“Ka chunk, Ka chunk,” I said, and my daughter thought that was the funniest sound ever.
Daughters are great and they help you stay connected with what is important. In this case looking at all the things I do each day.
We were talking about getting things done, no not David Allen’s book, but how we do hundreds of things each day without even noticing.
I was pointing out the micro actions that we don’t even count as actions. Waking up is actually a long series of steps, opening my eyes, sitting up, putting my feet on the ground. Standing up. Each one of those steps, you guessed it, ka chunck, ka chunck. Like robots we wobble through our day. Our programming making us unconscious. All the marvelous things that are happening in our day we motor through unaware.
You eat your lunch. Lunch on your schedule, but that one item is a cacophony of activity. Getting yourself lunch could be dozens of steps. Starting with standing up to walk to the refrigerator. Do you want lunch? Did you ask yourself? You aren’t hungry, but it is 12:00. We eat and wonder why we put on weight.
The triggers that lead you astray. That niggle of doubt that your book is horrible. That evidence-based thought that you aren’t that famous holding you back from doing the thing you want to do.
Justin Bariso published an article in Inc. magazine talking about the blue dolphin rule. The rule says, each time you have a thought that leads you to think of a polar bear, stop. You instead use that micro trigger to think of a blue dolphin.
What’s a polar bear? A polar bear is something you can’t avoid thinking of. Your polar bear might be a fear of public speaking. And each time you think of the upcoming presentation. The one you are going to make to your colleagues about that new toothpaste commercial. When you think of it, you start to go into panic mode. “Oh my, how am I going to get through this? No one will like my idea. Should I ask Chad do the presentation?” As soon as you notice the micro trigger that pushes you into Polar bear territory, say, “I’m so excited.” Then have a backup thought that you think of each time you start to think of fearful things.
For example, if shopping for groceries excites you, and who isn’t excited about shopping for groceries, use your shopping list as a distraction. “I’m so excited! I need, cereal, milk, apples, kiwifruit, grapes, and cheese. What else do I need?” And there you are, crisis averted. The idea is to form a new habit so when you feel fear you can avoid it. Rather than feeding that fear by brooding on it, you divert onto a different thought off ramp.
“All roads lead to Rome,” you say? Meaning of course, “this won’t work for me. I will end up back thinking of my presentation when I get to toothpaste on my list.” This is where it gets interesting. Instead of thinking of your normal brand of toothpaste on your list. Or thinking of the brand you will be making a presentation about. Think of a new brand, one that you never use. Even an imaginary one. Fanta toothpaste. Orange Fanta Flavored. Imagine something so extraordinary it takes you down a side street you never saw before.
Use these micro steps and visualization techniques to change physical habits too. Let’s say, like zillions of people around the world, you want to include more exercise in your life. You decide you want to exercise in the morning. You are going to wake up 10 minutes earlier to have extra time to exercise. You set your alarm 10 minutes earlier, and you go to bed 15 minutes earlier.
You can use this same micro step brake if you map out what you do in each process. You can see yourself doing new habits. Take getting out of bed and exercising in the morning. If you usually try things like telling yourself, “I’m going to get up tomorrow and exercise first thing.” that isn’t enough information for you to succeed.
Instead, try telling yourself a story, “Tomorrow, when I wake up, I will put my feet on the ground feeling refreshed. I will stand up, go to the sink, and pour myself a small glass of water and drink it up. I will then put the glass down and walk to the toilet. I will go to the toilet like every day. I’ll brush my teeth like always. This time I will find my exercise clothes there. I will change into my exercise clothes. Then I will walk back into the living room and lay down and do 5 push ups and 5 sit ups.” Don’t do too much at first.
You get the idea. Mapping out the micro steps, as detailed as you can get will help you. You can take the B.J. Fogg Tiny Habit building techniques where you take an existing habit and you use that as a trigger to remind you to do the new habit. Combine Tiny Habit with my technique of looking at your actions on a micro level. Brushing your teeth is a multistep process. You need to get yourself from bed to the sink to putting your toothpaste on your brush and you can see how this works.
What do you think about when you brush your teeth? Do you think about what kinds of exercise you are going to do? Do you think about what you are going to make for breakfast? Instead, use that time to concentrate on brushing your teeth. Focus on how you are brushing. Notice the taste of that Fanta flavor. Imagine how mesmerized your dentist is going to be by the whiteness at your next visit. You see her face when you open your mouth, and she smells the delicious Fanta orange flavor.
Not only have you changed your toothpaste, but you also started exercising. You created a new habit by visualizing it in micro steps. Ka chunck, ka chunck. You learned how to avoid negative thinking. You found your blue dolphin. You are amazing.
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