I learned to type in 1985 by playing Letter Invaders.
I didn’t set out to intentionally learn it. It was my senior year of high school, in my Accounting I class. I’d finish my work early, so the teacher put me in the Accounting II class. (Sorry, I should have warned you with “nerd alert”.) But I was not up to speed on those lessons, so I ended up playing video games on the computer.
Today, I type more than 50 words per minute. It comes in super handy. Like when typing this blog post.
I learned something else in the 80s. To crave chocolate. Like any Gen Xer I had Pop Tarts for breakfast, chocolate being my favorite. At school I bought M&Ms from the vending machine. I worked retail for a while and there was a Marie Callender’s in the mall. Yep, chocolate cream pie. You know what else was in the mall? See’s Candies. I didn’t reserve it for special occasions. Nor for gifts. I bought to eat.
I moved on to more sophisticated types, like 76% dark chocolate. You know, the healthy kind. I’d even dip it in unsweetened peanut butter. Yum! You really couldn’t call it dessert, could you?
Until a year ago, I consumed chocolate in some amount almost every day of my life. Almost. Every. Day.
Notice that neither habit was intentional. I didn’t set out to type. I didn’t set out to over-desire chocolate. But as I continued each behavior, my brain put my actions on autopilot. I didn’t need to think about it anymore.
That’s what the brain does. It wants to be efficient. Thinking isn’t efficient. So, it creates habits that we no longer have to think about. That’s great for typing. Not great if you don’t want to crave chocolate every day.
The brain just does what you tell it to do. So shifting your behavior takes focus and attention. (Charles Duhigg explains it well in The Power of Habit).
That’s why it’s so very important to be aware of what we’re telling it.
For decades, I was generally okay with my chocolate habit. Until I decided I wasn’t. I wanted to see what was possible for me if I practiced the intention that I didn’t need it every day. To believe it was possible that I’d had enough chocolate to last a lifetime. Maybe even two lifetimes.
I’m astonished at what the mind can achieve. I no longer crave chocolate and rarely eat it. It’s the same for all sweets (I needed to be intentional to not swap one unhelpful habit for another). I have some of the good stuff sitting in my pantry that I’ll share with friends soon. But it will truly be a special occasion. And I’ll enjoy it thoroughly. And it will be more about my friends than the chocolate.
And the outcome for my body is truly amazing. Who knew?
Wonder what’s possible for you? Identify a habit you want to change. What regular thought pattern(s) drives it?
Now, what do you need to think to start shifting your behavior?