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6 brain hacks to reprogram your life

Tuesday, July 21, 2015  
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By Angela M. Joyner, Ph.D.

Much like a computer, your brain responds to programming. But reprogramming your thinking is a lot harder than upgrading your computer -- many of your current unwanted behaviors stem from unconstructive programming you received as a child, and these old ideas can stand in the way of change.

In his book Psycho-Cybernetics, published in 1960, Dr. Maxwell Maltz says, "Beliefs about ourselves have unconsciously been formed from our past experiences … especially in early childhood." So keep in mind, when you want to change a particular habit or belief, that the unwanted behavior was built on patterns developed over time.

Related: 10 ways to turn ideas into action

In this classic book, Dr. Maltz introduced the idea of a mind-body connection and that positive outcomes are achieved through changing our attitudes.

Here are some simple steps that can help you overcome self-sabotaging tendencies, much like installing new software into the computer of your mind:

1. Identify the issue. Write down everything you know about the habit, such as when it started and why. Be as detailed and truthful as possible because it's hard to change what you don't acknowledge. And list all the reasons you want to change. According to Dr. Maltz, "Change the self-image and you change the personality."

2. Set realistic goals. If you want to lose weight, for instance, simply saying, "I want to lose a few pounds" is not enough to bring about lasting change. However, if you state "I will lose 10 pounds before my birthday," your mind has a distinct path to follow. Make sure your goal is both realistic and attainable so that you set yourself up for success.

3. Use "creative visualization." Using your imagination to picture how you want to behave gives you a huge edge in overcoming unwanted habits, because the subconscious mind sees in images. For example, as you recall what you had for breakfast, do you picture the words "I ate scrambled eggs," or do you see scrambled eggs on a plate? So "see" yourself as having accomplished your goal.

4. Act as if you have achieved your goal. Imagining you have already accomplished your goal goes a long way toward actually achieving it. For instance, someone 10 pounds lighter may exercise more or be more confident, so if you already act as if you weigh less, you will automatically start moving more and feeling better about yourself.

5. Use positive affirmations. Power words or phrases spoken as if you mean it keep you motivated and help you turn negative programming into positive change. According to many experts, including Maltz, it usually takes only 21 days to create change in our self-concept. So you are just 21 days away from achieving your goal from the day you start!

6. Reward yourself. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for every positive step you make towards achieving your new goal. It’s important to reward yourself with something that will make you feel good about yourself and to "imprint" your newly forming positive habit.

The brain is simply a "goal-striving mechanism" that operates very much like a computer, Maltz says. Your mind is the software that makes you uniquely you. Following these six steps is a means of  "hacking into" your brain, changing the programming and creating the life of your dreams.

Recognized by Black Health Magazine as one the "25 Most Influential African American in Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Health Food Industries," Angela Joyner is passionate about helping women develop a professional brand that helps them stand out at work. She is vice president and general manager of the refrigerated portfolio at ConAgra Foods Inc. and founder of The Wonder Loft LLC. Her career has included leadership positions at Hallmark Cards Inc., Mattel Inc. and Sara Lee Knit Products. Her doctoral research, The Theodora Effect, focuses on character strengths and high performance in executive women.

Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.

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