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Bulletproof Mindset

How to Change Your Thinking Habits

I accidentally discovered the secret of how to make a permanent habit.

I have a sort of funny or quirky story that relates to habits. The point of my true story is that you can make an automatic habit of anything and make it stick.

Every time I begin the process of leaving the house or leaving work, I immediately have to go to the bathroom to relieve myself before going. I have an immediate physical urge to urinate.

What the flop does that have to do with changing thinking habits? 

Well, it shows that any crazy automatic, subconscious habit can be created and last for years and years and years. This habit came from a time 10 years ago when I had an hour commute on a subway where I couldn’t use a bathroom. 

One time I was on the commute and had to urinate so bad I thought my bladder would burst or I would wet my pants. After that experience, I made sure to use the bathroom before leaving, whether I needed to or not. I only had to recall that experience of needing to go so badly to stay motivated.

Here I am 10 years later and I still have an instant urge to go to the bathroom anytime I get ready to go somewhere.

You can create permanent change to your thinking habits with these 4 steps.

Loyd Mears

Loyd Mears is the founder and CEO of DIY Mind Design and Oneup J LLC.

He has more than 20 years of experience in personal growth and self-improvement fields.

Sylvia McClure, CRS is a relationship counselor from Aarhus, Denmark with over 12 years of experience.

According to research findings, part of the secret to making a permanent change is to have a goal. Having a goal linked to changing your habit increases your success of it becoming automatic1.

Another ingredient to making a permanent change is persistence. Habits are very powerful patterns that require persistence and consistent effort to change. 

Follow the plan below, and you can succeed by replacing unwanted thinking habits with desirable ones. But, success requires a serious daily commitment over several months to make changes step-by-step.

STEP 1: Identify the thinking habits that you want to change.

To begin, make a list of the thinking habits you want to change. Here are some examples to help you think about your list.

  • Dwelling on possible future problems or hurts from your past.
  • Ruminating about past failures.
  • Taking things too personally.
  • Criticizing yourself and others.
  • Getting angry about little things.
  • Worrying too much.
  • Low self-confidence.
  • Fears of failure, success and rejection.
  • The Worrying about things you can’t control.
  • General negative thinking.

Make your list and remember that you can add to the list as you think of more things later.

checklist
  • Decide what the top 3 items are and then choose one to begin with. 
  • Don’t even think you can work on all of your list at once. You can only do one at a time until it is established and then move to the next one. 
  • So, keep the list and after you finish making a habit of the one you choose first, repeat this process to work on the next one.

  • Start with the easiest one if you like, but you need to have a strong commitment to persist until it is a habit.
  • Be sure the one you choose is something you really want to change and make a serious commitment to stick with it.

STEP 2: Create a strong feeling to make the change.

Increase your desire and motivation by thinking about why you want to change and listing all the reasons and benefits. 

You can increase your desire even more by thinking about the pain you will experience by not changing. You can list all the effects of the thinking habits you want to change.

Intensify Your Motivation

  • Write down the thinking habit you want to change.
  • List all the ways change will make your life better.
  • Imagine the future without changing.
  • Think about how painful or uncomfortable it would be if you don’t change.
girl with intense stare

STEP 3: Design a ritual to make the habit permanent.

Make Rituals to Change Your Thinking

Here is an exercise you can use to design rituals to create a permanent habit. You change your thinking from problems to solutions by using this trigger formula.

IF {TRIGGER} THEN { NEW THINKING } AND { NEW HABIT } THEN {EMOTIONAL REWARD}

{Trigger}

The trigger for your ritual is the thinking habit you want to change. Whenever the habit happens, you will do your ritual.

For example, if the habit you want to change is worrying about things then your trigger is any time you catch yourself worrying.

So then your {TRIGGER} is { I am worrying}.

{New Thinking}

The new thinking is what replaces the thinking habit you want to change. In the same example of worrying, you would replace your worrying with repeating to yourself “I don’t worry, I act” or some similar positive and productive thoughts. You can repeat it as many times as you need to really feel it.

