Jesus said, "The road is narrow, few will
choose". You can't say it any better than
I'm speaking in front of 10,000 people on
the main platform for one of the most
prestigious meetings in the financial
services industry, the Million Dollar Round
Table. In that meeting I will give the
audience a step by step system that is so
precise it will yield a guaranteed result.
It involves weight management through the
avoidance of flour and sugar and the
following of a precise way to weigh and
Statistically at least two thirds of that
audience and possibly 100% will be
interested in how they can lose weight. My
question is, keeping in mind that I will be
giving them a proven step by step formula to
reach the goal they say they want to
achieve, how many will actually implement my
teachings? Can you believe that there is a
possibility of none?
Don't you think that is an amazing
possibility? If it's only 1% that means that
100 people will change their lives through
the application of what I will teach them.
This continues to stump me. People will tell
me that they want to lose weight and I tell
them they will need to avoid flour and sugar
and they refuse to give up pasta, or pizza,
or that buttered bread they so desire at
According to USC social psychologist Wendy
Wood, in a study on the "Take 5" program, 35
percent of people polled came away believing
they should eat 5 fruits and vegetables a
day. Looking at that result, it appears that
the national program was effective at
teaching people that it's important to have
5 servings of fruits and vegetables every
day. But the data changes when you ask what
people are actually eating. Only 11 percent
of people reported that they met this goal.
The program changed people's intentions, but
it did not overrule habitual behavior.
I'll take an 11% hit ratio. That will mean
that at the MDRT talk I will have helped to
change 1,100 lives!
So the curious and research oriented part of
me asks the question, why is implementation
so low? I'll need to examine this on several
different levels. First the psychological.
We have three voices constantly clamoring
for our attention. The first is the good
voice. This is the goal oriented voice that
supports you in reaching your goals. You can
expect to hear this voice about an estimated
25% of the time.
The second voice is the bad voice. This is
the instant gratification, instinctually
driven voice that wants it now. You will be
greeted with this perspective 35% of the
The third voice is the vision and purpose
voice. This is the "why" voice. You will be
hearing this voice approximately 60% of the
The problem is that most people don't have
their mission, their purpose, their vision,
their connection to something bigger than
themselves developed so it's absent. What's
left if you take this voice away is a losing
proposition, 35% beats 25% every time.
However, if you develop your mission, vision
and if you act on purpose connected to the
bigger picture then you have a ratio of 85%
to 35% and that's a winning hand.
So how do you connect to the universal
energy (Google quantum physics) and tap into
your greater self? You start by asking and
answering these questions. Why bother? What
am I building? How much is enough? What is
the big picture? What is the benefit of
having-fill in the blank? In this case you
will need to be clear about the purpose of
losing weight and what weighing less will
give you. What benefit will achieving this
goal give you? What purpose will achieving
this goal allow you to fulfill. The more
clearly you can identify this the stronger
and more frequently that purpose voice will
appear. You've got to take some time to
write this out. Give it some thought and
follow this formula;
Feature-losing weight. + Benefit-more
energy. Then ask, what will having (benefit)
give you? What will having more energy give
you? How about being healthier. What will
being healthier give you? Maybe the answer
is you will exercise. What will exercising
give you? Live longer. What will living
longer give you? More time to influence my
family and to guide and love them.
Now you can see that changing your habit is
linked to the love of your family. Now
that's a purpose.
I'll grant that this is not scientifically
based. It is a bit theoretical and
psychological. I'll discuss more in this
arena and then get to the science.
Changing habits will follow these three
Keep in mind that your perceptions are
illusions. Yes, they are persistent but
illusionary none the less.
When you approach change of any kind you are
very apt to feel that it is absolutely
unbearable. Why is that? This is now the
time for some science.
Much of our daily lives are taken up by
habits that we've formed over our lifetime.
An important characteristic of a habit is
that it's automatic- we don't always
recognize habits in our own behavior.
Studies show that about 40 percent of
people's daily activities are performed each
day in almost the same situations. Habits
emerge through associative learning. "We
find patterns of behavior that allow us to
reach goals. We repeat what works, and when
actions are repeated in a stable context, we
form associations between cues and
response," Wendy Wood explains in her
session at the American Psychological
Association's 122nd Annual Convention.
Our brain is genetically designed to
conserve energy. From a biological
perspective answer this question, what is
the purpose of your life? Before you start
to say world peace, prevent global warming
or to leave a legacy to your family,
remember I prefaced "from a biological
perspective". The answer is to pass on your
Any genetic expression adaptation that
favors survival is likely to be passed on.
It favors survival to be able to code
networks of neurons, habits, together for
ease of firing. Once these neurons form a
network they also develop a thick myelin
sheath covering which creates faster firing
saving more energy.
Charles Duhigg states in his book, "The
Power of Habit", a trigger occurs that leads
to the routine, which is the behavior
itself; then there's the reward and that's
how the brain learns and encodes this for
fast future use.
