At some stage most people have tried to quit a bad habit, smoking, drinking in excess, eating high sugar foods or compulsively checking e-mail, all tend to make the quit list. Most people at some stage have failed. We are very good at quitting quitting.
The first step in learning or change is awareness, merely by paying attention to my foot strike pattern when running, changes it, it changes with less resistance and more effectiveness than trying to force it.
Attention is a powerful thing. If time is the most valuable resource, attention is the currency we value it in. Perhaps that is why we pay attention.
In between stimulus and response is where attention lies:
Stimulus -> [Attention] -> Response
After a while we programme ourselves to skip the [attention] part, we develop heuristics. We know a certain stimulus resulted in a certain response and lock this in as a short cut for later.
Cake -> [need calories – eat – good] -> Satisfied
It creates “Context Memory” and becomes:
Cake -> Satisfied
When we try to break the Cake -> Satisfied relationship it is difficult, we are literally trying to convince ourselves we don’t want to be satisfied. To overcome this, it helps to first add back attention. Adding back attention could (with attention) become:
Cake -> [don’t need calories, overwhelmingly sweet – don’t eat, joy of letting go – good] -> Satisfied
Attention is hard, the world is distracting. Attention is valuable and costly, a method to find attention is to become curiously aware. Curiosity feels good, so is easier to employ than the dreaded and limited will-power.
Judson Brewer has a handy acronym to help with this process, he calls it the R.A.I.N. exercise:
- Recognize the craving,
- Allow the craving to be there,
- Investigate or become curious about the feeling, and
- Note, from moment to moment the experience.
What bad habit would you use this method to experiment on?