Trying To Change a Behavior? Don’t Get Stuck in These 3 Myths

They Might Surprise You…

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Did you know that researchers at Harvard University are studying happiness? Harvard University, one of the most globally recognized educational establishments on the planet has dedicated an entire departmental division to researching whether or not happiness is good for you.

(FYI: It is.)

Those same researchers also studied the outcomes of filling your life with healthy behaviors and compiled a list of the results. While the cause/effect of living a more health-filled life might seem obvious, some of their discoveries may surprise you. For example:

  • Thirty-nine percent of people were more likely to live to age ninety-four
  • Healthy individuals proved to be up to three times more creative
  • Thirty-one percent of research subjects were more productive
  • Twenty-five percent experienced less fatigue
  • Research subjects exhibited evidence of being ten times more engaged in activities
  • Forty percent of those researched showed an increase in achieving success

All of that, and more, simply from operating from a place of healthy behaviors and happiness—both of which come from healthy beliefs.

If you’re ready to change a behavior, chances are you’ve already done a lot of work to get there. After all, it’s difficult to admit when we need to change something that has become habitual in our lives—and often, even more difficult to become aware we need a change in the first place. Once you’ve awakened to the behaviors that aren’t serving you, you certainly don’t want to waste precious time stuck in the myths of what it really takes to change a behavior.

But they’re more common than you think.

Behavior Change Myth #1: All it Takes is a Little Education
In other words, if you educate yourself on why a behavior is unhealthy, you will change it. While it sounds like it should be true, this myth is totally false. If all someone needed to change some of their unhealthiest habits was the knowledge of why something is unhealthy, everyone on earth would be walking to work, eating seven to nine servings of fruit and vegetables every day, waking up before the sun each morning to meditate, and recycling. Practically everybody, on some level, knows how to differentiate the “good” choices from the “bad” choices—we just choose the bad choices. Sometimes more often than others.

Behavior Change Myth #2: You Just Need an Attitude Adjustment
The idea is, if you change your attitude, you can change your behavior. But ask yourself: The last time you were spiraling down the Emotional Guidance Scale or reaching for that third glass of wine after a long day at work, would you have felt better if someone had simply told you to cheer up, stop being such a Debbie Downer, and get up off the sofa? Probably not. Often referred to as “toxic positivity,” the idea that all you need to feel better is to FEEL BETTER can be a destructive one, leaving you feeling like there’s something inherently wrong with you and potentially causing you to suppress your feelings rather than addressing them.

Behavior Change Myth #3: More Motivation Will Get You There
In other words, if rewards are offered as a motivation to change, you will change. Have you ever tried to motivate yourself to write a term paper with a piece of chocolate every time you finish a page, or filled an online shopping cart with new clothes that you’ll buy just as soon as you reach your ideal body shape? If so, you’re not alone—but chances are, it hasn’t worked for you either. Research shows that when promised a financial reward for behavior change, people still won’t change their behavior—even when they think they will! External motivation might inspire you to make a small change, initially, but it also has a short shelf-life. With external motivation as your only driving force, you’ll always return to an old, patterned behavior because you haven’t yet dealt with that behavior on a subconscious level. Plus, once the reward has been given, you have nothing to sustain the change long-term.

If you’ve fallen for any of these behavior change myths before, now is not the time to beat yourself up or raise the volume on your inner-critic. Instead, congratulate yourself for your newfound awareness—you’re not a total failure at behavior change, you’ve just been believing a myth that you now know is false!

But if these are all myths, what does change a behavior?

In my experience: Mindfulness.

The practice of mindfulness invites you to become a more conscious, deliberate creator of your life. It helps you dig up the unconscious beliefs that have been informing your actions for years, or even decades, pulling you out of ego and autopilot and making space for the still pause between your thoughts. Only then can you get to the root of whatever isn’t working for you, in your life.

Rather than letting your beliefs continue to direct you towards unsuccessful methods of behavior change, mindfulness teaches you to observing your unhealthy habits with loving-kindness and compassion, making space for the suffering that led you to form those unhealthy habits in the first place. Then, with all the love in the world for your authentic self and the journey you’ve been on, can you start to change the behaviors that no longer serve you.

Did this post awaken you to a behavior change myth you’ve been falling for? If so, I want to know! Head over to Facebook to share any new insights, ideas, or questions you have!

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