As humans we have very limited perceptual
bandwidth. Since our perceptual abilities
are so limited human genetic coding prefers
us to form neural networks that are easy to
stimulate and lead to fast and automatic
firing. This saves energy and frees us up to
default that narrow bandwidth of attention
to our threats. We are genetically coded to
be negative, to be victims, to see obstacles
not opportunities. It favors survival to
look up and see figure 1 and respond non
consciously as if it was figure 2.
This is a non conscious adaptation that
favors survival. Regarding our brain, there
are three major areas of concern regarding
The outer cortex area of the brain is our
logical, analytical, planning and executive
thinking part of the brain. It is very
expensive brain real estate from an energy
use perspective. The orbital frontal cortex,
the area right behind your eyebrows, is the
area of the brain that executes your
conscious will. It is very finite with a
limited amount of available energy.
The limbic area is the emotional,
instinctual part of the brain. This area has
direct neural connections to all of our
senses. In other words, if you look and see
a spider on your arm you will completely
bypass the analysis of the cortex and
immediately shoot a stimulus directly to the amygdala in the limbic system which will
have you scream and jerk your arm away while
simultaneously swatting that spider off.
Your heart rate will increase and a host of
additional physiological responses of the
fight or flight response will instinctually
It's only after that response that you
realize that it wasn't a spider at all but a
piece of plastic. Cave man didn't have the
luxury of evaluating; it takes to long to
figure it out.
The brainstem is the autonomic nervous
system, breathing, heart rate, etc.
Breaking a habit leads to what is referred
to as "cortical-limbic loops". Here is how
it looks from a neurological perspective.
Figure 4 shows a dense bundle of never
fibers with cortical-limbic extensions and
connections. This is what a habit looks
like. This is a strong and fast reacting
thinking pattern that bypasses the cortex
and leads directly to the emotional act.
Feel a sensation, go to the refrigerator.
Have anxiety, eat flour and sugar. Breaking
this connection at first appears to be
If you are driven by your purpose and
connection to a higher vision you can then
start to develop a new neurological pathway
as you see in figure 5. This is when your
new intended behavior is in the
uncomfortable stage. This is where you would
need to practice the philosophy of using
your will, the orbital frontal cortex, to
maintain the behavior. This requires a very
strong intention backed by accountability.
In other words, you can't do this yourself.
An estimated 2.1 million people seek help
from AA each year and as many as 10 million
alcoholics have achieved sobriety. One of
the cornerstones of their 12 step program is
to surrender your will to a higher power and
to have the accountability that comes from
making commitments to a sponsor. This is
very much like my behavioral contracting
Through persistence and conscious repetition
you will eventually populate your neurons to
develop a new desired network, or habit,
figure 6 and now you have developed your new
behavior. Repetition is key. Studies have
shown it can take anywhere from 15 days to
254 days to truly form a new habit. This
refers to these neurological connections
creating cortical-limbic loops.
Figures 7-9 shows this from a single neuron
I use this to show how a different response
can be wired in for the cue of frustration.
Figure 7 shows the triggering stimulus,
something happens, that leads to the wired
in response of frustration. Next using your
intentions, your will power, you have an
intervention. This needs to be driven by the
limbic area of the brain so you will need to
declare the action plus a painful
consequence such as a $100 fine. For
example, every time I notice myself
beginning to get angry I stop, and repeat
that I respond to frustration with
fascination. If you don't apply this
conscious intervention then you will have to
pay another person the painful penalty of
$100. This engages the limbic area of the
With conscious repetition, you will actually
see the previous wired in response of figure
7 beginning to deteriorate and a new
response begins to get established, figure
8. With additional repetition, (remember the
15-254 day rule of thumb) this goes from
being unbearable, through uncomfortable to
unstoppable, figure 9. Now you can see what
is called synaptic pruning, where you are
strengthening the new response, habit, and
dissolving the previously unchallenged
response, the circle in figure 9.
Too much science? Sorry, but that's my
style. I'm not big on wishful thinking. I
want to see the objective data that is proof
of claim. This is referred to as brain
plasticity and it is proof of my claim;
"You have far more capacity to create the
circumstances and events in your life then
you are aware of".
You can create the formation of new neurons
in the orbital frontal cortex through
meditation. Meditation for as little as five
minutes a day will create neurogenesis, new
nerve cell development and it will also
increase the size of the insula, a fold of
tissue directly under the orbital frontal
cortex that is responsible for meta
cognition, or awareness of your sensations.
Be a student of human behavior. Have faith
in the process. Meditate for five to ten
minutes a day, be a life time student of
learning and make weekly commitments to
someone else with painful penalties for non
performance until your old habits are
stopped and your new habits are formed. Then
you will have gone from unbearable, through
uncomfortable, to unstoppable. Now you will
have 65% of your mind power driving you to
be, do and think the way that you need to so
you will be the best version of yourself,
High Performance Training, Inc.
Bob Davies, M.Ed. Psychology, B.S. Health,
MCC Master Certified Coach
20992 Ashley Lane, Lake Forest, CA
949-830-9192 fax 949-830-9492 Email: Info@bobdavies.com
Website: www.Bobdavies.com On-Line
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