I have decided to change a lifetime habit which has cost me, and continues to cost me, thousands and thousands of dollars. This habit allows me to believe that the money I am earning is actually the money I have to spend. I have been keeping my mind focused on my revenue, and blithely ignoring my expenses.
Now, if I truly want to have the choice to retire, I need to reduce my expenses, speed up the reduction of my debt, and have money left over at the end of each month.
Starting on November 3rd, 2017, I will handle all my non-business day to day expenses with cash. That’s right – next Friday I will take a certain amount of cash out of my bank account and divide into jars on my kitchen counter. I will avoid using debit and credit cards for the next eight weeks in order to establish this new and very valuable habit.
Habits are automatic.
When we want our behaviour to change, to become a new habit, it is essential to start small but with a clear plan on how to proceed with a brain which prefers you stay with the old habit.
A habit is a pattern of behaviour acquired by repetition that is regularly followed in certain circumstances or situations, often a pattern that has become automatic. Thus to help myself develop the cash only habit, I will only take cash with me when I leave my house.
In order to acquire this new habit, I need to understand what is happening in my brain.
“The discovery of neuroplasticity, that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age, is the most important breakthrough in our understanding of the brain in 400 years.” – Dr. Norman Doidge
Our brains are packed with about 80 billion neurons. Each neuron has a nucleus, a long thin axon and many branching dendrites. The neurons connect with each other by transmitting and receiving electrons, which is why we can measure the electrical activity of the brain.
As we develop new habits, our neurons not only change how they fire electrons at each other. They also grow new proteins in response to what we think and what we do.
Repeat to yourself, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” That is the key bit of information you need to understand what it takes to develop a new habit. Your thoughts and actions are constantly reinforcing your current habits.
Your brain’s billions of neurons connect with one another in complex networks. All physical and mental functioning depends on the establishment and maintenance of neuron networks. A person’s habits and skills – such as nail-biting or playing a musical instrument – become embedded within the brain in frequently activated neuron networks. When a person stops performing an activity, the neural networks for the activity fall into disuse and eventually may disappear.
Don’t try to “kill” an old habit, just concentrate on developing a new habit which will eventually replace the old habit.
Neurons that fire together, wire together.
While you are forming a new habit, it is really helpful to enact it daily. Weave it into the existing fabric of your day.
The more you do something, the more quickly it will become a habit. Work on one habit at a time.
Remember you are asking your brain to make an extra effort. Focus your attention just for a few minutes. Notice how it is affecting the rest of your work. Pay attention to how you are feeling about it. Name and acknowledge the feelings; these are helping you to get the habit from your short-term to your long-term memory. Then space your practice of the new habit. Spend a few deliberate minutes on it each day. Do a review of what you have changed each week. Set a goal which will be a measure of how often you have performed the habit successfully at the end of the first month. Note where you went off track and how you got back to the habit again.
Developing a new habit requires repetition, perseverance and working at your threshold. Working at your threshold means practicing at the most challenging level for you. It helps to reward yourself during and after each daily practice, raising the bar slightly for each subsequent practice.