Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “Social Sciences”

Behavior Change 101

So… it’s been about 3 weeks since I started blogging again! I happen to be playing around with behavior change lately and one thing I’m realizing is that consistency is key! It’s a lot harder to stick to something that happens inconsistently than it is to stick to one small thing every day or every week around the same time. With the blogging, when I leave it up to chance… it doesn’t seem to happen. I’m realizing this is pretty true of most habits – they have to be consistent to stick.

I’m starting a week-long program with BJ Fogg, a behavior change researcher from Stanford University. I’ve gone through the week-long program once, so this will be my second go-round. There are a few important components to his method and they seem to work pretty well… Let me share the highlights.

First of all, you pick three things you want to add to your routine. (BJ’s model does not address habits you want to quit — stay tuned for more on that in a future blog). One of the most critical realizations of this model’s success is starting small. The idea is not to pick your ultimate end-state behavior, but rather to pick a very small starter step toward your desired state. An action that seems almost ridiculously easy and that you are really certain you can do! (This part of the process cannot be emphasized enough!) The difference between exercising for 30 minutes vs. putting on your sneakers. It’s that small!

The second step is to identify an anchor. Basically, you pick something that you already do consistently every day, and link your new action to that established behavior. Anything you do consistently every day can work, such as waking up, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, etc. One of my anchors is taking my morning medicine… something I do every day without fail.

The last piece of the model includes celebration. Now, I’m going to be honest here… I’ve always struggled with rewarding myself for good behavior. I’ll admit that there have been more than one occasion where I set up a reward for myself if I did xyz… and then rewarded myself anyway, even when I failed! Once I got it in my head that I wanted xyz… well… come on! This celebration thing is a little different though. Basically, after you do your very small starter step toward your ultimate goal, you do some kind of little celebration. Whether it’s a self-congratulatory, “woo hoo” or a pat on the back. It seems silly, but it makes so much sense when you think about it. This is my take on it… you’re picking an action step that is ridiculously easy. Putting on your shoes in the morning, or flossing one tooth (one of BJ Fogg’s favorite examples), does not lend itself to celebration. The reality is, It’s a very small step that in-and-of-itself does not necessarily lead you to feel triumphant. That’s where the celebratory trickery comes in (my term, not BJ’s!). When you give yourself an “atta girl” or “woo hoo” after completing that small step, your brain begins to associate success and accomplishment and generally good feelings with that action. That’s a plus!

Here’s an example from my first week… 1) check the to-do list on my phone immediately after taking my morning medicine, 2) send a text or email to a friend after I bring up my email in the morning, and 3) do one round of EFT (emotional freedom technique) after I journal at night. The first two habits stuck… and in fact, checking my to-do list in the morning has proven very effective in making me feel more organized and less stressed about what’s not getting done at home. The last one, the EFT after journaling, was not successful. I don’t always journal at the same time each night and often I’m exhausted by the time I’m jotting down my final thoughts. It just wasn’t a good anchor for this particular task. Good learning.

I’ve started another round this week and I’ve brought the EFT forward with some changes to my anchor. This time, I’m going to do a round of EFT after I turn on the shower in the morning. I’m not sure what I normally do as I wait for the water to get hot… but it’s probably not very productive! I’ve also decided that I’ll do 2 squats when I first sit down in the morning (I have a spot where I always sit down first thing in the morning (use your imagination)… so this seemed like an anchor that might work.  And finally, I’m going to take 3 deep breaths after I take my evening medicine. (Questioning that one, since my evening medicine time varies like my evening journaling, but we’ll see how it goes).

So… that’s basically the gist of it. Pick a ridiculously small first step toward an ultimate goal, have it follow an anchor that you’re already doing every day, and celebrate shamelessly upon completion of ridiculously small step!  Voila.  I’ll let you know how it goes for me. I encourage you to try it out for yourself!!  Learn more at BJ’s tiny habits site… http://www.tinyhabits.com/

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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Perception is Reality… right?

I saw a show the other day that talked about the brain… and how we perceive things. It gave an example where it showed a color photo with a white dot in the middle of the picture. The directions were to stare at the white dot. I stared. Then the guy on TV started talking about how our brains filter information and will make adjustments as not to overwhelm our minds. To be perfectly honest, at first, I had no idea why the guy was saying all that. I didn’t notice anything weird about what I’d seen. Then they showed the example again… and the guy referred to the fact that the color photo was swapped with a black and white photo. The crazy thing is… when the photo is first swapped, you still see color! Our brains know what is supposed to be there and we fill in the blanks accordingly. It reminds me of another cool trick that has circled around email in the past… where a bunch of letters are missing from a paragraph, but amazingly when you go to read it, you know exactly what it’s supposed to say. Our brains are amazing… they fill in the blanks.

So… that made me wonder about perception vs. reality. If we see the color of the photograph even though the image has been switched to black and white… then our perception (color) is not reality (black and white)… right? If we can read the paragraph with all the missing letters, then our perception (a complete paragraph) is not reality (a jumble of letters that do not make complete sentences).  But what about situations where no one is pointing out the mismatch? What if we glanced at the photo for a moment and saw color when there was none… but no one was there to point it out? Reality, after all, is relative… right? My reality might very well be that I saw a color photograph. And if I didn’t have the email explanation following the paragraph of incomplete sentences… if it did, in fact, read like a regular paragraph to me – wouldn’t my reality be as such… that I had just read a complete paragraph? I guess the question I’m really getting at is this… Is reality objective or subjective? And how does that effect our daily lives?

I was listening to an audio recently by Brent Phillips. He gives an analogy that really struck a chord with me… a coin. Now… there are inherent qualities to a coin. It’s made of metal. It’s round. One side of the coin is Heads. One side of the coin is Tails. What determines whether you see heads or tails? The way that you look at the coin. The inherent quality of the coin never changes. It always has both a heads side and a tails side. Even if you’re looking at the coin and you only see the heads side… you know that there is a tails side if you decide to look at the coin differently. Whether you’re looking at the heads side or the tails side, it does not change the inherent quality of the coin.

I’d like to suggest that every single thing in our life is like that coin… it has a heads side and a tails side depending on how we look at it. Now you might be asking yourself… which is the positive side… the heads or the tails? Well that’s just our human selves trying to make the subjective into an objective reality again! You know that saying, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure? One person’s pleasure is another’s pain. It’s all based on perception! Have you ever watched “Swamp People” on Discovery Channel? Those people are passionate about hunting alligator. They get excited about hunting their prey – or if they’re not, they do a darn good job pretending! I can’t even imagine going anywhere near the bayou… let alone getting anywhere near an alligator… and definitely wouldn’t try to shoot the thing and pull it up on my boat! PERCEPTION people! This is the highlight of their day!

The definition of Perception from Wikipedia is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to fabricate a mental representation through the process of transduction, which sensors in the body transform signals from the environment into encoded neural signals.[1] All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs.[2] For example, vision involves light striking the retinas of the eyes, smell is mediated by odor molecules and hearing involves pressure waves. Perception is not the passive receipt of these signals, but can be shaped by learning, memory and expectation.

What’s fascinating to me about all of this is how caught up we are in “reality” and needing to “see” in order to believe. On some level, it seems like the world is just one big illusion where we individually fill in the blanks of what is true. That’s certainly what the latest Law of Attraction and positive psychology research seems to be saying. Our perception of reality… is reality. To the extent that we can influence our perceptions… we can influence our reality. WOW.  I guess that’s all for tonight. Stay tuned!

Love and laughter… if you choose to perceive it!  ~Rashel

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