The Mental Game
Overcoming Negative Habit Patterns
Probably the most challenging issue for all athletes, whether you’re a potential Olympian or just trying to lose those few pounds and Buff Up a little and stay there, is maintaining your personal training schedule as a HABIT. You’ve been there before. You start doing something, an activity, and then you have a setback, something that throws you off your path and breaks your pattern. In reflection, you may say, “I used to do that without even thinking twice, why did I stop?” You have fallen victim to a Pattern Interruption.
First we make our habits,
Then our habits make us.
Just as a Habit can be positive or negative, so can a Pattern Interruption. A habit is actually just a pattern that has been developed through repetition. Have you ever heard the term “repetition is the mother of skill?” As a patterned habit is reinforced, it becomes ingrained deeper and deeper into our subconscious. It is the continued repetition of any action or thought that makes that specific action or thought increasingly natural. This is why habits are hard for some people to recognize and difficult for them to alter. There’s a saying, “good habits are hard to develop and easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to develop and hard to live with.” Yet, doing things in a habitual manner is essential toward our personal excellence. The more habitual our daily routines and activities become the less thought and energy we need to use to achieve them. Therefore the more energy, focus and brainpower we can devote to new projects, skills and achievements.
Sometimes we get into bad habits that initially don’t seem to be overly negative. Rather, they appear to be just a slight shift in what we had been doing, not noticeable, really. Perhaps it is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day, that can over time land us in hot water!
Utilizing the twin Winning Mind Set principles of Pattern Interruption and Visualization can help you wipe out those debilitating habits.
How Can You Use This?
Habit Awareness Exercise
Take a moment to think about various positive or desired habit patterns you use to make your life easier or better. List them on a sheet of paper.
Great! Now take a moment to think about various negative or undesirable habit patterns you no longer want in your life.This can sometimes be very challenging because it is hard for us to identify our negative habits. Many of these types of habits are so ingrained that we often don’t even realize we are doing them. Now, as you think of them, list them on a sheet of paper as well. This is your Master List! Now, take just one (just maybe the one you like the very least) and write it out on a post-it note. OK, place it in a very prominent place, say…your car’s dashboard or your bathroom mirror.This is a place that you look at a few times each day. Consistency is important, after all, that’s how you got this habit in the first place!
Now pick that habit that you like the very least and use a pattern interrupt to change the negative habit to one more desired. Your pattern interrupt for this exercise is to visualize the worst possible outcome you can muster from this continued negative habit, and see it clearly in your mind’s eye! If your exercise consistency is the issue or if you overeat or always have more than your share of dessert, you may see your personal image as HUGE! Visualize your pants splitting and your belly hanging over them. Got that image? Is it painful? If so, continue. If not, get even more extreme in your visualization. Get really gross. GET GRAPHIC! Now see yourself working out hard and eating fresh healthy foods, morphing into the hard body athlete you want to be as you do these activities. A little extreme you might say? A little too unrealistic? Your mind thinks in pictures, the more extreme, the more pronounced the image and the greater the impression. Remember to be extreme!
Be sure to continue the pattern interrupt until you become conscious of when you are about to perform the negative habit and no longer need the pattern interrupt to aid you. If you find yourself falling back into your negative habit, run the program again. Sometimes just running the program in your head visually over and over will be very effective. In this case you see yourself performing the unproductive habit and then run the interruption program in your head numerous times. I’ve had great results with this technique.Let me know how you do!