Creating habits, be the sculptor of your own brain

According to an EJSP study, to convert an objective into something automatic (and therefore habitual), so that we do not require the “pull” of our willpower to complete the task, we need 66 days.

Any lifestyle changes proposed as part of our preventive program in Age Management Medicine (nutritional habits, increased physical exercise, nutritional supplementation, optimization of biomarkers, etc.), typically requires several “good intentions” to be successful. This is undoubtedly a challenge for most of us and such changes can be a good choice for those who want to change direction.

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Any lifestyle changes proposed as part of our preventive program in Age Management Medicine typically requires several “good intentions”. It is, naturally, a challenge.

It has happened to all of us, there are certain key dates in the calendar in which we propose to change some aspect of ourselves or our circumstances. It is very common to encounter difficulties after all we all start with “good intentions” and, precisely just that at the beginning of a new direction.

Who has not started the year with a great determination to change and improve themselves to grow in some way? “I’ll start going to the gym,” “I’ll lose weight,” “I’ll change jobs.” We usually start with a lot of gusto and drive; however, how long does it take us to achieve our goal? How can we achieve our goal? How do we ensure our motivation does not drop?

The fact that you encounter personal difficulties when trying to achieve your goal is not synonymous with a weak will. The most frequent problem encountered is to realize that you do not have a clear idea of what your goal is, rather than a lack of resources or means to achieve your goal. If you have a clear goal and sincerely aspire to achieve the same, you will help yourself by empowering yourself towards a single goal.

Alice could not see the horizon when she was lost in Wonderland and when she realized she was lost she decided to ask the Chesire Cat for help:

“Could you please tell me which way to go to get out of here? – This depends largely on the place you want to reach.
– I do not care much for where I go.
– Then it does not matter which path you take”.

Having a place you want to reach will awaken you and revitalize your strength to walk the path.

This will provide you with your purpose, the destination you can look at whenever you encounter an obstacle in your journey along the path and this will give you strength, direction and meaning in the low moments.

And yes: purpose and then, later, strength.

Viktor Frankl said: “It often happens that the psychotherapist, the ‘soul doctor’, exposes their patient to what they have to do, how they should behave, but it is person who explains to the therapist that they can not do the task, that it is impossible for them to achieve the goal, that they do not have the necessary strength to complete this or that, in a word, they have a weak will. Can we really describe a weak will or a firm will? Or is talking about our will just a form of apology? The common expression often recited is where there is a will there is also a way. I prefer a slightly modified phrase, and I dare to state that where there is a goal, there is also a will. In other words, he who has a clear goal and really aspires to achieve their goal, will never complain that they lack will power.”

Any lifestyle changes proposed as part of our preventive program in Age Management Medicine (nutritional habits, increased physical exercise, nutraceutical supplementation, optimization of biomarkers, etc.), typically requires several “good intentions,” to be successful but this is of course a challenge for most of us and such changes can be a good choice for those who want to change direction to achieve their goal or continue to make other changes. The figure of your doctor is key to ensuring that you have the confidence and feel safe enough to achieve the success you desire. The doctor is your guide and your support, they are available from the beginning, guiding you though a process of reflection, which act as the foundations of the house, why and for what purpose? And for who do you want to do this for?

habits beneficial to your health

We can classify this process by reference to a number of different stages:

  1. Choice and Planning – Where do you want to go: Part of the “cerebral” or rational purpose or intent.

The word motivation derives from the Latin motivus or motus, which means ‘cause of movement’. Motivation can be defined as “the direction or focus that is within a person as they move towards a specific need using specific means, creating or increasing with it the necessary momentum to put into action the means or resources to achieve a goal, or to stop undertaking an action”.

The first step will be to define your intent in a concrete way: THAT WILL FALL WITHIN MARTE

A good way to establish a goal is to think about the MARTE (Measurable, Achievable, Challenging, Temporary and Specific) structure proposed by psychologist Rubén Turienzo in his book Smile:

Measurable. Think about how you are going to quantify how you move towards your goal. Measure your progress. Better if it provides you with direction. For example: “I propose to reach the habit of getting up half an hour earlier every day to have a good breakfast”, so it will be helpful for you to mark each success on a calendar. In addition, a reward will reinforce your desire to keep moving forward: “every five consecutive days achieved, the sixth breakfast will be at my favorite place.”

Achievable. That is to say, a goal adjusted to your skills, abilities and the current context. Ask yourself what you can achieve.

Challenging. This should provide genuine motivation and mobilize the energy that you carry inside you to ensure that you will improve and achieve your goals.