So your {NEW THINKING} is {“I don’t worry, I act”.}

Refer to this article for more tools to create a powerful mindset.

{New Habit}

Your new habit part of your ritual is the new thought pattern or activity you want to replace the trigger habit you chose.

With the worrying example, you replace worrying with a method to stop worrying. Below is a process that will help solve worries quickly.

Get rid of worries with these steps: 

  • Write down exactly what you’re worried about. 
  • Write down what you can do about it to prevent it or reduce its impact. 
  • If it’s not something you control, then write down how you will respond if it happens (which is unlikely).
  • Decide what you will do. 
  • Immediately carry out your decision.

Remind yourself that 95% of the time, your worries never happen or they are not nearly as bad as you imagined.

You can find more methods like this worry solving process at these resources.

Stop Negative Thinking

Overcome Challenges

Be More Optimistic

{Emotional Reward}

fist pump celebration

The final part of making your ritual is to create a strong emotional connection by choosing a short celebration you will do every time you do your ritual.

Explore different types of short celebrations you can do to have a great feeling instantly.

Find something that feels right and good. Here are some ideas.

  • Pump Your fist and say “YES!” or “OUTSTANDING!” Intensely. Choose something that resonates with you.
  • Do a little dance and say “GOOD JOB!” or something more personal that gives you juice.
  • Make up a little jingle if you like to sing.
  • Smile big.
  • Imagine someone clapping for you.
  • Hum or whistle your favorite upbeat tune.
  • Clap your hands.
  • Nod your head.
  • Do a thumbs-up gesture.
  • Imagine the cheers of a crowd.
  • Think to yourself, AMAZING JOB!
  • Snap your fingers.
  • Imagine seeing a fireworks display.
  • Make a victory symbol with your arms above your head in a V.
  • Snear, chortle, snicker and tell yourself, I got this.

Choose something that feels great and use an exaggerated emphasis when you do it.

Loyd Mears

Loyd Mears is the founder and CEO of DIY Mind Design and Oneup J LLC.

He has more than 20 years of experience in personal growth and self-improvement fields.

Sylvia McClure, CRS is a relationship counselor from Aarhus, Denmark with over 12 years of experience.

Here is an example of a ritual for worrying too much:

  • IF {I am worrying too much}
  • THEN {Think “I don’t worry. I act”.} 
  • AND {Take action by doing worry solving steps}
  • THEN { Do a fist pump and passionately say “YES!”}

STEP 4: Practice until it becomes automatic and don’t quit one second sooner.

There is no exact amount of time it takes to establish a habit. 

According to one rigorous experiment published in the European Journal of Social Psychology2, it takes 66 days on average before a new behavior becomes automatic. The time it takes to form a new habit can vary widely depending on the person, the habit and the circumstances.

In this study, it took from 18 days to 254 days for people to form various new habits. So, if you want to have accurate expectations, plan for it to take you anywhere from 2 – 8  months to make a new thinking habit.

Final Words: How to Change Your Thinking Habits

Revisiting my story of creating the habit of using the bathroom before commuting, I was forced to keep reinforcing the habit. I had to commute and I was highly motivated to relieve myself before the long commute or risk being in dire need of a bathroom and none in sight.

You have to find a way to create the same kind of motivation and force yourself to practice the same level of reinforcement with any habits you want to change.

You do that with step 2 (creating motivation) and with the emotional reinforcement celebration step of your ritual.

The most important keys to remember are to:

  • only work one habit at a time and
  • stick with it every day until it sticks with you.

If you begin to lose motivation, go back and do step 2. Imagine and feel the things you listed for benefits and pain.

Also, take another look at step 3 and come up with a more powerful emotional reward to create a stronger motivational connection.

Best wishes in your efforts to change your thinking habits.

References

1. Aarts, H., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2000). Habits as knowledge structures: Automaticity in goal-directed behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(1), 53–63. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.78.1.53

2. Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C., Potts, H., & Wardle, J. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.674  https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674 

The Science of Habits. (2020). Retrieved 10 August 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-wise/201904/the-science-habits