Have you ever tried speaking vowels faster than your normal rate of speech? Chances are you might speak a little faster than how you would normally speak. So, from an a….e….i….o…u, you might reach a..e..i..o..u and probably for some people even faster than that.
However, if I were to ask you to speak it backwards with the same speed, what would be your answer? Well, if you are a normal human being, chances are you will stop for a while, think and then speak tentatively to avoid making a mistake. The effort required to speak these set of vowels backwards is too much for our brain to handle and it will ask for some time to accomplish this task.
Now, let’s say you have been practicing to speak a,e,i,o,u everyday and now if I ask you to speak it out faster, you will be better than your were in your previous attempts. Also, if you continue to practice it in the reverse order (u,o,i,e,a) continuously over a period of time, you will achieve a certain level of expertise which will allow you to speak the vowels faster than any normal person even in the reverse order.
So, in a nutshell, if we want to get faster, we have to practice harder. However, what is it that happens inside our mind, which make it easier for us to do it when we do it repeatedly.
Let me explore it with the findings of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky who proposed System 1 and System 2 to explain how our mind works. When I asked you to speak the vowels normally, you were using your system 1 and were able to perform the task effortlessly. However, when the request to speak the vowels in reverse order was made, your mind reverted to System 2 thinking which is slower, takes time and processes information to be able to deliver a result and you were doing the same.
System 2 however is very lazy and doesn’t want to work much and mostly delegates its responsibilities to system 1 by making things automatic. This is referred to as habits as well. So, the moment you enter kitchen or open a refrigerator, you get hold of a cookie or a chocolate and even without realizing pop it into your mouth. This is system 1 at work.
However, System 2, which understands and know you are on a diet offers little resistance and the realization come later when you feel the guilt of breaking your diet but by then there is nothing munch that can be done. System 2 though is the one to make you feel guilty later on.
We can however, train ourselves to convert our good routines into habits and let them fall in the preview of system 1 by letting them run on an autopilot. If you continue to practice to substitute cookie for an orange or an apple for long enough, the neural pattern will get registered in your brain, letting system 1 take control when you feel hungry and your hands will reach out for an apple instead of a cookie.
This however, is easier said than done. Our habits are strengthened by repetitions and these patterns emerge over a period of time. Replacing these older patterns with new takes time and a huge amount of willpower is required to sustain them long enough to convert into an autonomic system 1 action.
However, once you realize how System 1 operates and become aware of what needs to be changed, you are well on your path to achieve control over your routines. Now, make a note of activities, you feel are taking you, away from your ideal self. This can be procrastination, eating junk food, not exercising or sleeping more than you want to.
In each of these activities find a pattern which leads you to eating more, sleeping more or continuing to sit on the couch instead of walking. One reason to sit on the couch can be to watch TV, so here you can try to avoid sitting on the couch by removing your TV and putting it in an inaccessible location (it may sound weird but has been done by lots of people).
Absence of TV will force you to do something else to occupy your mind and then going outside for a small walk or dingo it within your home would be a lot easier.
Key here is to find out why you do what you do and replace the underlying action behind that behaviour with a new routine.
You can also go through my other blogs to find out how it is done.