How Your Brain Works in Breaking Habits


For those of us who enjoy brain science, this is for real. For every action, there is usually an ERP (Emotion Response Psychology) at the root of it. You have a trigger, and then your brain as trained over time responds to the trigger (stimulus) in the same way based on well woven neural pathways of our previous consistent response.

This is where we are empowered to break our habit. Between stimulus and response is a space. It is in that space that the power lies to determine your future. In that space, you can choose. You are not an animal that is merely instinctual. You can choose your response.

When someone gets you angry or says unkind words, it is a stimulus, when you get angry, fight back or choose to look away that is a response. But between stimulus and response is a space. It is the place where we choose what our reaction will be. We can’t choose better than the quality of information that fills and stays in that space (our mind).

For some people that space is guided by the word of God, for some it is the philosophy of the society they live in. For some, it is their upbringing (how their parents react to situations). The bottom line is that the predominant information in this space will determine our response.

For me i try to fill my space with scripture or words from inspirational authors that i regularly read from or listen to. For instance, the bus conductors in typical buses in Lagos are very bullish and ready to insult you. When they do as their ERP has conditioned them and they have created a stimulus for you (vulgar words and insults). You can look within your space and say – My bible says anger lies in the bosom of fools so I won’t get angry.  When you choose to respond based on information in your space, you will have disempowered his weakness (vulgar speaking and a short fuse), retain your peace and boosted your self esteem (coming from your ability to control your emotions)

On the flip side, assuming your space is filled with information that tells you, nobody takes me for granted or talks to me like that or i must give this guy the word of this life, something he won’t forget in days to come. Hmmn! You will have empowered his weakness, he drags you into the same state of ‘reactivity’, you diminish your proactive capacity, you foster your weakness or habit (emotional outburst) and make it harder next time to resist the impulse of anger.

John Assaraf said “Regardless of whether or not the reward is positive or negative, habits are automatic and we adhere to them and get stuck in either habit hell or habit heaven ( positive or negative ). The key to break unproductive habits is to learn how to interrupt the brain pattern and develop a new pattern and reinforce it over time.”

Mike Murdock has a warning; ‘We don’t decide our future we decide our habits. Then our habits decide our future. What I want us to take away is that the space (our inner power to control impulse) can grow as we fill it with the right information and references. The result is that we can rule over ourselves better. It is better to be patient than to be powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

Layi Adeyemi

Peak Performance Coach


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