by Jerry Rhodes, Founder

close up of roulette wheel

Do you listen to phone-ins?  I do. On BBC radio and Washington Journal. The whole of life comes through. Fascinating.

There is a delightful quirk you often hear: the presenter welcomes a caller, “Hello, what do you want to say?” and the caller replies: “Hello, how are you!” This response is a thinking-addiction.

We all have a lot of thinking-addictions. They take different forms. “Can I help?” when someone appears to be in distress. Extremely useful and beneficial.

“Not again!” when your partner forgets to fill the petrol tank before a car journey, or forgets to put out the rubbish for collection. “Not again!” is perhaps not the best response if you want your partner to improve his/her forgettery.

Some habits are extremely useful. I am not knocking them – except when they are inappropriate – as in the radio “Hello, how are you” example, nor when not conducive to helping behaviour changes.

Habits of thought

For many years I have been teaching ‘metacognition’ – thinking about thinking. It involves being able to stop an immediate thought reaction in order to consider whether it really is the thought you want to follow through at that moment.

This is the hardest thing to do. Physical habit reactions are difficult enough to stop. Thinking is even harder because it is invisible and very, very fast.  Perhaps you have heard of, or even read, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  ‘Fast’ is what most of us do most the time, sometimes with disastrous results, because we didn’t give ourselves time to think.  See the Guardian’s review of Kahneman’s book

Physical habits are difficult to change

Which hand do you normally use to clean your teeth? Try this: before you even start cleaning them tonight, stop and use the other hand. I bet you forget until you have actually started with your normal hand.  It is a powerful habit because you do it every day.

The strength and skill you have with your arms and legs, feet and hands, depends on how you use them and how often. The muscles of your legs will strengthen and become more skilful if you do a lot of dancing or running. Similarly the muscles of fingers, if you go in for piano playing or touch-typing.

Whatever you repeatedly do creates physical habit patterns which operate automatically and which are extremely difficult to change without a lot of focused practice.

Julian Bream, one of the UK’s greatest classical guitar players, faced an almost impossible task to change his habits when it became clear that his patterns of playing were harming his physical well-being.

Julian Bream, classical guitar player, with bodily tension as he plays.

Julian Bream – courtesy

Bream took advice and practical help from specialist movement teachers, and he was able over time to make the changes. He persisted.  These are the keys – a good strategy for change and persistence. YOU HAVE TO WANT TO CHANGE.

What about thinking habits?

Your mental muscles of mind develop in the same way as physical habits. If you do a lot of mental arithmetic you will strengthen and raise the skill of the muscles which support precision and memory. These muscles will be easily adapted for precision and memory in other exacting mental skills.

We all shape our thinking-habits:  in family life, with hobbies, leisure pursuits, sport, travel, schooling, higher education, work… Some habits you will value highly. But what are you unaware of?

Is it worthwhile finding out? 

If you could find out what your thinking-habits are and learn about the fundamental thinking-energies which we all share, then you have a key to making changes for the better when you want to.

Through my research I  mapped the fundamental thinking energies that we all use to shape our own minds. I call them ‘Thinking-Intentions’.

Each person creates the ways in which they use their Thinking-Intentions, shaping them into their habits of thought. Often these habits are excellent, used appropriately for different situations, and beneficial for all.

But not always.

All the stories you have ever come across in books, films, TV series, documentaries, etc… reveal how words spoken from habit thoughts create the drama and tragedies. Every TV or radio soap opera runs on the basis of people talking and thinking from habit unwisely.

The classic Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen’s masterpiece of thought habits. Darcy and Elizabeth eventually overcame their habits… but not without a lot of pain and distress.

A wedding photo of Darcy and Elizabeth from the BBC series Pride and Prejudice.

Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the TV miniseries Pride and Prejudice, courtesy © 1995 BBC

Find out more about your habits? 

Because children mop up the thinking habits of the adults around them every day, for better or for worse, knowing more about your own might be worth investigating.

Why not take a look?

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