Temporary. This establishes a limited period of time. This helps to provide you with a clear horizon. The game lasts 90 minutes.

Specific. Try to be exact. For example intending to be rich is not the same as stating you want to earn more than 100 euros; or intending to have a model-like body and stating that you will reduce your abdominal girth by two centimeters. You will achieve greater focus, in this way you will concentrate your energies towards a goal.

  1. Fill the goal with meaning – What moves you? What are you going to nourish yourself on along the way?: Part of the “emotional” or affective purpose or intent.

Etymologically, the term emotion comes from the Latin emotĭo, which means “movement or impulse”, “that which moves you towards”.

Right, so you have set your goal, now you must start your engine, how are you going to keep yourself going? How will you drive yourself forward? Using visualization is a useful option.

Visualize in your mind what you want to achieve, as if you already have what you desire. Consider how this makes you feel. Those emotions that start to emerge can then be used to drive you forward during your low moments or propel you through obstacles, provide perspective and allow you to resume your chosen path. Each emotion has a function and a meaning. You should stop and listen to what they want to tell you:

– Love, hope, confidence or joy: they contribute to your success by strengthening you, they give you energy to continue. Think about your goal every day, love your goal, rejoice in your goal, have confidence that you can achieve it and you will.

– Apprehension or fear: these emotions can work for you even though they are more ambiguous emotions, because some people are driven by these and others are paralyzed: “Fear is usually not a good companion.” For example: you may study for an exam for fear of failing or just because you want to learn more. Each perspective you have will generate a different type of energy within you.

– Pain, sadness and despair: they usually block your will to succeed. Although we need to have these emotions as “warning signs” to warn us that “there is no way forward,” they can also lead us towards success by convincing us of the need to take stock and reflect, which is often required before personal growth.

Now you should ask yourself: What emotions are feeding on me? How do my actions feed my emotions?

In this way, you have a starting point, your current situation and, a destination, your “new life”. There are also foods that can nourish you or take away your energy. And the road? We could ask the Cheshire Cat again or ask someone else on earth: “Traveler, there is no road; you make your own path as you walk” (Antonio Machado). Encouragement, move forwards!

  1. Review your previous attempts.

According to Albert Einstein, “insanity is always doing the same thing and expecting different results”.

After establishing your goal and understanding how to nourish your goal, it will help you to “learn from experience”.

The solutions that you tried previously but did not work, will not work again. This is to be expected. So far, the situation has not improved. They were logical solutions, they worked on other occasions and that is why you think (and hope) that perhaps insisting or applying them with more intensity can work. But it is these solutions that are often the ones that continue the problem. The arrival of a key date is the perfect time for us to clean up and move on from failed solutions.

To do this, you should go to a place that inspires you and look inside yourself, read a good book and see what catches your attention or perhaps ask a family member or a friend. With the information you discover you can organize a list and start “doing less of the same”.

  1. Plan of action, record and reward.

Design a path through your goals, record your progress and choose a suitable reward.

  1. What am I going to do?
  2. When will I do it (time of day or even schedule)?
  3. Where will I do it?
  4. How will I measure my development?

It is encouraging for us to understand how our brain works and to know that it works in our favor. A recent study by Jane Wardle, University College London, published in European Journal of Social Psychology, states that to convert an objective or activity into something automatic (and therefore habitual), so that we do not require the “pull” of our willpower, we need 66 days. The period of change is around two and a half months. What are two months in the entirety of our life? Nothing. It takes time to be able to achieve the change we want. And this makes us feel free and powerful. “Every man can, if he has the intent, be a sculptor of his own brain” (Santiago Ramón and Cajal).

To finish, a reward is one of the most important parts of the process, because this helps to fix the habit by associating it with a positive element. Make sure you leave the reward to the end but do not forget it!

And remember, if you find yourself lost, remember Alice: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.


(1) De Shazer, Steve (1988). Clues: Investigating Solutions in Brief Therapy. W.W. Norton. p. 195 Watzlawick P., John H. Weakland and Richard Fish. (1995) Cambio. Herder. Spain. B. O’Hanlon and M. Weiner-Davis: “In Search of Solutions: A New Direction in Psychotherapy. ” WW Norton & CO. New York 1989 Simon, Joel K. & Nelson, Thorana S. (2007). Solution-focused brief practice with long-term clients in mental health services: “I’m more than my label”. New York: Taylor & Francis. Frankl, Viktor, Psychotherapy available to everyone, Barcelona (1990), 138.

(2) Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world.European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998-1009.