Emily is a passionate entrepreneur who does a lot of things right … But she is also a workaholic.
Emily intends to close the store on Friday and spend the weekend with her family. But potential the client requested a meeting this Saturday, and she couldn’t say no. Sunday will also not be a day off as he tries to meet a deadline on a major project.
A similar scene is repeated from week to week, from month to month.
Emily is always exhausted. She knows that overwork makes it easy to get annoyed here. And he feels terrible every time he misses his sons football game.
However, he cannot be excluded from his job. He finds it impossible to say no. No matter how hard she tries, she doesn’t seem to be able to break those bad habits.
Whether you’ve faced a similar situation or not, you can probably relate to Emily’s struggle. You may feel like you are a victim of your brain’s emotional programming and there is nothing you can do to change that.
If you feel like Emily, you might benefit from a technique I learned from a psychologist a few years ago. It is based on principles emotional intelligencethe ability to understand and manage one’s emotions.
I like to call it: The Re-Wiring Rule.
What is the rule of rewiring and how can it help you change your brain and replace bad habits with better ones?
Before we answer that question, let’s learn a little about how habits work.
(If you find value in the “Reconnection Rule”, you might be interested in my emotional intelligence course – which includes 20 more rules to help you develop your emotional intelligence. See the course here.)
Change the way you think – with neuroscience
It is a common misconception that an adult’s brain is static or otherwise fixed in shape and function. But as scientists have discovered in recent years, the brain has a remarkable property called neuroplasticity.
This plasticity means that you have a certain amount of control over the “programming” of your brain. By combining concentrated thoughts and purposeful action, you can “rewire” your brain and gain more control over your emotional reactions and inclinations.
Of course, bad habits are especially hard to break, but that doesn’t mean you have to be at their mercy forever. Instead, you can use the Rewiring Rule to reprogram your thoughts and establish new (and better) habits.
To follow the rewiring rule, follow this three-step method.
If you want to change a habit, you must first be properly motivated. You have to be completely convinced that the habit needs to change and you really have to want make a change.
To do this, you need to find your “why”. Why do you want (and need) to change this habit? What benefits will you experience if you succeed?
Emily, for example, wants to spend more time with her family and strengthen important relationships outside of work. They will also enjoy better health if they can reduce stress, sleep more and actually have a weekend they can enjoy.
To do so, she must stop over-engaging and set clear boundaries between her job and the rest of her life.
To master any new skill, you need to practice it many, many times, until it is fully internalized. And before you can change bad behavior, you must first understand why you react in a certain way.
This requires self-reflection. Finding time for this can be challenging, so book an appointment in your calendar – an appointment with yourself. Then think about the last time you indulged in a bad habit or said or did something you regret.
Ask yourself questions like these:
- Why did I react like this?
- Did my reaction help or hurt me?
- What would I change if I could do it again?
- What could I say to myself next time that would help me think more clearly?
After thinking like this, Emily realizes that her inability to say “no” stems from a deep-rooted fear of failure. But she also realizes that her workaholic tendencies will have negative consequences for her health, but also the happiness of her family.
With that in mind, she is in a position to set realistic boundaries and work on a healthier work-life balance. He then mentally rehearses – and even exercises aloud – his answer for the next time a client requests a meeting on Saturday or is tempted to spend a nice Sunday at his home office.
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time for a test – how you’ll react in real situations.
Every day you will have the opportunity to apply what you have practiced. Use the script you have developed when you need to communicate with others as well as respond to the voice of criticism in your own head.
But remember: some days you will be proud of your self-control, while other days you will take a step back. If this happens, return to the self-reflection questions above. Take the time to recognize how you are feeling, think about the consequences, and determine what you can adjust for next time.
As you take every opportunity to integrate these “design habits,” you will proactively shape your emotional responses. Over time, it will allow you to change your brain and replace bad habits with good ones. Every day you will wake up better equipped to deal with the emotional challenges that stand in your way.
And so you use neuroscience to increase Emotional intelligence – and make emotions work for you, instead of against you.
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