Changing our behavior and adopting healthy habits is how we find health. But it can be challenging in the beginning to know exactly how to achieve these behaviors, and many times we set “goals” and try to make these things happen, but we don’t quite follow through, or get there for a short period of time and then struggle to continue.
What is going on here? And how do we actually adopt a healthy change?
First, we must understand life as a movement of flowing energy (this isn’t just mystical, magical stuff – it’s physics). I won’t go deep into detail because that’s not the point of this article, but the main takeaway is energy is how we interact (re: move) with the world around us, and when we desire to start a new habit, we must consider the concept of momentum.
The easiest way to think of energy momentum as a total concept is to think of a baseball pitcher. The pitcher stands sideways, leans their body weight to the hind leg while lifting the front leg up, twists their torso and winds back their arm as far as possible, steps forward and and then shifts their arm as forward as possible while releasing the ball with maximum force.
You don’t have to be a sports fanatic to use this visual as a guide, but you can also apply this to any idea of a similar movement.
Secondly, ‘flow state’ has been described in many different forms across all types of fields, from sports and meditation to religion and neuroscience. The term was most popularized in 1990 by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (great read). Csikszentmihalyi describes the ‘flow state’ as the experience in which performance and consciousness are harmonious. It’s the euphoric instance of being so in tune with what you are doing that it is easy and natural.
Think of a time or activity in which you are doing something that feels effortless to you, where there is little resistance, such as a habit of brushing your teeth, or reading a book, if you enjoy reading. You can consider this, for the intents and purposes of this article, as your “flow state.” Activities that are passive, like watching TV or scrolling your phone, don’t count because in these scenarios your conscious mind is not engaged, though they may seem “easy to do.”
Below are the 5 steps of how you harness energy momentum and state of flow to change any behavior you desire and adopt a new habit. You can use it as a guide while you are actively embarking on a behavior change journey. At the end I insert a helpful exercise you can use to structure your desired change.
5 steps of energy momentum and state of flow to change any behavior:
1. Stating Intention
Most people say “my goal is..” “I want to do…X” “I desire to…Y”... toss those words in the trash. That language is superficial, save that for surface level talk, like ‘I have a goal to have a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.’ Nothing wrong with that, it’s a fun goal – but it’s not meant for behavior change.
An intention is a call to will of commitment. This forces you to confront accountability. It’s necessary to use language that fosters responsibility and identity setting when you desire to truly make a lifestyle change.
Example: My intention is to go to the gym today
2. Destination Concentration
You have a destination and there is a means to the destination. I learned this concept from Bruce Lipton in his book The Biology of Belief (another great read). You must focus on the destination and let the system do it’s job (we’ll talk more about creating systems in later posts and this is a large part of my upcoming online program).
What do I mean by that? Example. If you’ve ever played golf, baseball, softball or even tried to hit a ball with a bat-like object. If you even for a second thought about HOW you were going to hit the ball – you missed (probably). When you hit the ball what is occurring in your mental space is you are thinking OF IT HAPPENING. Period. Not how, not when, not where. Of it just occurring.
Really try it yourself. Stand at a hands distance from an object and try to knock it over. Are you thinking of your hand moving or are you thinking of the object falling?
By focusing on the destination you are inherently giving up that “fake” manual control. Because when we try to sit and plan everything out to the detail without having faith in our systems and then it does not happen exactly that way. We panic. And toss in the towel.
Example: I mentally picture myself at the gym. I don’t think of how it’s going to happen. I just picture myself being there. I don’t focus on what I’m doing while I’m there. I am simply at the gym. I repeat this in my mind throughout the day.
3. Schedule Over Scope
The ideology formulated by James Clear (one of my top 10 favorite people almost ever). Read here: Time Management Tips
Unplanned distractions WILL come up over the day. That’s normal. But you have two options when they occur:
Either you say, “I now don’t have time at all or can’t fully do what I intended to do, so I won’t do anything.”
OR you reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.
Instead of driving to the gym, do a ten minute at home workout.
On the surface from a day-to-day perspective it does not seem like much, but it leads you to true long term changes.
Example: My daily schedule looks like 4 AM wake up, 4:30 AM Breakfast, 5 AM-10 AM Journal/writing, client prep and sessions, 10:15 AM gym….
My reduced scope options will be: push ups in my living room or an at home workout following an app on my phone.
4. Kinesthetic Awareness
In short, this refers to being able to sense your body’s movement. In exercise physiology this concept goes deep and it’s beyond fascinating. The true definition is, for example, when you are lifting a box or weight and have awareness of your muscle contracting, but in the context of intention-driven behavior change I use it as a general awareness of inner body feeling.
This can go many different ways sometimes we need a continuation (aka not changing your shirt before the gym), sometimes we need a pivot, or redirection (doing an alternate activity instead of eating ice cream at night), and sometimes we need a spark (external push; such as playing pump up music or having a friend go on a walk with you)
It’s important to note that these levels of awareness oscillate and we can need different ones at different points of time. That’s why it’s so vital to practice a deep sense of connecting and understanding your own body.
Example: I finish my present task, and next on my schedule is ‘gym time.’ I do not stop and think about my decision to go to the gym, I’m aware that my natural inner feeling wants to move, I don’t even change my shirt, I wear my blue J Crew cardigan sweater and move to the gym (my health means more to me than a sweaty sweater that can be washed).
Another example: I finish my present task, and next on my schedule is ‘gym time.’ I do not feel any inner feeling of wanting to move, so I play a loud “hype” song (I chose the club anthem ‘This Is Your Night' by Amber, another personal favorite is the street anthem ‘Ice Cream Paint Job’ by Dorrough Music – obviously choose any song/genre that speaks to you) to get movement going, and the instant I recognize it I move to start doing push-ups on my living room floor without thinking.
5. Follow through AKA Achieving Flow State
The cumulative momentum of showing up to the schedule regardless of what the intensity (scope) looks like is how you achieve long term success when trying to adopt a specific behavior.
Achieving flow state is the ultimate level of habitual adaptation. This is when your concentration on a task is intense, but effortless, meaning you are doing “The Thing” but it feels natural or easy to you.
This takes a lot of practice, and a lot of showing up. Use the downloadable PDF below as an exercise to write out a specific behavior change you want to make happen and conceptualize the way in which you will make it happen.