Kickstarting a mental habit
Mental habits are the most important habits we will ever learn or break.
Usually, when we refer to habits, we think of physical habits, like exercising regularly or eating healthfully or stopping smoking. These, of course, are very important to establish or break.
Backbone of your life
However, mental habits (the habit of a specific thought occurring, or not occurring, in a given circumstance) are the backbone of a happy and successful life.
Examples of mental habits
Example of an unresourceful and painful mental habit: any time your words seem to upset someone else, you criticize yourself with the thought, “There must be something wrong with me.”
Example of a resourceful and happy mental habit: any time your words seem to upset someone else, you think to yourself, “This is so interesting. I wonder if there is something valuable I can learn here?”
Physical habits are easier to ground
It’s more obvious how to establish physical habits because you can remind yourself to do them at a specific time of day or week, or they can be tied to something else you already have a habit of doing (like looking at your plan for the day).
Learning a new mental habit is conditional
But mental habits are usually conditional. They need to be triggered only under certain mental or physical conditions that may occur at any time throughout your day. To establish them as a habit you must be able to rely on your subconscious mind to insert the wanted thought into your conscious mind whenever it is needed.
Here’s how to establish a new mental habit.
To illustrate, let’s say you want to establish the habit of asking yourself, “In this circumstance, how could I enjoy the process of what I am doing?” whenever your my-now is tolerating a current circumstance or process. You know that your current habit is often to be unaware of such toleration. And it would be helpful to ask yourself this question whenever you were tolerating the process.
Mobile phones can do anything
Most of us have a mobile phone with us wherever we go. If you don’t, then consider purchasing some other timer-alarm device that you can keep nearby most of your day. If your mobile phone doesn’t already have a time-alarm app, download one.
Set a recurring alarm
Decide, in general, how many times each day (between 1 and 6) you think it would be helpful to be reminded of the empowerment question you'd like to habitualize. Then choose the specific times it might be convenient/helpful to remember this question (say, 7am, 11am, 3 pm, and 7pm). On your mobile phone, use the alarm feature to set each of these times to recur daily (install an app for this if you don't already have one). Each of these reminders will now recur indefinitely until you delete or modify them.
Repetition will train your subconscious mind to remember the empowerment question whenever it would be helpful
It might take just a week. More likely it will take a month or more before you notice that you are automatically asking yourself this question every time that you’re not enjoying the process of whatever you are doing (or regarding whatever other empowerment question you want to habitualize). Once you're clear that the mental habit has been well programmed into your subconscious, you can discontinue the alarm (unless you would like to use it to create another mental habit).
One refinement to this process is to taper off on the frequency as the new mental habit starts taking hold. Example: you might start off with every four of five times per day. Then, as you notice your subconscious begins to help out by reminding you of the question automatically whenever needed, you change the alarm settings to every two or three times per day. And later, you change to once or twice a day. Finally, you'll be able to discontinue the alarm altogether (for the specific mental habit you're either establishing or breaking).
In the process of creating this habit, you will not always be able to answer the question positively. What's important is that you keep asking the question until the question is appropriately handled by your subconscious.
Breaking an unwanted mental habit
A special note about breaking an unwanted mental habit: In this case you learn to replace an unwanted automatic thought with a wanted automatic thought (using the same alarm system).
Replace one thought with another
To illustrate, you want to replace the thought, “There must be something wrong with me” with the thought, “This is so interesting. I wonder if there is something valuable I can learn here?” (in circumstances where your words seem to upset someone).
In this case, every time the alarm sounds, you ask yourself the question, “Has there been a recent circumstance where it would have been better to say to myself, ‘This is so interesting. I wonder if there is something valuable I can learn here?’”
Get to it! Create a new mental habit.