There are two processes for processing thoughts. One process addresses a lot of our needs. It monitors for threats and opportunities. It is mostly controlled by the amygdala, which means it is a lot of emotion and actions being acted upon unconsciously and automatically. It bypasses the neocortex. The other process lives in the neocortex and is conscious and rational. This takes a little longer (sometimes only seconds longer, but often much longer). It weighs and analyzes.
Stuff that is controlled by the amygdala tends to get done – and done with less stress and angst. So how do we tap into that? One is do use habits and routines. You can also set yourself up with specific statements that state exactly how you are going to implement your intention. Let’s call them implementation intention statements or intention implementation statements. Pick whatever order rolls off your tongue.
Implementation intentions are statements that set out the what, when, and where of your actions that you need to take.
They often look like this:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
I will take Lola for a 2 mile walk at 7:00 am through the big park.
Other times, they look like this:
If or when [CONDITION OCCURS], then I will [BEHAVIOR].
When we can walk 2 miles in less than 35 minutes, then we will start walking 2.5 miles.
Often, it is a combination:
I will take Lola for a 2 mile walk at 7:00 am through the big park. If it is rainy and below 40 degrees, I will take Lola to the yard and then go to the treadmill for a 2-mile walk.
The trick is to be specific. Detail exactly what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and where or how it’s getting done. By doing so, it gathers its own momentum and soon it will be pulling you along. Imagine telling a five-year-old that you will take them for ice cream after school at their favorite place. You bet your buttons they are going to remember that and make sure it happens. Your brain is often similar to a five-year-old. Tell it something might happen sometime in the vague future, it may or may not happen. I mean, we’ve got games to play, TV to watch, dogs to pet. Ice cream at 4? Ready and reporting for action! Even more so if you write it down or put it on your calendar.
Your inner five-year-old won’t even let you think about skipping out – even on the hard stuff (It’s not all ice cream, I know). Keep doing it over and over, and it becomes more automatic. You don’t have to think about where it will fit in, how you start, or when to get ready. You know, a habit. You do what is easy. Make it easy by telling yourself how you are going to do it.
Thanks for reading, Erin.