Bad habits are tough to break and — as modern as we think we are — we all have an “inner caveman” that controls a lot of our impulses and behaviours. To break your worst habits, you’ll need to make tiny adjustments that you can sneak past your primitive self.
Picture: Lord Jim/Flickr
Jenny C. Evans, author of The Resiliency rEvolution, suggests that our DNA hasn’t changed much over the last 10,000 years. Our bad habits stick around because our inner caveman, who she calls “Sneaky Pete”, likes to conserve as much energy as possible. That’s why you look for quick, feel-good fixes like caffeine, sugar and avoid exercising to burn those calories. Essentially, our inner caveman loves our modern life where we do very little and have plenty of food to eat.
The problem is that our inner caveman doesn’t really know what’s good for us in the long-term. We need exercise, a healthy diet, and should stay away from certain things. Even worse, when we try to make a change, we usually try to make some dramatic adjustment to our habits, assuming that the best way is to dive right in. Evans explains why that doesn’t work with your inner caveman “Sneaky Pete” around:
If you go from zero exercise to seven days a week, that’s going to activate Sneaky Pete and he’s going to freak out. Simplify any change you make to where it goes under your stress response. To the point where you think, ‘That’s so easy, it’s stupid!’ Then you’ll be able to make successful long-term changes.
Take baby steps when you’re trying to make a change. Ease your way into change so you can trick your inner caveman into thinking that everything’s totally cool. Remember, real change takes time and a lot of it. Don’t get frustrated and just keep slowly building your way to the new you.