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Why Your Brain Doesn’t Want You to Change – Episode 367

Video Highlights

- The brain is an energy hog.
- Brains are threatened by change.
- First steps to for your next change.

Habit change


I want to start off this week discussing your brain and how it deals with change efforts on your part.

Hi, Dr. Cobb here we’re back talking about habit change now I want to start off this week discussing your brain and how it deals with change efforts on your part.

Now remember a change effort means I’m trying to break a habit. I want to have a new habit, I want to eat better, I want to exercise differently, I want to talk to my significant other in a different way on a regular basis.

Those are all habits. So let’s talk about this really quickly so that you can start to do an exercise by the end of the video that will help you become more clear on how to begin learning how to change habits.

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I mentioned in my video last week that if I could give a gift to everyone I’ve ever worked with, to my family, to my kids, the number one gift that I would give people is an understanding of themselves that is so deep that they could change habits at will. Because the fact is that who we are and who we’re going to become are primarily governed by the habits that we’ve adopted over the course of our lives.

So, with that in mind let’s talk about the human brain.

The brain requires a tremendous amount of energy. Whenever we look at how much oxygen the brain uses and how much food energy it uses, it is completely out of proportion for its size. Your brain weighs probably three and a half to four pounds and it utilizes a tremendous amount of all the energy resources that come into your body. So you’ve kind of got this energy hog living up here in your skull, and the thing about that is that your brain doesn’t like to spend energy for no good reason and very often your brain is very happy with how things are, not your conscious brain, not your logical brain, but your subconscious brain because it’s keeping you alive. Right?

You’re going through your day, you’re eating a given way, you’re either exercising not exercising, you’re communicating with people in a certain manner, and as long as you’re surviving that, your brain, especially like  I said that more primal protective part of your brain, doesn’t see a need to change. So, when ever you go, hey you know what I’m going to give up… whatever… white flower, and because I really think that’s going to help me lose weight, your brain, like I said the primal part of it, doesn’t like that. It says you know what that whole idea of changing is going to require more energy, because to break an existing habit or to add a new habit requires that your brain expend more energy.

So in the neuroscience world, as they talk now with the business world, the phrasing that we hear over and over is that change is pain, meaning your brain perceives your efforts to change your habits as actually a painful thing.

We like to use a different word in Z-Health, we use the word threatening. So, changing habits can be threatening, to like I said this more primal part of your brain that’s specifically designed to protect you.

Woman looking up at cartoon gear brain

So one of the huge challenges that people face is emotional content, and here’s what I mean. When most people begin thinking about habits they want to change they start off with the big things. They go, “oh man I need to give up something in my diet,” or “I need to begin exercising,” or they they pick something that’s really important to them. The problem is that more emotional content attached to the habit you want to add in or the habit that you want to get rid of the more threatening it is to the brain.

So our exercise for this week to prepare you for next week is this. At the end of this video I want you to pull out a piece of paper and I want you to write down five things that you would like to change in your life. All right? Five. Five different habits. They can they can either be habits that you want to get rid of or new habits that you would like to add, but I only want you to write down five.

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Once you’ve written down the five here’s your exercise. You’re going to sit and you look at the list. You’re going to think through the five things you’ve written down, and I want you to go to the one that has the highest emotional charge to it, like oh man this would be so awesome if I could get rid of it or add this into my life, and what I want you to do is take a big red pen and cross that off the list. Then I want you to look at the remaining four and I want you to go through the same process.

At the end of this brief exercise you’re going to have eliminated the top four habits that you want to change from an emotional response perspective and you’re going to be left with one that’s kind of low threat. Now the reason that I want you to do that is that as we begin talking next week about how to begin implementing technologies into your life to help you change habits, we want to make sure that you begin garnering success. I want you to learn how to learn to change habits, and we do that by starting with this very very low threat perspective.

There was a wonderful book written years ago called The Four Day Win, the author’s name is Beck, and what she talked about is that you want to take any habit that you want to change and you want to chop it in half, and then you want to chop it in half again, and then chop in half again, and keep doing that until the habit that you’re trying to change is so ridiculously small that it would seem silly to be scared of it, and that’s what we’re after for this week.

So remember, do this brief exercise.

Next week when we get together we’ll start talking about technologies of change. Because we’re learning more and more about the brain, how it responds to both what we think and things in our external environment, and there’s lots of ways that we can begin taking advantage of that information to make our change efforts easier.

So thanks for joining me.

Have a great week.

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