We’re well passed the 6-week mark of the new year and by this time more than 80% of resolutions have failed. Bummer. Why?!?!
The simplest solution I have conceived is:
“A New Year’s Resolution is set in the conscious mind whereas most behaviors are rooted in the subconscious mind.”
In other words, we WANT to change but we’re being subconsciously BLOCKED.
This is probably why behavior change is so difficult for most people because until we truly and fully subscribe to a change it really isn’t becoming ingrained in our subconscious brain. As it turns out, most of our subconscious wiring occurs between the ages of 0-6 years. Which means, most of your learned behaviors happen long before you’re even conscious of them. What?!?
Have you noticed how a baby will subconsciously or instinctively figure out how to have its needs met by behaving in such a way that lead its parent(s) into taking the desired action. And, if the parent(s) does not pick up on these clues then a child is destined to not have its needs met and this could ultimately result in emotional pain or trauma which will likely playout in that person’s behavior for the rest of their life… unless it is appropriately addressed.
People change behavior, in a moment, when it truly is THAT important to them.
Actions speak louder than words, right?
A new father quits smoking, cold-turkey, when his first child is born. A long-time alcoholic quits drinking instantly when she kills someone while drunk-driving. A morbidly obese person one day, seemingly out of nowhere, decides they’ve had enough and instantly changes their lifestyle and begins exercising and making better food choices on a random Tuesday. A person will “drop everything” when their smartphone breaks and go get it fixed even if that means going to work late, taking a long lunch or skipping meeting up with friends after work. It’s THAT important.
Unfortunately, and perhaps thankfully, most of us have not had a catastrophic event that shocked our emotional state and instantly re-wired our subconscious brain. What this means is, for most of us, our pre-existing subconscious wiring is guiding our behavior.
What behaviors are you struggling with and why?
What emotional need was not met or violated as a child?
Some techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can do wonders for addressing specific behaviors. The goal here is to replace the undesirable behavior with the desired behavior until the desired behavior becomes ingrained in the subconscious and the “new” habit. In other words, hold on consciously until you’re able to re-wire the subconscious. Perhaps this is where the “21-day rule to form a habit” is based.
In some cases, it may not be necessary to understand the underlying cause of the behavior however, I believe the greatest chance for success is to understand the root cause. In doing so, that knowledge is empowering and disarming and by addressing it the behavior change will be much easier and more natural.
In summary, New Year’s Resolutions fail because the decision is made in the conscious mind while behavior is driven by the subconscious mind. Re-wire your subconscious and the behavior change will be far more likely to stick.
Let’s take a moment and think about your health or that of your organization. What does “health” really mean? More often than not, when people say “health” they’re primarily thinking Physical Health.
We all know health is more than just physical. I believe there are four main areas of health which, when nurtured, will support overall wellness and well-being. Many sources claim three primary areas: Physical, Mental and Spiritual but I believe this three-legged approach neglects the key area of Emotional Health by grouping it within Mental Health.
Now, if you’re ready, I’m going to offer an approach to Wellness from a rather different angle and if it makes sense to you then together we’ll have a strong likelihood of improving your wellness and perhaps a lot of other people too!
Below are the definitions I choose for the four primary areas of health AND in order of importance or how they might be prioritized.
Emotional Health – The ability to give and receive love, connection, belonging. This is different than Emotional Intelligence – the ability to manage one’s emotions and feelings.
Often Emotional Health is included in Mental Health but as you can see from the definition below, Mental Health is not just about being “crazy” or “unstable”.
Mental Health – The ability to focus, think clearly, concentrate, and stay on task. This is not to be confused with Mental Illness – the significant impairment of an individual’s cognitive, affective or relational abilities.
Only a small percentage of the population actually struggles with Mental Illness yet every single person could benefit from nurturing their Mental Health. In other words, not everyone is schizophrenic, psychotic or suffers from multiple personality disorder but anyone can be stressed out, overworked, overwhelmed or burned out at any given time and that is what affects your Mental Health. This is why taking a break to “clear your mind” is so important throughout the day.
Physical Health – The ability to execute our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. Similar to the Mental Health definition above, most people are not ill or suffering from a disease such as cardiovascular, cancer or diabetes. However, every person would benefit from daily hydration, good nutrition, exercise and rest. See, it’s pretty simple really!
The primary reason Physical Health is not first is because most people are actually doing just fine. Sure, we could all lose a few pounds, exercise and sleep more and eat more vegetables but in the whole scheme of things, most of us ARE “walking and talking” and able to go about our day. Our basic needs for physical existence ARE being met albeit maybe not fully optimized.
