Often our goals need to be achieved by changing existing habits or learning a new skill or some other kind of self-improvement and mindset is crucial to succeeding. There are three useful areas to look at when thinking about how you can set yourself up for success in achieving your goals.
Biology of change – The OOW brain vs the WOW brain
The first place to look and to understand is what is going on at a biological level. When we embark on learning a new skill or habit (which is often what we do to change an existing habit) there is a chemical reaction going on in our cells.
Now, in many instances, the reason for changing is because there has been something that has been causing stress, frustration, resentment. These feelings will have resulted in the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) into your cells. This is a normal biological process, however, if levels of cortisol are elevated over prolonged periods of time it can have a negative impact on different functions in our body.
If this has been happening your cells will be duplicating with the last information they knew of which is influenced by the cortisol. And this is often what is being felt (stress) and prompts the need for change.
When we change our behaviour in some way our body reacts by releasing dopamine and serotonin, known as the happy chemicals because of their impact on reward, motivation and mood. These start to make their way into the cells which are creating a vibration on a cellular level. Continuing with this behaviour change results with cells duplicating with receptors that want this new amazing stuff as it was the last information they had.
This whole process happening at a cellular level can be felt and the uncertainty and discomfort of it are where achievers and non-achievers can be separated. Or as Tod Herman refers – people with the OOW brain or the WOW brain.
As people with the OOW brain experience the vibrations of change they believe it is resistance – pain/discomfort – and stop and ‘stay safe’ in the behaviour they already know. They relate this to an old dialogue of ‘I can’t do it’, ‘it’s not going to work for me’ etc so they head back to what they are used to. But they also risk feeling stuck, bored, resentful – heightening cortisol.
For example, someone trying to stop going to the fridge every time they are looking for a distraction while they are working. As they practise a new habit instead – get a drink of water, meditate, set a timer for proper breaks – the cells are vibrating with this new information but the physical feeling of that is different/ unknown and is interpreted as discomfort (OOW) so they stop the new habit because ‘it’s too hard’.
On the other had the WOW brained people feel this reaction going on and turn it in to positive – thinking things like ‘I can’t wait to see what happens’, ‘I’m learning something new and I’m going to grow as a result. They experience growth, confidence, momentum and transformation.
And this is where knowing how behaviour is influencing the body can help you make a choice about how you are going to react to it.
Now another good area to look at, which can help you understand why you may also be an OOW brain, is the concept of Immunity to change (which I initially introduced in last weeks newsletter).
2. Immunity to Change – Competing Commitments
Researchers Robert Keagan and Lisa Lahey have introduced the concept of Immunity to Change having observed how people had hidden or competing commitments that were holding them back from achieving what they want.
These competing commitments could very well be the foundations of the internal dialogue for those with the OOW brain going on when feeling the cellular vibrations I talked about above. The competing commitments could be the reason why change feels like pain and discomfort rather than excitement and curiosity. Often you are not aware of these commitments and exist in the subconscious till you create an awareness of what it might be.
Those who successfully adapt and change their behaviours are generally very aware of their competing values and commitments as they will often have external help such as coaches and mentors who can help them see what is subconscious to them. What isn’t visible to you can often be seen by someone else.
If you have a goal that you just can’t seem to get momentum towards achieving it’s definitely worth looking into this! And you can do that yourself with this useful worksheet – ImmunityMapWksht.
In this video, Marie Forleo and Dr Cathy Callaut explore another great way to get under the skin of these competing commitments and how to take steps to address them – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVJrzLMhyxs
3. Fixed vs Growth Mindset?
Professor Carol Dweck has done years of research on mindset and has found that there are two types of mindsets – The Fixed Mindset and The Growth Mindset.
The Fixed Mindset comes with the dialogue of “I often start things but never finish them”, “This is too hard”. The belief is basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits and that talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required.
The Growth Mindset comes with the dialogue of “I love a challenge”, “I want to learn more”. The belief here is learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience and that we can get smarter, realising that effort has an effect on success, so putting in extra time, leads to higher achievement.
Someone with a fixed mindset won’t contemplate change or stick with it for fear of failing and having their current view of their capability and intelligence questioned.
Someone who embraces a growth mindset will try and do to get good at something or find a way of achieving what they want. They will push on through the vibration they are experiencing at the cellular level and they will work to understand what might be holding them back e.g. competing commitments because these can often show up as mistakes or some kind of failure.
The awesome news is that someone who may have more of a fixed mindset can train themselves to have a growth mindset because ultimately it is a belief. This belief can be altered through the exact actions that characterise a growth mindset – practice (gym for the brain), effort (increase it) and determination (self-belief) – and with that comes improvement and evidence that brilliance and ability are not fixed.
Watch Carol talk more about this here – https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve
So here are some practical steps to go from OOW to WOW or Fixed to Growth:
- Set the big goal – have a very clear and specific idea of what you want to achieve. E.g. I want to be able to run for 20mins no stop
- Set trigger goals – these are small steps/actions to do towards your big goal (you will get a hit of dopamine just doing these – you’ll love it!) – I will put my running shoes on in the morning as a reminder to go out to run OR I will run 5 x 45seconds each time I go out for a walk this week.
- Set improvement goals – These are specific numbers in which to achieve by a certain date e.g.“I will improve the number of times I go for a run to (insert number) by (insert date)”
- Gather a tribe – find people who will support you in your goal – e.g. recruit some friends who will go out and run with you OR join a running club OR hire a trainer
- Plan for the setback – There will be times when you’re thrown of course but if you already know what you will do then you can pick yourself up and carry on with little interference – Use the ‘If…… then……’ principle. Write down all the scenarios that could come up and then write what you can do to instead. E.g If it’s raining and I can’t go outside for a run, then I will go to the gym and use the treadmill on that occasion.
Now, if you read this whole blog and got to the end and thought “That will never work for me”, “I’ve tried before and it didn’t work” etc etc and particularly when it came to the practical steps and the worksheet……. I want you to think about where you have just read about what this means 😉
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