Because we train our brain to operate on autopilot, a bad habit is difficult to change. Only with considerable resistance to an immediate, almost automatic, response in favor of what will provide longer-term health will we be able to change a bad habit. No amount of shaming speeches, guilt-producing responses from others, or our personal resolutions to do better next time will produce the change. That positive change will come about when we decide: “I’m in charge.”
Another fact about our brain also makes it difficult to change: our brain can only focus on very short-term, even immediate benefits. That is, left to our own devices, our brain would lead us to act for instant gratification. The potential for disaster, therefore, is great. In order to change our bad habit, we must switch off autopilot, then focus on long-term benefit. That positive change will come about when we decide: “I can wait for a better outcome.”
We see immediately, how difficult it is to change a bad habit, like drinking too much. Difficult, but not impossible! These facts about brain functioning provide us much-needed hope.
1. We can resist our autopilot function and substitute conscious, healthy choices.
2. We can resist the need for immediate gratification in favor of longer-term health with better relationships.
Source: Brian E. King, Ph.D. Presentation on How the Brain Forms New Habits, Institute for Brain Potential, Clackamas, OR 2/1/12