A Letter from Amy Johnson, PhD
‘Tis the season…to swear that next year will be different.
Everywhere you look, people are reflecting on last year and resolving to break old habits this year. But for all the stocktaking and intention-setting that takes place in January, most people will have fallen far short of their goals by February.
It won’t be because they lacked discipline, motivation, or willpower. Many people are incredibly motivated, and would do anything to leave their old habits behind.
They just don’t know that they are going about it all wrong.
Popular belief tells us that if we want change, we need to focus on our unwanted behaviors. If you smoke, drink, worry, or spend hours on the internet, you should focus on doing things differently.
Although focusing on our unwanted behaviors—or even the thoughts and feelings that underlie them—has certain logic on the face of it, it misses the mark. It looks at the surface-level psychology of a person, but ignores the bigger psycho-spiritual truth about life.
Focusing only on changing behaviors is like rearranging the furniture in your home while ignoring the cracks in the foundation.
When our understanding about our habit and how our minds work shifts, behaviors naturally change. Habits can fall away easily and quickly when you see yourself in a new way.
Here are a few of the insights that have helped me and countless others walk away from habits and addictions that have plagued us for years:
You are healthy and habit-free by nature. We weren’t born with our habits—and they are not a deep essential part of us. Urges to engage in our habits are passing thoughts coming from a healthy, yet conditioned brain. When we're able to see urges for what they are, we aren’t as compelled to give into them.
All thoughts (including urges) fade. Urges to eat, drink, shop, etc. arise and plague us—and then they fade away. All human experience is temporary and ever-changing. As we come to understand that our mind has a self-clearing, self-correcting mechanism built in, and we see just how safe, temporary, and impersonal those passing thoughts are, we let them pass us by.
When we stop acting on urges, our habit ends. Thought is like a stray cat: feed it and it will stick around; but stop feeding it and it finds a new doorstep. We “feed” our urges by innocently fearing and resisting them. With a deeper understanding of the nature of thought, we can dismiss urges far more easily. When we aren’t feeding our urges, they stop showing up and habits fall away.
When people see better, they naturally and effortlessly do better. When the seeing comes first, the doing is easy.
All people have the capacity for lasting change when they see life more accurately.
With less focus on fixing our behaviors, and more focus on gaining a deeper understanding of who we are and how our mind works, this can be the year when everything will be different—once and for all.
Little changes can make a big, big difference! In The Little Book of Big Change, psychologist Amy Johnson shows you how to rewire your brain and overcome your bad habits-once and for all.