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Leftfield 101, Mindset - Making habits stick.
By: Leftfield Training

Leftfield 101, Mindset - Making habits stick.

“Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be."
- Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

So we now know how habits form through cue, routine and reward, we understand the power of keystone habits and (should) by now have perhaps the two biggest keystones in exercise and meditation working their charms in our daily life.

Now we need to make our habits stick.

Got ID?

We are simply the sum of our habits. What we do repeatedly - what we spend time thinking about and doing each day, forms who we are, the things we believe, and the personalities we portray.

But this also works in reverse.

If you remember back to how those with a fixed-mindset immediately dismiss anything that is inconsistent with their idea of who they are.

- “I'm not a maths person"

- "I don't play tennis"

Any disconnect between thought and behaviour is called cognititve dissonance. This curse of the undercover cop, is a psychological discomfort that we will always look to resolve, sometimes even subconsciously.

If we can adopt the beliefs and mindset of those we wish to emulate, then we will begin to behave in that manner also.

Perhaps even more importantly, we will eliminate any other behaviours that are not consistent with it.

Start with the personality and the beliefs and your actions will then follow suit.

Stop wanting it.

Start being it...

Here, have a donut.

No thanks, (I’m trying to lose weight) I better not.

(Woe is me. Living a life of rules and restrictions, on yet another diet. Surely one donut can’t hurt, they look damn good.)

This boring, yet inevitable debate needs to be cut off at the knees.

Here, have a donut.

No thanks, (I’m an athlete), I don’t eat donuts.

(Empowered. In control. Calling the shots)

Eating donuts is, just not me.

Even more helpful is that when we adopt a new identity rather than just a specific behaviour, it is multi-faceted.

What does that person eat and drink?
What does their fridge look like?
What do they eat when they are out?
How often do they exercise?
How much sleep do they get?

These all become obvious extensions of the idea.

It's very common when projecting to get our wires crossed. Easy to forget that other people are a reflection of their behaviour also.

"I wish I had a body like that, I could eat what I want."

In assuming another identity we are forced to go a bit deeper than this sort of mistaken, defensive thought.

And also to confront whether or not what we want is even realistic.

For us.

When we go on a little mental journey inside another life, do we really find Tims Tams in their cupboards? Do they spend all weekend eating pizza and drinking booze?


Strange that in assuming an identity, despite it's dependence, at least initially, on imagination. This grounds our ideals, our fantasies, firmly in reality.

Your identity can be whatever you like. Just pick something that is aligned with where you want to be, how you want to (realistically) live your life. Then just get on with it.

Not chasing, wishing, trying, or buying.

Just BE-ing it.

James Clear writes brilliantly about this in the Huffington Post, in particular detailing the different layers of behaviour change.

We start with just assuming this new identity - essentially acting it. But as Clear writes, and as cognitive dissonance demands, we also have to to prove it to ourselves. This is yet another reason why we focus on developing small habits - easy wins, that help to affirm your new identity.

Each one adding another layer of authenticity.

All of this again depends essentially on awareness. Thinking about how you’re living in each moment. Living with deliberate intent and concentrating only on the process.

In this manner, your appearance or performance based goals are decided - a fait accompli.

So if it's just about sticking to the process that counts - why didn't you say so?

What if we could get something along the same lines as a guarantee?

As is sadly the case all too often with humanity, sometimes the carrot isn't enough.

Time for the stick.

I look to the future because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life.
- George Burns

From Homer we learn the tale of Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek).
On his way home from the Trojan Wars, Ulysses sailed close to the home of Sirenusian Islands - home of the fabled Sirens, luring ships to their destruction.

Ulysses devised a plan. Instructing his crew to fill their ears with beeswax so they would remain unaffected, and to ignore any of his pleas to be released. He then strapped himself securely to the mast so that he would be unable to act on his impulses, and would become the first to survive the Siren's song.

Ulysses gave his rational mind, power over his emotional mind.

In pre-committing himself to a course of action when unaffected by obvious future influence, he was able to ensure he stuck to his decision.

This is the Ulysses Contract - a decision made in the present that is both intended and designed, to bind you in future.

Your present self is more than happy to talk the talk - it doesn't have to do anything other than set the rules.

But whether that choice is a cigarette, internet shopping purchase, or an extra helping of dessert, your future self, is not nearly as good as actually living them.



Okay, I'm perhaps a little eager. We don't have to go straight to the thumbscrews, but this is where not only does your present self get to talk the talk - it also gets to put on a balaclava and make sure your future self gets the good news - anything from a gentle tickle, to a psychological water-boarding.

Isn't the present fun!

The only question is:

How much coercion will you really need?

Zelda Gamson had been a smoker for decades. She had tried on numerous occasions to quit without success. Then one day she made a deal with her future self - holding a friend responsible as both witness and adjudicator.

Zelda, pledged to donate $5000 to a particular organisation if she ever smoked a single cigarette again.

The organisation?

The Ku Klux Klan.

Zelda Gamson, ex civil-rights activist would donate $5000 to the KKK if she ever smoked again.

And that.

Was that.

The problem in sticking to our habits is that our future is abstract when compared to our present. Even though our rational mind has decided what we want and what we need to do to get it, it gets overruled.

Even the playing field.

Give your long term battles some form of immediacy - bring them into the present.

Turn the now vs future, into a now vs now.

"I want a cigarette now" vs "I hate the KKK", now.

Of course you don't have to be as extreme but if you are serious about it, why not?

If you are really having trouble sticking to something just find something that hurts more than resisting temptation.

If X.

Then Y.

C'mon. What's a little blackmail between selves?

Later in Mindset we'll take a final look at habits and two further methods that can help us change our behaviour.

But in the meantime consider that there is one reason for all of this. A single reason why we concentrate on habits, identity, keystones and Ulysses Contracts.

We can dress this up in noble aspirations and lofty goals all we like. But when it comes right down it this is a very juvenile pursuit, and even then, it's less the rosy-cheeked and more the snot running down the chin, kind.

Like a bratty toddler throwing a tantrum in the supermarket.

This is about one thing, and one thing only.

Getting what you want.

Call Leftfield Training now, and take the first step to getting IN SHAPE OUTDOORS.


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Added: 06-05-2014