You decide not to go to the gym. Probably, this reaction is a regularly occurring one. You are conditioned to handle the “don’t feel like it” emotion this way. This mind-set forms the basis of distraction.
Follower versus internal leader
So, we are mainly guided and distracted by our mind-set. Two major mind-sets can be distinguished: the mind-set of an internal leader and the mind-set of a follower. These two mind-sets are like two networks in the brain. The mind set of an internal leader allows you to make choices. The internal leader is crucial for creating a different future; for sculpting your objectives.
Conversely, the mind-set of the follower mainly follows programming and negative emotions. If we are in the follower mind-set, we are more likely to revert to old habits and to focus on maintaining the status quo. This does not mean that the follower mind-set is good or bad. It is just as it is.
It is obvious that no fundamental changes will occur as long as you are guided by the follower mind-set. Although you may regularly attempt to alter things, you will see that your follower quickly takes control. The follower mind-set is very powerful and will therefore often be stronger than your daily good intentions! Neuroscience has a clear explanation for this. The brain will unconsciously take the faster route in order to use as little energy as possible. What is more, we are not truly aware of 85% of our actions.
How to change your mind-set
I think that the core of a durable change in your mind-set has three aspects.
1. Developing awareness
2. Becoming skilful at recognizing your mind-sets
3. Practice. In order to change your mind-set, it is essential that your learn to develop your awareness. (click to tweet)
In order to change your mind-set, it is vital that you learn to develop awareness. You need awareness to observe yourself. Without awareness, your life passes by seemingly unnoticed.
You can enhance awareness through exercises that help you focus your attention inwardly, such as exercises in mindfulness, meditation, silence or yoga.
Becoming skilful at recognizing your mind-sets
The greater your awareness, the greater your skills in recognizing your mind-sets. On an average day we will repeatedly switch from internal leader to follower. What is our goal? We want to be less in our follower and more in our internal leader. This can be done by recognizing these two mind-sets.
If you are in your follower mind-set, recognize it and label it. That’s the skill. Recognizing and labelling the mind-set of the follower. Distinguishing this mind-set is done by the internal leader, so the follower mind-set recedes. And this, in turn, strengthens your internal leader. By then focusing on the behaviour you wish to change, this will develop further.
Now, you need to practice this, daily if not continuously. Until it has become a new habit. When you practice a lot, the neuroplasticity of the brain will form new connections.
When you are in this new mind-set, the mind-set of the internal leader, you will become much more skilled in developing behaviour that really suits you. Whether you wish to lose weight or become more successful in your life, it all starts by strengthening the internal leader.
If you truly wish to change, start developing the internal leader mind-set. The stronger this becomes, the faster you familiarize yourself with new habits.