Secrets of habit change

When you’re trying to help someone else (or yourself) get over counter-productive patterns and adapt new ones, it helps if you understand the neuroscience of habit change.

In my wife Tara Bennett-Goleman’s new book, Mind-Whispering: A New Map to Freedom from Self-Defeating Habits, she explains recent neuroscience research on how our habits form in  the first place, why they are so hard to alter, and smart tactics for replacing dysfunctional ones with more effective ways of being in the world.

One concept that helps us understand how habits operate is “modes.” These are overall orchestrations of emotional habits that include how we perceive situations and kneejerk ways of acting and interacting.

We each have our personal set of triggers that unleash these modes. In the anxious mode, for instance, we are hyper-sensitive to anything that suggests an important relationship is being threatened, and over-react.

Every mode makes us a different person for the time being. In a controlling mode, for instance, we dictate to others what we think they should do, oblivious to how this makes them feel.

Such modes of being are counter-productive in a leader, parent, or spouse.  But because habits are so strong once we learn them, people are often at a loss about how to stop themselves from going through the same self-defeating routines all over again – or don’t even see that there’s anything wrong.

But the neuroscience of habit also tells us how we can go about changing them. To learn more, you might want to look at Mind Whispering. It will be released tomorrow, April 23.