People say success is just a matter of choice. The common law of attraction type paradigm is that you can choose to be happy; choose to be successful at your job, choose to be better at delegation, making decisions or planning.
That you can simply choose to get fit, stop smoking or procrastinate less and bingo it happens
When saying this they are failing to understand how human behaviour arises. How to achieve the things we want to become means that we change how we act and behave now.
And that 95% or more of human behaviour is automatic unconscious and habit based.
Habits are habits for a reason – they make life simpler, faster, easier.
To change them requires us to make a ‘choice’ over and over again when every fibre of our being is trying to prevent us from changing. Change isn’t about one big choice - it’s about many small ones.
The journey of a thousand miles might begin with the first step – but it is still a long way, and to get there you must continue to take step after step after step, each step bringing you closer to your goal.
The challenge for all of us who want to improve our personal leadership is to understand the behavioural influence and immense power of a brain that has evolved over millions of years. The formation and maintenance of conditioned, automatic habituated behaviour has been a key to the survival of our species.
‘Consciousness’, and with it the sense of us making a conscious choice, evolved well after the core infrastructure of the brain that deals with conditioning, fight/flight, sensory perception and habituation. You don’t need to have a consciousness, a deliberative decision maker and problem solver, to succeed as a viable species.
The problem with most peoples’ understanding of consciousness is that we believe we have more conscious control than we actually have. We dramatically understate the effect of habit and genetics on the way we feel and the choices we make.
In fact there is plenty evidence from the field of neuroscience that demonstrates your ‘choices’ are made some 300-600 milliseconds (a very long time for your brain) prior to you being consciously aware of them. This leads to an interesting debate about the very existence of free will, we don't need to go there for this discussion.
Ultimately what is not up for debate is that we (or more accurately; our genetics and life experiences) form our habits and then our habits create us.
So any personal development, personal leadership program that doesn’t provide a strategy for changing habits is likely to fall short, or be short lived. If you want to change a workflow or habit you need to change what your brain thinks of as normal.
The process for learning new skills is as simple as it has ever been; Observation, Imitation, Repetition.
It is how we have learned everything we know. We see and notice something, we form up a model. We practice/imitate the action then repeat until it has become a habit.
To say that it is simply a matter of ‘choice’ is to oversimplify the problem. It’s like a pro tennis player saying to a novice ‘just choose to be awesome at tennis’. Change requires a change in habits. This means training your subconscious brain to behave differently to the way it has up to this point in your life.
The irony is that change requires making the consistent choice to behave differently to the way you feel in precisely the moments when you feel the least like making that choice.
It is also critical to your success to be kind towards yourself.It is inevitable that along the path to change you will make mistakes, revert to old behaviours. Just keep building – we are all human.
The key to unlocking your comfort zone and building a new more effective habit is to apply this learning process to the flow of thoughts in your own mind. To do that you must be clear about;
1. The stuff you do (your current habit)
2. The stuff you want to do (the preferred model or behaviour)
3. The stuff you need to pay attention to (use a mechanism to ensure you are mindful - paying attention - at the right time so you can make the right choice).