Coach Paul

A pattern of behavior can become so habitual that one barely notices anymore what it prompts one to do. One feels automatically, thinks automatically and acts automatically.

~ Martine Batchelor

More than two-thirds of us are living and working on autopilot, according to even the most conservative estimates.

Neuroscientists attribute this phenomenon to the brain’s ability to conserve energy. To avoid depleting valuable reserves, the brain chooses the path of least resistance. It essentially tries to avoid thinking, which leads us to form ingrained habits and routines.

Don’t allow this physiological wiring to lull you into a state of complacency or ennui. Decades of research on achievement suggest that successful people reach their goals because of what they do, not because of who they are. They differentiate themselves from their always-struggling counterparts by learning how to “wake up,” when necessary. They’ve raised their level of awareness and seize moments of opportunity.

Here are 10 strategies for turning off your brain’s autopilot and taking an active role in achieving your goals:

  1. Know what you want. You’ll overlook important opportunities if you don’t know what you’d like to achieve. Make a list of three areas you’d like to improve. Next, write down three action steps for accomplishing each goal. Prioritize these nine steps, and vigorously pursue three of them.
  2. Become more mindful. As you go about your day, take time to breathe deeply. Mindful breathing alerts your brain to what’s going on around you, thus taking it off autopilot. Take breaks from your tasks every 90 minutes and ask yourself if you’re doing what truly matters.
  3. Be specific. Goals can’t be vague if you want to make progress. Break them down into baby steps. The more concrete and action-based they are, the easier it is to carry them out.
  4. Stick to your plan. Avoid the temptation to deviate from your plan, even if you begin to fear it won’t deliver the desired results. Advance planning helps your brain detect and seize opportunities as they arise, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.
  5. Regularly monitor your progress. It can be easy to deceive yourself, so work with a mentor, colleague or executive coach. If you don’t know how well you’re doing, you won’t be able to adjust your behavior or line of attack. Check your progress frequently—weekly, or even daily, depending on the goal.
  6. Update your skills. Don’t panic if you suddenly identify deficits in your knowledge base or skill levels. Successful people avidly pursue continuing education to strengthen problem areas. Their less successful peers simply give up too soon.
  7. Be a realistic optimist. Choose your goals wisely. If you set the bar too low, you won’t feel energized. Set it high enough so you’ll feel challenged, yet won’t become discouraged. Believe in your capacity to learn and grow. Seek support from people who care.
  8. Don’t move the goal posts. Research shows that successful people persevere just a little bit longer than everyone else. If you’re not getting results, view your efforts as an experiment in learning what doesn’t work—valuable information for making adjustments. Don’t beat yourself up for hitting speed bumps on the road to progress.
  9. Celebrate small victories. Focus on what is working instead of what’s not working. A positive approach will keep you stay centered.
  10. Don’t cross wires. Alcoholics who want to stay sober avoid bars. Choose your company wisely and avoid old haunts and places where your bad habits were formed. Successful people enjoy spending time with their fellow achievers. Harness colleagues’ and friends’ “social energy” to maintain your enthusiasm and reinforce new habits and routines. Observe how others handle similar challenges so you can gain new insights.

It’s important to acknowledge that changing self-destructive habits can be a frustrating affair. Your brain will initially fight you, as it is invested in trying to run your life on autopilot.

I recommend picking up a copy of 9 Things Successful People Do Differently by motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD. Her recommendations will help you circumvent the magnetic pull of habits and routines.

And when you are ready to start doing things differently, please give me a call. I would love to help you break free of your past and start living the life you have always dreamed of living.

Warmest Regards,

Coach Paul

“And if your home is just another place where you’re a stranger, and far away is just somewhere you’ve never been. I hope that you’ll remember, I am your friend.” – Rich Mullins

Create. Own.   Inspire
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Life-Changing Coaching by Paul Edward is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative Works 3.0 License.