Humans hate change. We’re hardwired to prefer stability, consistency and safety. This makes sense from an Darwinian standpoint, because those who were most stable and consistent survived the best, and that leads to more of them which is the underpinning of the theory.  The humans who are the most adventure seeking, risk taking creatures, are the ones who were winnowed out, and therefore they would reproduce less. So after a millennia or so, the personality trait of resistance to change becomes stronger. Which is why those annual resolutions are so hard to maintain.

Welcome to week three of 2019 – statistically most of those of us who have made resolutions are petering out right about now. It makes sense, the brain and the body have comfort levels that they work very hard to maintain. We’re all familiar with the body’s normal temperature being 98.6, but are you aware that you have an emotional temperature?

The reality is that we all have “normal” for our lives, and that is driven by many factors, what we’re used to physically experiencing and what emotionally we can handle. The same way that our body will do everything it can to regulate our internal heat, the subconscious mind will do all it can to keep us in the same mental and physical state, based on our beliefs, about what, and who, and how we operate, to preserve the status quo of our life stable.

Which is why changing requires dedication and a strategy to be effective. This past December as I was preparing for the talk I give each year to the Open Circle Society in Ajijic, Mexico, I was watching TEDx talks on change. I came across one by BJ Fogg, PhD on how little habits can be formed to improve our health. His position based on the 20 years of research he’s done, is that simple habits, tied to an emotion can create big changes.

The process for making these changes is so basic you’ll laugh at first – at least I did. Decide on a behavior you want to change, say incorporating a bit more exercise into your life, instead of trying to figure out how to put an extra 90 minute daily workout and yoga routine into your day, add in a simple, little change. Dr. Fogg used himself as an example of what you can do to start making changes: after he would urinate, he would do 5 pushups and then, and this is KEY – he would do a little “Woo HOO” to reinforce the positive emotional connection. ( are you laughing at this? It seems funny, but it works). He found that he was doing 20-40 pushups a day based on coffee intake.

The human mind will constantly pull us back to a state of “normal” unless we counterbalance it with something as simple as a “woo hoo”. Here’s the other good news – science is starting to recognize that even little bits of additional exercise can make a big impact over a surprisingly short amount of time. I know this because I’m a walking example of it.

Years ago I went snowboarding and as a lifelong skier, I thought it would be easy – I was wrong. Snowboarding is a very different thing and the skillset is opposite that of skiing and no great surprise I fell flat on my butt, and in the process, I broke a tailbone. Breaks to the tailbone dont get “set” they just have to heal over time on their own, lots and lots of time. This led to some muscle atrophy in my lower back, which led to a chronically weak back that would go out from time to time. I would be laid up with back pain for a week to ten days before it subsided.

This past year my back went out and stayed out. For months I was walking at an angle, and in mild to severe pain. Finally, as a typical male, after far too long I went to my doctor and he took a quick look, said I had no muscle tone there, and needed to go to physical therapy. I was referred to the Santa Monica physical therapy firm of  Wehner & Associates on Wilshire Blvd. I walked in and was assigned Jennifer Thai this charming, experienced and knowledgeable young woman to teach me some exercises to relieve the pain and stress.

Jennifer had me doing some mild leg exercises, then some lifts and some other things that in the recesses of my mind I was dismissing as “this won’t work”. See my knowledge of working out was basically formed as a 15 year old boy in high school. That was more than a few years ago, and evidently the science of it all has progressed. Within 5 days of these simple, no stress exercises, where I was not sweating, just getting a bit dewy, I was back to walking normally and the pain had disappeared. Jennifer had given me a routine that took me less than 15 minutes and my back was getting strength again.

I realized that both Dr. Fogg’s practice, and the things that I learned from Jennifer Thai were real and valuable in a very short amount of time. Which is why in my speech this past December in Ajijic I said from the stage that I was going to do 7,300 sit-ups this year. That seems like a big number, but in reality I’m doing them 20 a day. I can honestly say that since that speech I have done 20 sit-ups a day, and I can see and feel a difference. It takes me about a minute and I do them before bed.

Little changes add up to big changes. Science has proven it, and I’m here to say science is right.

The key to keeping those resolutions is to make smaller and smaller ones, that you can celebrate every time, and have them tied to a trigger. For me, it’s a little thing I do before bed, for Dr. Fogg it was urinating, what’s it for you? What will it take for you to add in a small, repeatable behavior that takes less than 2 minutes to perform, so you can see that this works?

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