Last year I took meaningful time out with my family in rural France and looked deeply at my life and the life we were creating as a family. It was an uncomfortable but ultimately revolutionary process.
It has lead to us all experiencing more daily happiness, more contentment, more love and connection and not surprisingly more success. It is not a magic formula, it is the application of science in a practical way.
The order is very specific too. One step builds on another, like bricks on a strong foundation so here we go:
- Stop. And I mean stop. Take some time out, turn off the technology and rest. The rules are you can read books (remember those things made from paper) you can play games, (again physical games not tech games) and you can go for walks but not excessively. In short, you must rest.
- Once you’ve spent a couple of weeks resting and re-charging you can do some physical activity that raises your heart rate above 80% of its maximum (if you’re unfit see a Doctor first). It could be dancing, ice skating, Kung Fu, chasing your children.. the key is that you’re heart rate is above 80% because at that point you are producing BDNF. This chemical actually promotes new brain cell growth in the brain. You are also producing chemicals during activity that increase the strength of connection between neurons. WHY exercise first and not reflection? Because we are laying a solid foundation of a happier, more positive brain BEFORE we begin the process of thinking deeply about our lives. Trying to re-craft your life when you’re flat as road kill is really difficult because the negative brain can hijack the process.
- Next do Dr Laura King’s 110 year old self exercise. In simple terms it’s this: Imagine your 110 years old and you’ve had a great life. Now imagine you have access to a time machine and your 110 years old self comes back to today, right now…what advice would she/he give to you?Trust me this is a powerful exercise because unlike writing your eulogy, it brings all of that good stuff into the present.
- For number four do Tal Ben Shahar’s Meaning, Pleasure Strengths exercise to get a deeper understanding of what would bring present day and future happiness to your life. This is an incredibly powerful exercise.
- Combining three and four we now have a much clearer sense of what makes us tick. Based on what has been revealed write down what you will change in the next year and how that change will manifest itself both personally and professionally. Write down what you want to create, not simply what you want to do but also who you’ll become in the process.
- OK, here is the GOLD. Now write down the obstacles that will get in the way of achieving this goal or end state (there’s great research out there that shows when you write the obstacles and foresee them, not only are you better at overcoming them, you’re also way more likely to achieve the goal you set for yourself in the first place).
- Break down that yearly end game to a monthly, weekly then daily set of steps to create change that helps you attain that goal.
- Create one ritual for just one change that you’re going to focus on. Let’s say you want to transform your health. Don’t diet and exercise. Focus on just one change at a time (again the science of habits has found trying to make too many changes in one go is a recipe for disaster), just exercise first for example. We now know that will power is limited in all of us, so to ensure you exercise, remove all items of clothing from your bedroom, except your training clothes and keep them near your bed. Unless you’re going to walk around naked all day the only option you have is your activity gear. So just the ritual of putting that gear on each morning will help you to get out and get moving. Rituals form habits. 62% of our day is motivated by habit.
- Do not make any other changes until this one key stone habit is in place. The myth of 30 days to change a habit has been debunked by neuroscience. Old engrained habits can take longer to re-wire, sometimes 60 days, 90 days or more. The key is to get to the point where this new ritual becomes an ingrained habit. You do it without thinking. Then and only then are you ready to make the next change.
- Finally we have learned that it is our behaviours that determine whether change lasts, not our attitudes. Our behaviours, not mind-set are critical to making new habits concrete and transforming those habits into new norms of behaviour. Don’t get stuck in your head… just do it (as Nike once said). It’s all about behaviours.
This process of re-crafting your life, of living in a deliberate way works. Not because I say so but because a variety of good science has looked deeply at how and why we change and what we need to do to make that change stick.
This is the very process we went through and continue to go through each and every day in our family. The great lesson is that change does not come from some great AH HA!! moment. Profound change comes from the small, incremental steps you take each and every day. They accumulate like rain drops over time and create great gushing waterfalls of change.
So, give it a go and let me know how you get on. And remember, be kind to yourself, you’re going to fall off the wagon, just have a plan for how you’re going to get back on.
To your happiness…
Originally published at medium.com