When I talk to clients and I ask them what their goal is for therapy, many times they respond, "I just want to be happy". I get it, people are coming through my door because they are suffering and they don't want to suffer anymore. However I have to tell you… I HATE this goal. Let me explain...
Being happy does not tell me your values or what really matters to you that you need help working on. Since this is not an actionable goal it has no meaning behind it and therefore no steps to take to make changes. People are often waiting to feel happy before they do x, y, z. By jumping into working on a goal in a tiny way it changes the brain and can lead to feeling happier.
The best and worst thing about people is they want to change. That’s great! I love when I meet someone who truly wants to change. It’s also the worst because people are overly ambitious. When we recognize we want to change we often want to change as of yesterday. We often set big goals for ourselves and when we have a wave of mental motivation we feel good. We are fooled into thinking we are working on our problems by thinking of this big goal we think will change our lives if can just force ourselves to jump in. This fails! Just like New Year’s resolutions, please I beg of you, do not set a New Year’s resolution. You already have an 80% chance of failing from day 1. Why? Because people do not make consistent small tiny tiny changes. When you fail to accomplish this big goal you then feel like a failure and are at a lower point than before.
We are what we do everyday. 45% of our actions every day are based solely on habits. We are kind of like little robots, we fall back on habits when our will power is low, whether they are good or bad habits (here’s a secret, bad habits are the path of least resistance).
The secret is TINY habits. Accept that there is no magic bullet. Big ideas and big goals feel like a magic bullet.. "If I can just go to the gym everyday, I will feel great, if I just don’t eat any more junk food I can lose 10lbs this month, if I just do x, y, z I will feel good and be happy."
The trick is consistency. Doing something TINY everyday will build a habit in the brain and transform the way you feel and think. This strategy does not go against the grain of your will power. It will not feel hard to keep to it or to build upon it. This will then build up your self confidence everyday by hitting your tiny habit goal. This creates an “upward spiral” in your brain and you will feel so good about yourself for keeping to your new teeny tiny daily goal, which gives you the dopamine reward you need to continue.
Why does this work? Because this literally changes your brain. A tiny habit makes a new neural pathway in the brain. Think of this as a dirt path on day 1 of your new habit. If you keep walking this dirt trail that neural pathway literally gets thicker and stronger in the brain. Neurons that fire together, wire together. If you break your overall goal down to a tiny tiny daily habit you can rewire your brain. That dirt trail will eventually because a super highway. This is proven on brain imaging scans. You can change the neural pathways and brain structure just by your tiny habit, no drugs needed.
Sometimes we forget the simple habit we are working toward or forget why we are doing it when we don’t feel different right away, The brain loves rewards to reinforce why it's changing. That’s usually what I’m here for, to help you get clarity on values, goals, change and to help you stay the course. This results in feeling happier. But you can’t run before you can crawl. You will never accomplish the large goal without a daily tiny change in your routine or behavior.