I am fascinated by the habit loop that we all get sucked into, and how to retrain our brain to form new and healthy habits. As an addict in recovery, I am working the 12 steps actively and love to see how this applies to all our lives. These esoteric steps have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol, it is a program for living that is a path towards enlightenment.
According to a book I am about to finish (The Power of Habit: Why we Do What We Do in Life and Business), and a coincidence that it talks about the formation of the recovery program by Bill Wilson, researchers see the nature of the steps as the world’s best habit redirection program. The results, for the willing, are extraordinary and extremely well thought out.
By doing the 4th step (personal inventory of a deep nature regarding our resentments, fears, and harms to others) we learn where our impulses and emotions have guided us poorly in the past. Like a malfunction in our habit loop that needs a life hack, we get to lean on the help of a sponsor and others in the program who serve as a new set of feedback to help redirect us in the beginning and before long, the old impulses that had negative feedback loops get replaced by new things.
The same habit loop redirection is used by the greatest coaches in the world, including Tony Dungy and his infamous approach to discipline and training. It isn’t talent that wins championships he would say, it is the ones with the best habits every day. The best ingrained responses to planned strategies.
Our military is one of the greatest examples of how to retrain our brain with how they set up boot camp and military bases day to day operations. They have the resources and data to show the power of preparing, the power of instinctual responses that can be trained, drilled if you will, into our minds through constant habit defining practices.
The thing about addicts or alcoholics, or someone going through a major life hurdle like divorce; you get forced to redirect a primary habit and what often occurs, is a feeling that if this can affect one area of our life, why can’t it change many others?
We see it when you take up running. We suddenly not only feel better and run stronger each week, we begin to eat better, hydrate better, and sleep better.
The one ingredient that is needed along with habit redirection, because that alone is not enough, is BELIEF. You’ve got to believe that you can do the unthinkable. It may be only one person, a friend or wife or sponsor or ….it can be a group of people like the Indianapolis Colts, or the Los Angeles Lakers.
If you believe you can, if you can get a team or a nation, or just your family…to believe that you can achieve something you are far more likely to do it.
To finish back with the parallels to recovery. It’s why the meetings are so effective. Often everyone in the life of an addict or alcoholic has given up on them. Their life path has been one that shows those around them it’s just another round of false hope. So how do you overcome that?
You must be around one primary person and a group of people, who will keep believing in you as long as you try that day. The power in this is simply astonishing.