Trick Your Brain & Have a Blast Doing It.

By Christopher North

Welcome to 2018! For some, 2017 was the best year yet, for others we couldn’t put 2017 behind us fast enough. No matter how we experienced last year, every New Year is fraught with the feeling of new possibilities, opportunities, personalities and (of course) resolutions. But we’re all adults here so let’s care enough about each other to be honest. New year’s resolutions are a joke. Whether it’s the standard issue “get fit, pay off debt” resolutions or the more nuanced “be a better spouse & not judge people by their TV show choices”, chances are that no matter how good we’re doing in January, we’re probably headed towards a March meltdown or, in my case, a February Fail Fest. The good news is there is hope & it’s easier than you might think to make significant lasting change in our lives.

So often we are sold the lie that people change quickly. The “you will change quickly” fantasy is almost always attached to a subsequent “for the low low price of…” reality. But people rarely change quickly; they change intentionally. While a decision can be made and implemented in a moment, fully realizing the affects of that decision can take significant time. This year let’s reframe the way we interact with “change” so we can start enjoying the process of transformation even before we reach out ultimate goals. To help reframe how we relate to change, there are two high return on investment (ROI) activities/mindsets I’ll outline below.

First is to shrink the task. Example: instead of saying “beach body or bust!” say “One healthy choice that goes against my physical desire per day”. Shrinking the task bypasses your amygdala, which, to paraphrase Robert Maurer, PH.D, is the part of the brain responsible for telling you that big change is scary & dangerous. Your brain literally thinks keeping you the same is saving your life. Your brain will choose bust over beach body every time. Shrinking the task tricks your brain and helps you make significant progress. Robert Maurer, PH.D wrote a great book on this subject called How One Small Step Can Change Your Life. Watch a short summary here.

The second trick is to make it fun! Take video games, for instance. The best video games provide a platform requiring creative problem solving, adaptive learning, and even community, be it collaboration or competition. The best goals & challenges in our lives carry the same built-in characteristics. We’d do a great service to others and ourselves if we would relate to our desired changes as fun rather than fatiguing.  If we played video games the way many of us often live our lives, we’d probably play one round, lose, get defeated, throw the control, get cynical because “it” didn’t work and excuse ourselves from ever playing again.

When we relate to the changes & challenges this way we shut down our creativity and choose to be victims of cruel or unfair circumstances. Why not rather relate to the changes we desire to make like the levels we are trying to beat? When we do we actually expand and strengthen our imagination, creativity and resolve so much so that we are excited to hit reset and get into action. So this year I invite you to take a deep breath, exhale, and quit taking everything so seriously, not because things aren’t serious but, because it’s not over yet. As a matter of fact, it’s just beginning.