Using the Tools of Conscious Transformation to Change Habits for Good
"The golden rule of habit change – you can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it." – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.
You may not believe me when I say this, but there was a time I weighed 188 pounds. I always struggled with my weight in the past, feeling fat, feeling insecure, feeling ugly because of how I looked. On top of that, I absolutely loved food – pizza, hot wings and anything with sugar were some of my favorites, and there was a lot of programming for me around feeling connected and joyful when I ate. I grew up in a fairly isolated place in the country and some of the only times I got to spend with others were birthday parties or sleepovers — special events where all of those party-style foods were available.
There came a point in my twenties, however, where I began to experience a lot of digestive issues. I went to many places to uncover what the root of the dysfunction was — doctors, iridologists, chiropractors and herbalists. I first discovered some of my food allergies, and that provided some relief. Finally, I found a woman who gave me an entirely new dietary plan. I was so motivated at this point to feel better, that I decided it was time to overhaul my eating. In this case, my motivation was not actually to lose weight, but to feel better in my body. I had experienced enough pain that I was ready to try something radically different.
Certainly, the motivation was there for me to change and that was an important first step. But just because you are motivated to change, doesn’t always mean it will translate to results. You can be incredibly motivated to change and not have the tools or understanding of how to do it, which can be a frustrating experience. What I later came to understand was that my weight was a result of a compilation of habits I had unconsciously acquired over my lifetime. If I was going to get any new results, I had to change my habits around food.
I did change my habits, and I lost 44 pounds that year and looked and felt better than I ever had in my life. That was a pretty incredible result, but how did I do it? It is important to understand the nature of how habits work if you want to go about changing one. A couple of summers ago, I read the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and it opened my eyes to understanding why the tools of Conscious Transformation are so powerful inside of creating change. The first thing I learned was how habits work in the brain. From the book:
"…to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives….if we learn to create new neurological routines that overpower those behaviors—if we take control of the habit loop—we can force those bad tendencies into the background."
To summarize, a habit is activated first by a cue or a trigger. Then, the habit itself is executed by the brain and body. Last, there is some type of reward or payoff that happens as a result of the habitual experience. In the case of my weight, my cue or trigger was hunger, the routine was eating whatever yummy food I wanted and the payoff was connection and joy. The next step in changing the habit required that I find an alternative – a new neurological routine – one that optimally still contained my payoff of connection and joy.
I reprogrammed the habit loop for myself by still using the trigger of hunger; I just chose to do something differently with food as a result of the trigger. I made a list of all of my favorite foods, and researched ways to enjoy those foods within the parameters of my nutritional plan. An example of this was a blueberry crisp dessert I found that was made with almond flour, stevia, cinnamon and cooked blueberries. It was a delightful treat that I could enjoy with others and stay within my plan. This way, I still received the reward of joy and connection, but I was engaging behaviors that were more supportive to both my digestive health and my weight. Click here for the recipe!
So now, how do you take that information and apply it to a situation or habit of your own? Also, how do the tools of Conscious Transformation play a role in all of this? First, it’s important for you to name the habit or behavior that you are choosing to change. Next, identify your trigger or cue, whether it’s something external or internal that activates the habit loop. Remember, a habit can be a thought sequence, an emotional loop or a set of physical actions. Last, identify the reward that you receive as a result of engaging the habit. Some are more obvious than others. In the case of food, it was a little more obvious, but sometimes if you are running a more painful habit, you have to dig a little more to find the true payoff.
It is in creating new alternatives to the old habit that the tools and training of Conscious Transformation become very helpful. Through the practices taught in Power of Focus, Power of Emotion, Power of Vision and Power of Intuition, you have an arsenal of possibilities for alternate routines to employ instead of whatever your current habit is. So, for example, let’s say that your trigger is money and you get a bill in the mail. Perhaps right now, your habit is to feel a sense of dread and powerless followed by anger. The payoff here, which may not be immediately obvious, is that by feeling angry, you experience a sense of power or control in a place where you actually feel completely out of control.
Now that you have identified the habit’s trigger and reward, the next step is to choose a new response, to replace the dread, powerlessness and anger. I am including here some examples of the Conscious Transformation tools you can use as an alternative to your current habits. Once your cue or trigger appears, the below option can be engaged to produce a positive reward. Citing the earlier example of receiving a bill in the mail, taking any one of these options as the alternative to the dread, powerlessness and anger routine would create a very different outcome and a more supportive routine for your life. Some of you may already be familiar with these techniques, but in case this is new information, I will include a reference and link to where you can learn these tools for yourself.
- Connect, feel and focus on a vision you have created for yourself – Week four of the free 5-week meditation series.
- Acknowledge the belief and the story that is running in the mind. If the belief does not align with your vision, rewrite the belief and bring your focus consistently to the new belief to continually reinforce it. – Power of Focus Weekend Program
- Acknowledge what you are feeling, drop the story, feel the emotion fully for 90 seconds and then focus on your four-sided breath – Power of Emotion Meditation Series, session 4.
- Develop and execute a pattern breaker – Power of Vision Weekend Program
- Ask yourself the question – what would align me with my authentic self in this moment? Focus on that. – Higher Self Meditation
And if you have those moments where the old habit shows up and you re-engage it, have compassion for yourself. While you may ask the question, I thought I was done with that?! remember that it is ok to not be perfect. You are retraining your brain. Appreciate that you have new choices you can continue to practice and refine as you go.
Explore your internal patterns and learn practices to shift those that are holding you back.
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Heidi Hintz is an embodiment of the transformation that is possible through consistent application of the Conscious Transformation system. She has seen significant transformation in her career, in her relationships and in her spiritual life.