If we want to change our self-identity and the results we experience in our life then we have to start at some point. So many people try to change their life. They make a plan, they are inspired and motivated but: after taking action for a few days or maybe a week slowly their old habits start to take over. Why does this happen? The reason is not, as many people believe, because they are simply lacking in willpower. There is more to it. The reason is they are not following a strategy that works with their brain, but one that works against it. Our brains are habit-driven. It is good that our brains are habit-driven. If our brains wouldn’t work in this efficient way, we probably would not have survived to the present day. As I mention in my other resources: Our brain tries to conserve energy and time. It does this by building habits. Once a habit is established, it is much stronger than new impulses or behaviours. When your conscious focus for acting in a new, different way, wanes – your old habits take over. But if we keep our conscious focus on changing up and maintain the new behaviour – this slowly replaces the old habit. We have to be persistent and patient.
As you might know the results we achieve in our life are connected with our identity and self-image. Our brain always tries to keep what we are thinking, feeling and doing in alignment with our self-image. It is this image which we have to change. Changing our self-image also involves how we act in the world. Here comes the problem many people run into: If we change too much too quickly, we get overwhelmed. Then what happens is that our old habits take over. Like people making a new years resolution, to implement big changes and many times they fail. What I am suggesting here is inspired by an approach which I learned from the book „Mini Habits“, which has helped me a lot in changing and adapting my behaviour and identity. If you follow this strategy diligently: It works!
It is: changing a tiny thing, which seems totally innocuous. But let me tell you that the change this small shift in attitude and behaviour brings is mindblowing. If you want to change you first of all have to believe that change is possible. If we don’t believe change is possible – how should we start? Many of us don’t believe that we can change because we don’t have a strategy for changing. Also we tried changing in the past and it didn’t work. How valuable would a reference experience be for you in which you can clearly see before your own eyes: Change is possible. I can change! Following this strategy you can experience this quite easily. What is it? It is a simple step, taken on a daily basis, which can build a new, more productive self-image that is in alignment with the vision you have of your life. With achieving your desires and aspirations. It is:
Making your bed.
Before you raise your eyebrow, let me explain what this behaviour represents. Or you can watch this convincing 1’40s long video by Adminral McRaven before continuing.
- Making your bed in the morning is a little success – a single doable task – and you did it! When you’ve made your bed in the morning pat yourself on the shoulder and smile. Say: “well done!”. This may seem ridiculous, but it cheers you up and motivates you! This feeling of success carries over into your day. One little success leading to another and before you know it your whole day will be a big sucess. This. Changes. Your. Neurochemistry.
- Habits give you familiarity. Stability. If you are having an intense or rough morning (maybe something has happened the day before or the day ahead is going to be very challenging) – this routine will give you something to hold onto. Stability. Peace of mind. A predictable little part of your morning. A ritual.
- Doing this communicates to your subconscious: ”Order is importan to me. Order is good.” This can help you become and be more structured and organized in other areas of your life as well. It seems simple but do not underestimate this habit’s power!
- Learning this habit you can experience yourself in the process of learning a new habit. You are learning how to adopt a new habit by adopting a really simple behaviour.Plus when adopting the next positive habit you will think: “I can do that. Remember how I successfully taught myself to make my bed every day? *glances at made bed*”. You notice how good building a new habit feels and how easy it can be. Amazing, isen’t it?
- The feeling you get when you go to bed in the evening – to a made bed! You can’t help but feel like a VIP.
So by believing that change is possible, and implementing this small adjustment in your behaviour what will happen is: Your self-image and identity will gradually begin changing. Each time you are making your bed in the morning you are strengthening a self-image where you are doing what you say you are going to do.Where you are acting in a way that contributes to order, rather than to chaos in your life. Where you are making progress towards the realisation of your goals. Even if it is a tiny step: You are progressing. You are now a person who is proactively working towards the realisation of his or her goals. This is extremely gratifying and motivates you to keep going on your path of self-improvement. As a consequence you are more likely to do other things that are in alignment with this identity as well – it becomes easier and easier for you to succeed. This reminds me of a quote by the Buddha: “Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.” Do not underestimate small positive actions that affirm who you want to be and how you want to act.
So if you are still on the fence about this: I challenge you to give it a go for at least a week and write down your observations about what this is doing for you in your life. I bet that after a week you will realise that this little innocuous seeming step really has the power to start you on a new path that eventually leads you to the fulfilment of your goals and aspirations. Decide that you are going to implement this step now and don’t delay. Then stick to your decision. It’s that simple. Also check out this article on Lifehack on making your bed.