The closures caused by COVID-19 show us that our habits are important

Graphic by Jamie Mere

If you’re like me, you were a little relieved by the closures caused by the COVID-19 shutdown. You may have been trying to get started on that one thing you wanted to do, but let’s face it, with everything closing, you had a harder time getting started than you’d like to admit.

Our reactions to the disruptions of COVID-19 show are the best reflection of just how habitual we as humans are — with both our success strategies and our toxic routines. An increased awareness of these habits dramatically improves our quality of life.

By the end, we’ll come to better understand cognitive dissonance, inconsistencies in thoughts, actions, beliefs and behaviours, – and confirmation bias — seeking information that proves a belief you already hold is true.

First, I want you to reflect upon what you did with your free time during COVID-19. If you made goals, did you find yourself scrolling through social media or watching Netflix instead of taking action? This leads us to my first point: taking a bird’s eye view.

Step outside of yourself and objectively watch your behaviour. Try not to judge, just observe. There is immense truth to be gained here. For example, if your goal was to wake up early and be more productive, the bird’s eye view might expect to see somebody who goes to bed early, wakes up early, and starts their plans.

However, if you imagine someone who stays up late, only to wake up late and scroll on their phone, then the Bbird’s Eeye Vview suggests that this person is not very committed to waking up early at all.

This is where cognitive dissonance comes in. You tell yourself you want something and feel guilty for not doing it, but your actions continue to reflect somebody who doesn’t take that goal seriously.

Bird’s eye viewing can also be done in a moment. This experience involves setting a goal and making a list of everything you could do to set that goal in motion. Next time you find yourself being idle, ask what your bird’s eye view would expect to see of somebody who truly wanted to make that thing happen and get started.!

Now, consider why you haven’t already started your plans and goals before the closures.

Perhaps you answered with something along the lines of, “I had too many things on the go,” or, “there just wasn’t enough time.” We’re always telling ourselves that if only we had time, we would finally accomplish our goals. 

We’ve already talked about how bird’s eye viewing can help us bridge the gap between our thoughts and behaviour to better take better action. Let’s talk now about routinizing those habits to make working on a goal become second nature. Through this, we will uncover how we can change our thought processes behind cognitive dissonance by understanding our confirmation biases.

This leads us to my second point about: alternative truth automation.

Negative thoughts can sometimes serve us for the better. For example, let’s imagine you thought, “I don’t maintain my health when life gets too busy. I’ll never be consistent with my well-being.”

Our brains are wired to allow the information we already agree with into our awareness, thereby creating confirmation bias. This narrative reinforces belief in its premise, making it more likely for you to neglect your well-being. It is paramount that we are aware of these narratives, taking control to better inform our behaviour.

Now, think of the previous thought in its present positive: – an “I” statement said as if it’s already true. “I prioritize my health habits because they help me succeed in all aspects of life and make me feel amazing.” By flipping this narrative, we are creating a new belief that, through repetition, our brains wire into us and seek to confirm. 

For the most benefit, write down as many negative narratives as you can and flip them into present positives. When you find yourself dwelling on the negative, tell yourself and act out its positive instead, as if you were a narrator for your own life hitting backspace and rewriting the character’s actions.

There is no perfect moment to get started, but every day is filled with imperfect moments. So, what will you do today?

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