Spiritual Health – The ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives and understand our purpose.Often times, spirituality is equated to religion/religious. I believe that definition discriminates against those who are not religious, don’t believe in God or simply differ in their religious views. To nurture one’s purpose can fill your spirit.
If your purpose is to serve God then that is how you achieve Spiritual Health. Someone else my view their purpose as raising their family or their work. And purpose need not be something so grand. It could be as simple as fulfilling “your purpose for today” such as getting the car fixed or finishing a report.
Just like the four wheels of a car, if you only inflate or over-inflate one your car won’t drive well. Therefore, in order to nurture our overall well-being we need to nurture ALL FOUR components of health and not just one such as Physical Health.
Given how familiar people are with Physical and Mental Health and how “controversial” Spiritual Health can still be, my primary focus is on Emotional Health. Plus, I believe it is the most neglected and perhaps the most important component to achieving overall well-being. Why? Well, because our state of Emotional Health is the primary driver of our behaviors. (This may be a very new idea for many of you so maybe just take your time and think about it for a bit.)
In the Wellness Industry and life in general, we regularly speak about Behavior Change. What is it? How do we stick to it? Why can’t we do it more easily? Why don’t New Year’s Resolutions last? Etc. Well, I’ve been independently researching this topic for 17 years and I’ve even published a few articles describing where behavior change was successful.
So here’s the BIG secret I discovered that few people know or understand (which is why it may sound so “out there”). A person’s behavior is primarily driven by their state of emotional health (or un-health). I won’t get into the details here but suffice to say, if you’re ever wondering WHY someone is doing what their doing it’s pretty likely their behavior is an attempt to compensate for an unmet emotional need or an emotional trauma/pain.
The good news is as soon as a person begins to feel loved and supported their Emotional Health begins to improve and so do their behaviors. In study after study, specific behaviors have been shown to improve when a person feels more connected. In fact, a person’s behaviors are really just a symptom of a deeper, emotional, issue. I’m not saying love is the panacea for all ailments but I do believe it is the root cause for many.
Now, rather than focus on behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse, obesity, bullying, sexual harassment, eating disorders, addiction, gun violence, etc. we can help a lot just by supporting these people emotionally. Support and love combined with other interventions could be a fastest road to addressing the behaviors.
In the workplace, the more connected and Emotionally Healthy we feel the more positive the culture, engagement and retention. While most Wellness Programs focus on Physical Health to try and reduce healthcare premiums there are many other greater expenses rooted in poor Emotional Health, yes, even at the office. While business may not seem emotionally driven if people are involved then it most certainly is.
Retention – Research shows 50% of employees quit because they’re unhappy with their boss or management. That is an emotional choice based on the feelings about a poor relationship. If the standard retention rate at an organization of 300 people is 10% and it takes 6 months to replace an employee and if their salary was $60,000/year then that is a poor retention cost of $900,000/year.
Engagement – Research shows 75% of the US workforce is disengaged. That’s like saying ¾ of your staff isn’t working or your entire staff is only working about 25% of the time. If a person doesn’t feel valued or like they matter at work and if they feel their work isn’t appreciated by their boss or organization then their motivation to try drastically reduces.
Let’s use some low example numbers… We’ll assume 300 employees earn an average of $60,000/year for a total annual payroll of $18 million. If people are only truly engaged 25% of the time it’s as if your organization is wasting 75% of their payroll or $13.5 million/year.
Culture – Happy people are far more productive, creative, innovative, willing to negotiate, compromise and work together. They do not tend to micro-manage, bully, harass, be absent, quit, disengage, argue or complain. A well-known 75-year long study by Harvard University shared their results in Triumphs of Experience (2012) showing “the key to lifelong happiness is connection”. Imagine if you and your workforce felt truly connected to others at the office, at home and to the organization, at large. Imagine how happy everyone would be and how contagious your positive culture would be. An organization like that would truly THRIVE!
Ultimately, each person’s state of Emotional Health is driven by the strength of their relationships. Positive relationships translate into constructive behavior and negative relationships leads to destructive behavior.
My #1 goal is to help you and your organization strengthen your relationships so you will thrive and I’ve developed a way to leverage technology so anyone can do it.
That’s my platform, in a nutshell. If it resonates with you then I’d be happy to help you and your organization implement a program to balance your wellness by addressing the critical Emotional Health component.
Now, it’s your turn to reach out and connect and tell me your needs and goals!