I never used to floss my teeth. I just didn’t like doing it, so I didn’t.
Then one day, after the guilt of a dentist visit where, once again, I owned up to not being a flosser, I decided that actually I am going to be someone that flosses her teeth. I realized I had been repeating my old story to myself: ‘No, I don’t like flossing. I’m not someone who flosses.’ This had become a self-perpetuating prophesy. When I changed my story, suddenly the new story came true. Now, as I finish cleaning my teeth and think ‘shall I floss?’, I’m much more likely to answer myself with ‘yes I will, because I’m someone that flosses regularly.’
Sounds a bit too simple to be true doesn’t it? Well it is simple, and it is true. There is no reason why it can’t be both. You can use this technique to help break old habits, or to put in place new ones.
First identify what it is you want to stop, or start, doing. Then listen carefully to hear the stories you tell yourself that make this change hard: “I don’t exercise because I’m too busy”; “I’m overweight because I have a bad relationship with food”; “I don’t speak up because I’m a shy person”. Maybe these are expectations of yourself you have carried around your whole life. Or maybe they are stories you’ve added on recently. The key is to recognize that they are stories. Just stories. And you have the power to change your stories, and in the process re-shape your reality.
The next step is to re-write the story: What would I say to myself if I was someone that exercised regularly? May be something like: “My life is full-on so I need to be at my best. My body and mind need exercise so I can function well. Getting some exercise is therefore a vital part of my day.”
As you dig around in your internal stories you might just come across one that says something like “I’m not good enough for this”, or “I don’t deserve this”. Take notice of this story. It can get in the way of a whole lot of success in your life. But it, too, is just a story. Experiment with how you can re-write that story. Is there any evidence to support this story? Would those close to you agree? What would it feel like if you were good enough?
If this all sounds a bit hocus-pocus for you, I get it. There’s safety in skepticism. But, before you dismiss the idea completely, watch this TED talk by Anil Seth. It explains how our minds create the reality we experience. So why not influence your mind to create a reality that works in your favour?
Oh, and don’t forget to floss your teeth. Your future self will thank you for it.