The myth of changing your habits and what true transformation requires.

Updated: Nov 15



True transformation requires that we move beyond the preconceived pictures of our mind and see beyond the words and deeds of our self and the other person.


#StephenCovey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (in my opinion one of the most powerful self-leadership courses still) defines a habit as knowledge (why and what to do), skill (how to do) and desire (want to do). It means that to develop a new habit, you must consider all three components: to study the theoretical model, to learn how to apply it in practice, and to find the motivation (willingness) for its use.


Like training a muscle, it requires continuous effort and endurance. This is all well when it comes to achieving a new and hopefully positive/beneficial habit. We all know from own experience how difficult it can be to get rid of destructive or limiting habits. It is cumbersome to say the least, and success rates are devastating. Have you ever tried to kick an old and deeply engrained habit? Deeply rooted habits often run on autopilot, far beyond us being aware of them.


We strive to #change and all so often we fall right back into old habitual patterns of #behavior. Instead, it is necessary to shift, to #transform. If I change, I am likely to change back, if I shift however, I transform into something new and fresh. It is a new and affirmative way forward. What is necessary in order to assure that a #transformation can actually take place?


The philosopher Jidda #Krishnamurti speaks in his lectures about “how to break free from habits” (Brockwood Park, UK 1983). Krishnamurti describes habits as a “repetition that becomes a routine” often practiced without us giving it even a bit of attention. The brain establishes a pattern, repeats it again and again and over time it becomes mechanical. The question Krishnamurti askes is “can we break a habit without any side effects, without reward or punishment but simply effortless and with ease?”


As long as #attachment, #judging, #reward or #punishment are present… so is #conflict and it will not be possible to distance ourself in order to see things clearly. Here a few steps Krishnamurti mentions which are well worth reflecting upon:


  • First, I need to become aware of my habit.

  • Awareness meaning to recognize the habit and to look at it with a neutral mind, without any form of evaluation or judgement.

  • Looking at it without any reactions based on past memories, opinions or mind-structures.

  • Giving it your complete attention, just observing – nothing more, nothing less.

  • Then learn to be alert and pay attention each time the habit shows (without reward or punishment) just seeing it and naming it – even out load if you like.

  • Train yourself in alertness by again and again recognizing and naming the habit, without any form of attachment or evaluation and over time it will fade away.

  • When the brain is fully alert, the habit has no place and you become free to choose your action.


What is it then that keeps us imprisoned in what I call the “habit trap”? Why is it so difficult to break free and why, as Krishnamurti puts it, is it important to first recognize and see things from a neutral position of mind?


In my understanding, our mind directs and monitors our #behaviors and actions based on powerful mental constructs. These constructs which are based on past experiences, upbringing, social influences and deeply rooted beliefs become conclusions. Conclusions are what we have learned to believe to be true. My interpretation of Krishnamurti is that we need to first free ourselves from these limiting mental perceptions/conclusions in order to see things clearly.


In distancing and “neutralizing” ourselves we take over the steering wheel from our mind and start leading the game, rather than our mind maneuvering us through life.


We need to ask ourself “what is it I am believing, given a certain situation or person. How is this belief influencing my behaviors and actions, hence the results I receive in life”?


My good friend and teacher #MariaNemeth, PhD, founder of #ACE the Academy for Coaching Excellent (https://acecoachtraining.com) has the brilliant ability to put complex wisdom into easy-to-understand models.


Maria describes this subject in an easy to follow 4-box model:


In the first box Maria speaks of our “structures of knowing”, it is what we believe to be true about a certain person, situation etc. Our conclusions in life. It is important to note that not all is bad here – this is the ability of our brain to protect us and keep us safe.


Secondly, as we focus on a certain conclusion, our #brain is masterful at gathering evidence that will confirm our conclusion as being correct. It is like driving through the city with the conclusion that all traffic lights are red!


The evidence we now have gathered triggers our behaviors, nurtures certain habits. It is a stimulus-response situation and dealings are often very much mechanical as Krishnamurti puts it. We are on auto-pilot! You might sometimes wonder in hindsight, why did I just say this or do that..?


And finally, our behaviors produce the results we receive in life and also triggers the behavior and the #reactions of the people we deal with. These results once again confirm that our conclusions were correct. And with a big smile or deep grunt we will think … see told you or “I know it from the start”!


Coming back to shifting behaviors you might now understand that the true point of power is where you focus your brain. If you want to change your behavior, don't concentrate on the behavior itself. Instead, shift the focus of your attention to a conclusion. Start to see what it is that you believe in and ask yourself, is this really true? You might want to investigate into the conclusions of other people, maybe people you admire, people you see as a role model. This will help you to open up and see your conclusions more clearly.


The behaviors will fall into place once we have adjusted our view, quite naturally and with a sense of ease.


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Steps • Stephan Stahl AB

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753 22 Uppsala

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