The Secret to Creating Habits That Lead to Success

A book that I am constantly re-reading and referencing is Tony Robbins Awaken The Giant Within. It’s like my personal development bible, and truly a life changer. I wanted to share a really interesting concept from the book and an activity that will help you to break some of your bad habits and create new, empowering habits that will lead to success.

You see, a problem that many of us have is that we base our decisions about what to do on what is going to create pain or pleasure in the short term instead of the long term – it’s just a primal human nature thing. However, what we don’t realize is that in order to succeed, most things that we value require us to be able to break through the wall of short term pain in order to achieve desired long term pleasure. An interesting point that Tony makes is that,

“it’s not actual pain that drives us, but our fear that something will lead to pain. We aren’t driven by the reality, but by our perception of reality.”

This simple idea is what keeps people stagnant – like in an unsatisfying job or relationship. They know that changing will lead to the unknown, and most believe that the unknown will be much more painful that what they’re already experiencing. Everything that we do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain and our desire to gain pleasure. With this in mind, we need to train our brains to link pain to any habit or behavior of ours that we want to stop, and pleasure to those things that we want to achieve.

Think of some of your bad habits that are keeping you from attaining the kind of life that you desire, and take a few moments to complete these questions. It’s worth it:

1. Write down four actions that you need to take that you’ve been putting off

  • Why haven’t I taken action?
  • In the past, what pain have I linked to taking this action?

2. Write down all the pleasure you’ve had in the past by indulging in this negative pattern. 

  • To create change that will last, we need to find a new way to get the same pleasure without any negative consequences

3. Write down what it will cost you if you don’t change now. 

  • What will it cost you emotionally? Your physical energy level? Your self image or self esteem? Financially? Your relationships?

4. Write down all the pleasure you’ll receive by taking each of these actions NOW. 

  • Envision all of the positive impacts both in the present and long term. Attach emotional intensity to it. How will it make you feel? How will it make those you care about feel? How will it change your life?

Although we would like to believe that it’s our intellect that drives us, in most cases it’s our emotions that truly drives our decision making. When we are able to link enough emotional pain to doing something – like smoking, procrastinating, overeating — we can create a negative neuro-association that ensures that we do everything we can to avoid that pain. It seems to be such an over-simple way of looking at things, but when you look at most peoples bad habits, they are a result of attempting to simply feel better. Maybe smoking calms them down, maybe eating is comforting – maybe procastinating removes anxiety in the short term. Refocusing on the long term pleasure by getting through the short term pain is one of the most powerful things you can do to create change in your life. Simple but effective – give it a try.


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