Behavior activation is a branch of psychology focusing on how one’s environment shapes their actions and their mental health. By deliberately practicing certain behaviors, you can activate an emotional state. Go for one of the positive ones because that can lead to virtuous cycles. The opposite leads to vicious cycles, and ain’t nobody got time for that. By simply acting, you actually start finding yourself in the situation that leads to the desired feeling – including one of feeling ready to do the thing. Act according to plan rather than waiting to feel ready. The action helps you become ready.
Aristotle said, “Virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions.” The writer Will Durant reformatted it as “We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence is not an act, but a habit.” In other words, actions build behaviors and behaviors build actions.
What you do is what you find easy to do. Ease is the single best predictor of behavior. You do whatever is the least hard thing to do. How do you make things less hard (even the hard stuff)? You build habits, routines, and rituals around the desired actions.
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 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. Habits live in the first process. They are actions that you perform on a repeated basis without active thought, but that doesn’t mean they can’t start in the second. Think of that old analogy of riding a bicycle. You had a whole lot of conscious thought going into those first rides, but now it’s well, like riding a bike.
Putting that all together, we want to make certain things easy – almost mindless – to do. You want to type quickly, not hunt and peck your way through life. For those things that you want to automatically do to be who you want to be, build routines until they become habits. Don’t fret if it takes a while. Going potty, riding a bike, typing all took some time, but you got it sorted. You’ll get these sorted, too.
Thanks for reading, Erin.