I’ve been working out to YouTube exercise video’s by the same trainer for years; once I find something I like I tend to stick with it, but my enthusiasm for exercise has been waning a bit lately. My brother recommended another YouTube trainer and their videos have breathed new life into my morning exercise routine. It also revealed something quite disconcerting: I’m conditioned to the beep!
Just like Pavlov’s Dog
I do HIIT videos: short forty second segments of an exercise followed by a twenty second break then another exercise, and on it goes for around twenty to thirty minutes (I reason I can do anything for forty seconds as long as a break is coming up).
The video’s tend to use a countdown beep at the end of each segment to indicate the next segment is coming up. In the video’s I’ve done for years the countdown beeps at the end of each segment come in at three seconds, in these new workout video’s it’s five seconds.
Sounds simple, but I’ve found I’m so conditioned to a three second beep that I keep stopping the segment two seconds early! Lightbulb! If a beep can condition me to stop working out in a set time period, what else am I unwittingly conditioned to do?
The answer is so many things! Some of my habits are forces of good, like meditating and brushing my teeth, some I wish I could break, like that almost hypnotic walk to the biscuit cupboard when I’m having a sad or tired moment, and others are relatively benign – like the beep conditioning.
Yet all of us are made up of these little habits. How much of who we think we are is conditioning and habit? What would happen if we stripped that back?
Awareness is the first step to change
When we become aware that something is a habit we also gain the power to change it.
The next time you find yourself doing something you’ve always done, ask yourself if there’s a way to mix things up a bit.
The more aware we become of our unconscious habits and behaviours, the more we come to know ourselves and the better positioned we are to make the changes we want to make.
Thanks to the neuroplasticity of our brain these changes can come about relatively quickly. It’s only taken me a week or so to challenge my beep conditioning. It took me a bit longer to challenge my binge drinking habits and my biscuit habit has seem some significant improvements of late. Our brains are remarkably adaptable and new habits can form relatively quickly, but only if we’re conscious of the old ones.