With each new year, most of us make resolutions for how we will better ourselves moving forward. Whether it’s diet, exercise, or flossing more-we all have something about ourselves we want to improve. Unfortunately, for most of us, we usually end these resolutions by February 1st, with 68% of Americans quitting their resolutions before then. (1)
The problem isn’t us though, the problem is how we view self-help.
The US self-improvement market is forecasted to be worth $14B by the year 2025. (2) This industry is amiss because it is spent convincing us that there is something wrong with us. In reality — the truth is that there is not something wrong with us, but that we just need to unlearn our learned behaviors. Sometimes we need to take a step back to take many steps forward.
What are Learned Behaviors?
By the age of five, 90% of our neural pathways have been formed, leading to beliefs about how we deal with the world around us. (3) Our conscious and subconscious biases have been engrained in us at such an early age we don’t often notice them about ourselves. There’s a biological explanation for why we behave similarly to those that raised us, or adhere to the values that exist in the conditions we grew up in. How we spend our days, is how we spend our lives.
So, every year when we try to change something about ourselves we’re not simply working out more or eating better, we have to unlearn the reinforcements we have that tell us it’s OK to live a certain lifestyle. We don’t fail at new behaviors because we can’t learn them, we fail at new behaviors because we haven’t unlearned first-to make room for new realities. Our perception is our reality, not reality itself. In short: There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re perfect! You may just need to unlearn a few things before you can create the new you, in the new year.
Consider the people we know that struggle with abusive relationships, addiction, or criminal activity. As an outsider we can see the obvious need to change, but often those suffering are blinded by the norm of their habits, their environment, and/or the group they identify and belong. It’s obvious when we criticize others behavior, yet we are not always so clear recognizing our own contribution to a system that is not working for all of us. Our life is on repeat, we duplicate the patterns, a de ja vu, until we can reprogram the source code, the learned behaviors that make certain behaviors comfortable and our self-talk coaxes us back into our comfort zone every time we journey out too far.
Breaking this cycle starts with becoming more self-aware. Like Simon Sinek proposes, the solution doesn’t lie in evaluating the what or the how, but the why. This introspective process of becoming more self-aware starts with the willingness to step outside of our comfort zones. Our comfort zones, after all, are just zones we learned to be comfortable in.
As I explain in my book, Exponential Theory, the best innovation comes from those that behave like curious children. Always asking “Why?” and not just accepting things as they are. This takes courage, but with this bravery we are able to not just unlearn things for ourselves, but unlearn entire solutions we thought were the only solution, to find new ones. Ignorance is accepting others truths without examining our own.
Today, as a challenge to you to start your unlearning process, take one of your New Year’s resolutions, or goals for 2022. Ask yourself “Why did I make this goal?” Then, when you have that answer, ask yourself again, Why? Ask yourself Why a total of five times, challenging each answer you give yourself with a follow up Why? After five times, you will have gotten to the root of your thought process or problem.
To read more about unlearning and the benefits of it, consider buying my book. If you’re ready to step outside of your comfort zone, the XMBA course is for you. In this course, we help build your eXponential Mindsets, Beliefs and Attitudes-and it’s the last course you’ll ever need to take. From there, you will fully recognize you have everything you need to be successful in any endeavor you chose to pursue. Life is about to get interesting for you. Good luck, push yourself outside your current box, and do something different. I hope I can help you choose your authentic destiny and live a life of purpose, impact, and meaning.
Let’s get started.
(3) Arizona PBS, “Early Childhood Brain Development has Lifelong Impact,” 2017, https://azpbs.org/2017/11/early-childhood-brain-development-lifelong-impact/#:~:text=90%20Percent%20of%20a%20Child’s%20 Brain%20Develops%20by%20Age%205