It’s funny how most of us spend a lot of time doing things that we don’t really want to be doing, but that have become habits of ours, maybe because we had some pain or other that we wanted to dull when we were younger, or maybe just because it’s easier. We also have an idea of ourselves, the ‘me’ inside, that has so much great stuff it could do if only it could get its act together.

Most of the time it’s hard to let that ‘real me’ out because in some ways, the ‘real you’ is the one that is taking action day by day. Here’s a ridiculous example that might help. Pretend you are a pacifist. Now pretend that you are also an executioner. ‘I’m not really like this,’ you might insist to each of your victims. ‘I’m not a violent person. I don’t kill people.’ Well, yes, actually, at the moment, you do. You may not want to, but so far, you’ve not done anything to stop it.

So there’s this inner ‘me’ that we want to be, but that never gets to choose our actions because the outer ‘me’ is making all the choices based on what comes most naturally to it. The problem is that our ‘natural’ selves don’t have any idea about intentions or the future. They react to situations the way they have been trained over and over, by saying, thinking and doing the same things they’ve always done – or some improvised combination of these things if the situation gets unpredictable.

What we really want is to choose which version of ‘me’ gets to decide on our course of action. And the only way to give the little guy a chance is to send him to the gym. If we want to react differently in a situation, we need to put in the time and effort to retrain ourselves.

And this is where I fail the most often. You see, I am a planner. Sort of. I am not actually very organised, but when there’s something I need to do I would rather see if I can try to predict every possible outcome before I do it. I’ll write little checklists and think about everything that I can see that might happen. And this helps by putting off starting to have to do anything. Then what happens is I try it for a little while, and think ‘hey, I’ve got the hang of this now’ and then I completely stop doing it because I think I’ve changed. But I haven’t. Not if my actions haven’t changed.

So again – to make any change stick, we need to spend time making it a habit. I will probably never start a habit blog like Leo Babauta, although if I actually did what he suggests, I might make some good ground with sticking with some of them. I’d really suggest going over there for the good stuff when it comes to habits.

One thing that really gets in the way is thinking that we can’t change. I can tell you that you really are capable of changing just about anything you like. If you believe that – and you should, because it’s true – you’re much more likely to successfully change. You need to understand that you have been changing and growing your whole life, and you’re not done. Decide you’re set in your ways, though, and the ‘outer you’ has already won. You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be. Any one of us is pretty much capable of going off and doing something entirely different from ‘normal’ – remember, normal is only normal because you’ve always done it.

This is where the affirmations come in. If you start your day by reminding yourself of the goals and characteristics that you’re working on, your brain is primed to start to react that way. It means that you have a chance of reacting the way you’d like to instead of how you usually do.

And this will slowly create your new normal. Start small, choose something you can stick to, and prove to yourself that you can do it. Then pick something else. And repeat. We’re only expecting small results at first, but just like compound interest, over time this will add up. Stay at it!