Don’t rely on conscious thought

We are rolling into another year, and fast. You know you don’t want things to be the same as this year and deep inside you want to level up next year.

So how do you go about making change?

  • If you want to eat better, join an exercise class.
  • If you want to create more business, get networking.
  • If you want to earn more money, serve more clients.

Do the very thing that will give you the outcome you’d love.

That was the conclusion of a 2015 study that followed more than 6000 people for four years. People who increased their exercise increased their intake of fruit and vegetables more than people who continued to exercise regularly or who gave up their fitness plans.

They are the same part of a border goal, doing one gives you a head start on the other.

So how do you get into the new habits that will help you achieve your goals?

When it comes to changing your behaviour, knowing more, having more knowledge in your brain isn’t the key.

Another analysis in 2016 in more than 10,000 people who were told that their lifestyle and genetics are speeding them towards an early grave found that while it changed the way they thought, it made no difference to what they actually did.

It is something that we are all guilty of to some extent, and it happens not because we are weak, but because, most of the time, we aren’t consciously in charge of our actions.

The vast majority of the time, our brains tick over at the unconscious level, responding to cues and enacting habits that are often at odds with our conscious intentions. Actually, as much as 40 percent of our daily behaviour happens without the need for conscious thought.

While a habit is developing, there is conscious input from the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning and impulse control. If we repeat the behaviour enough, the prefrontal cortex is taken out of the equation, leaving only reward and action parts of the loop, so our planning skills are free for other things.

This means that these loops can be rerouted, but it takes a huge amount of conscious effort.

To stand any chance of creating a new pattern of behaviour or habits, the first step is to change your perceptions of yourself, so you don’t see yourself in the same light, and don’t therefore make the same decisions and take the same actions.

For example, you want to create more business, but you struggle with identifying as a business owner and having a business mindset. You think it is in other people, not in you.

Then you could create new habits, like get up at 4am, pomodoro your time, or post more on social media.

But you might have found in the past, you tried this, but then slipped back into old habits.

And that’s because old habits are hard to break and new ones are hard to form.

To reprogramme your unconscious, you must first derail the existing problematic habit and use prominent cues to trigger a more desirable one.

To change a habit, you also have to be all in with those decisions. And you can create more drive to change but shifting your mindset, tacking up enough benefits to why the change is important. And then the drive to change outweighs the desire to stay the same.

So stack up benefit, benefit, benefit ontop of each other like sunday pancakes is going to make some internal changes for sure.

Believing in willpower can help too. For decades, psychologists thought that when we exert self-control we run down our reserves of mental strength, leaving us vulnerable to a slip later in the day. But recent research suggests that it might be more to do with attitude.

This showed that people who believed willpower was an unlimited resource were not only better at self-control tasks in the lab but also had better exam grades, ate more healthily and spent money more wisely than those who considered self-control to be limited.

Willpower seems to come in limited supply, until it doesn’t. In fact, the more we use it during the day, the more it gets depleted. This can mean that we are more likely to give up as the day goes on. Just like a muscle, your willpower gets weaker.

Willpower can be in short supply during times of stress, tired, or emotionally vulnerable so we fall back on our old habits. So we don’t want to rely too much on this gem.

If you can feel your willpower is ebbing, you can make a conscious decision to either change the situation, change your environment or the perfect time to bring out your quality questions to increase your willpower tank again.

Recent research suggests believing that there are no limits to our willpower to boost self-control.

So maybe owning (that’s column 2 question of the Demartini Method) the action of “self control” might be the catalyst for creating a profitable business, losing the weight you’d like, or heck, just holding back from lashing out at your spouse, taking a breath, owning their reflection in you.

And don’t think positively. Beware of the idea that to change something, you just have to think positively. Research suggests that fantasising about successfully reaching your goals – whether it is making more money, losing weight, snaring your dream partner or landing a promotion – makes it less likely that you will actually achieve them.

That’s because fantasies conveniently skip to the end of a challenge, remaining sketchy on what is needed to get there. This tricks the body into relaxing as if it had already crossed off the list.

Lastly, you’re a product of both your environment and your thoughts. However, the link between habits and your environment is so strong, often the best time to break a habit or create a new one is when we are going away, coming out of lockdown, moving house, ending or starting a new relationship.

This interruption to our regular pattern means the normal cues can’t be triggered. And you have more chances of creating new cues and triggers. Changing the context enables the mind to arrange new unconscious behaviours, until they, too, become habits.

​So as the new year rolls in, know that if you want things to change, first transform yourself. (Kind of like, if you wanna move the world, first move yourself kind of attitude).

With gratitude,


Tanya “kicking some butt” x

Leadership Coach & Master Certified Demartini Method Facilitator
BAppSoSc (Counselling)
Maximum Growth
One on one & group coaching available

Helping leaders to level up using a transformational mindset work.

PS. Come join the Maximum Growth Academy for your opportunity to learn and apply quality questions every week.