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Train Your Brain to Create Lasting Change

Heather P. Shreve

A blackboard showing all of the elements of change management.

For most of us, preventing disease, especially cancer, is an important reason to create lasting changes around our health.  But, let’s face it, when you are changing your health, you are really changing your life, which is a much bigger topic.  Change can be challenging because it requires sustained effort.  We all have been there.  It isn’t as easy as it looks!  To sustain a healthy lifestyle, a deeper traction is required so you can maintain the changes and create a new way of life.

The whole process of change requires an important ingredient in the beginning, which is the lynch pin to meaningful progress.  We need to pause and THINK.  Thinking ensures we look at our value around health and why we even want to be at our best.  This is key! Everyone needs a solid motivator to get through the invisible barriers along the way which invite self-sabotage.

The Challenge

You may have heard it takes twenty-one days to create a habit, but did you know it takes twenty-one months to create a new lifestyle? Clearly, this is a BIG issue–getting people to change long enough to make it part of their subconscious mind.  When that happens, it is known as being ‘an unconscious competent’ or ‘a natural’.  This is a good thing! A healthy lifestyle becomes part of your being, so that you do not have to think about it anymore.  Sort of like driving a car or riding a bike.

The basic challenge is helping people navigate through that critical first twenty-one months.  Inevitably, they will run up against invisible barriers (their old patterns, beliefs, and fears) and fall back (hopefully temporarily) into their comfort zones.  Oddly enough, humans fear their success, or their ‘light’, more than failure.  As a consequence, that last ‘fear’ barrier is a big one.  So how do you help your employees make a sustainable shift away from potentially harmful habits into a state of wellness that they can maintain?  This is a complex issue, but there are ways to break it down into manageable parts.  This is where tapping into our greatest asset through simple symbols and doodles comes into play.

The Concept

How can an image, an icon, a doodle or a picture help us make a shift towards healthy patterns? Well, the idea is simple.  We drew before we could speak, so the “art connection” in human learning is very powerful! For us, a symbol does replace a thousand words. We all learn better with a visual. This is especially true when it comes to becoming competent at anything, including our lifestyle.  Essentially, when we use our imagination and our own doodles, we ‘unlock the box’ on our most important tool in creating lasting change: our subconscious mind.  This helps us remember what we want out of life.  Keeping your health and wellness goals ‘top of mind’ is the key to getting the results you want.  By doodling, not just writing, it becomes more probable that we will make the shift, not just possible.

Carl Jung, the great psychiatrist, once said “The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble.  They can never be solved, only outgrown.”  When it comes to people ‘outgrowing’ their current wellness, doodling yourself back into the wellness picture can be very effective.  As you begin to ‘think through your pencil’, your conscious mind and your subconscious mind come together.  This is a marriage which truly creates a lasting impression, and is a great memory tool and can solidify the ideas surrounding our best selves.

The Process

Wherever you are (or your company is) in this process, it is very important to remember that being “hard” on ourselves doesn’t foster growth and expansion.  Treating ourselves like precious objects and focusing on the positive brings out resourcefulness.  As you reframe change itself, and shift the focus onto a compelling wellness vision for the future, in essence, you create a safe haven and fertile ground for you and your employees to reveal, rethink and refocus.  Let’s look at these three areas (all which can be doodled) and what they mean on the road to lasting change.

Reveal… the real you.

It’s important that people take the time to remember who they are, the gifts and strengths they possess and how this has helped them in life.  Everyone has a unique blend of skills and assets which brings something special to the table.  Maximize all the strengths and gifts that people have, because how they see themselves is actually more important than reality.  People with strong identities rarely worry about failing—they only learn, because they know who they are, and they have built a wall of certainty around themselves.  This breeds confidence, and confidence produces a person who is willing to try.  This creates self-efficacy, and the circle continues.  In the end, you invariably have a person with high esteem and a high level of self-acceptance.  Once people know who they are, it becomes much easier to decide what they stand for.  From there, it’s even easier to think about who they want to become and what they really want out of life.

Rethink …your story.

Essentially, if people take a good look at their “story”( their life) they will find patterns, beliefs and values that have really served them well.  The trick here is to keep any great patterns and beliefs and ditch any disempowering ones.  In every aspect of life, whether perceived as good, bad or neutral, we can find a learning or growth experience.  Think of it like ‘wiping the canvas clean’ and starting over with a curious mind to rethink everything.  Even the words people use every day may be hanging them up subconsciously.  This is really the law of attraction in motion when we choose to doodle a new pattern, a new word or new goal that is healthier.

In our fast-paced culture today, it is important to look at our world with fresh eyes.  It is easy to become trapped in the same old ways.  We are unaware that we are not getting our needs met and are unhappy.  A lot of the time, we self-sabotage, because we simply aren’t getting our needs met, and food (or another comfort) is an easy answer.  This is a delicate topic, but one that deserves attention.  Rethinking our basic emotional needs ( Love & Appreciation, Growth and Expansion, Comfort & Security, Significance, Freedom, Creativity & Variety)  and what may have slipped away is an important step to discovering what we REALLY WANT!

Refocus …on what you really want!

Here is where the concept of harnessing the subconscious mind with doodles really takes off.  As Albert Einstein once said; “The debt we pay to imagination is incalculable.” Just imagine what it would feel like to have endless energy, a clear mind, and a body that has become an engine against disease and aging!  The most important thinking exercise anyone can do around their health and well-being is to create compelling wellness vision.  Write it in the present tense, as if it is already here, and put a deadline of three or six months on it.  Make it full of detail so that it comes alive in your mind.  Where are you? What are wearing?  How are you feeling? What are you doing in your life that brings you joy?  Think about the most important thing in your life.  How does your health overlap it and how does your wellness vision support it?  Next, doodle three to five SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, Time-lined) that will get you closer to your vision.  Draw them as you see them, so they resonate with you and are memorable!

Having your employees full of life, disease free and energized is truly a prize worth pursuing! Since we are all different, exploring a variety of tools will only enhance the work environment and encourage designing a positive future filled with glowing health and vibrant energy.  In the meantime, give yourself and your employees permission to Dream It, Draw It, See It, Believe It and then BE IT!

About the Author

Heather P.  Shreve is the founder of LIFEguard Wellness.com and is wellness coach certified with the American College of Sports Medicine, as well as a certified personal trainer.  With her triple passion of health, nature and art, Heather has dedicated herself to helping people find self-acceptance so that they can design their “best lives” with strategies to sustain healthy patterns.

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