You can speed up the acquisition of a new habit by using the affirmation process to routinize your mental, emotional, and behavioral patterns.

I learned this when I was coaching football in high school. I put in a multiple offense ahead of time. Once I gave them the new patterns on the practice field, I would have the players groove them by making mental affirmations while they were home or in study hall. They were grooving a pattern or skill that they needed while they were waiting in the lunch line. They would go through the pattern several times in their minds, using odd times to rehearse, to speed the repetitions and groove themselves.

That’s the way I gain new knowledge or practice skills. I practice the routine in my mind. I rehearse where I’ll go, who I’ll be with, what I’ll be doing I practice it all in my mind. And then I write it out in affirmation form and repeat them, because affirmation and repetition speed the acquisition and grooving of mental, emotional, and physical habits.

Groove Mental Habits

Take time out during the day to do mental rehearsing. You prepare ahead of time, before you’re in the situation, by practicing your ideal mind-set, emotion, and behavior in your mind. Once you’re in the event or game, you don’t think about your performance consciously; you get focused, and you let yourself flow.

At night some people think about all the things that didn’t go right during the day. No wonder they wake up feeling overwhelmed. You need to think about all the positive things that happened. It’s okay to look at problems, but then say to yourself, “How will they look when they’re fixed?” End with an image of how you want to solve the problem, then go to sleep. Let your subconscious work on it while you sleep. You might even tell your subconscious “I need the answer by 6 a.m.”

You do the same when you tell yourself what time you want to wake up. Just tell your subconscious, and you’ll wake up to the moment. Don’t set the alarm clock, because your subconscious knows it has an out. Don’t give it an out. Trust it. Tell yourself, “I know if I don’t wake up, I might lose out, but I’m trusting my subconscious to come through, and so I’m not setting the alarm.”

Where else don’t you trust? Where else do you put safeguards around yourself because you don’t allow yourself to flow? Where else do you set the alarm, just in case?

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I encourage you to keep a journal as a way to monitor your affirmations and attitudes every day. I also encourage you to put your affirmations on audio cassette, and listen to your family and relationship affirmations frequently, thinking about how you’re going to be with your spouse, children, and friends when you are home. And then listen to your work-related affirmations on the way to work. If you prepare yourself during the slow periods, you will use your time more effectively. Program in what you’ll do, how you’ll be, where you want to grow.

Groove Emotional Habits

A decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and a master in martial arts once told me that the North Vietnamese were effective fighters because they kept their emotions as cool as ice water. What we learned from them was “three slow, one super quick.” Slow, slow, slow, hit. He said they practiced the slow, slow, slow so that they could then strike super-fast.

You can achieve spectacular awareness and effectiveness by applying the same principle prepare, prepare, prepare flow.

Many of us are go, go, go miss, and then we wonder why things don’t improve. Part of the slow, slow, slow will be your affirmation, affirmation, affirmation and then let it happen.

In other words, you put in the right information, right knowledge, right habits, right skills, and the right emotions, and then trust in the right end result. You program and prepare your subconscious mind on the conscious level. Emotional preparation is a deliberate, intentional, conscious act.

Remember to use the words “up till now” and “the next time” to help you groove desired emotional habits. “Up till now I lost my temper, but the next time I won’t.” Don’t drag negative emotion into the future. Shut down that negative emotion. Since your present thoughts and emotions determine your future, you will want to monitor them.

Many people beat themselves up emotionally with dumb self-talk, such as, “I should have, I would have, I could have, if only, what’s the matter with me anyway, how could I have been so stupid, there I go again.”

Not only do they say these things to themselves, but they say them to others: “What’s the matter with you anyway? How could you do this again? Haven’t I told you a hundred times, if I’ve told you once? What will it take for you to get it through your thick head? Didn’t I show you where you were screwing up? Don’t you care?”

They are constantly telling you what you’re doing wrong, repeating it for you, which embellishes the negative picture and emotion and almost guarantees that you’ll re-create it next time.

So, when you are rehearsing a desired habitual movement or behavior, groove it with the right emotion. Rehearse it with the right emotion. If you want calmness, put it in with calmness. If you want excitement, put it in with excitement.

Affirm in your mind the desired emotional state. For example, if you get frightened in an enclosed place, you might say to yourself, “This is no longer like me. I see myself being as calm in this enclosed place as if I were in my own living room.”

This is an important piece of reaching the goal. Too often we set a goal to “just do it.” At least, we think about doing it, or try to do it. And then we give up: “I can’t seem to get myself to do it.” Attitudes, habits, and emotions all need to be grooved.

If you want to speak in a constructive, positive way, you need to think and feel in a constructive way. You want to practice new habits in your mind with the right emotional response. Think about how you’re going to treat people, how you’re going to greet people. Everything that you’re learning new knowledge, skills, and behaviors can be routinized with the right emotional response using affirmations.

For example, the best coaches rarely need to get their players emotionally “up” for the game. More commonly, they say, “Just go be yourselves. That’s good enough. Just don’t be less than best. Just go out and be like you. You’re already good enough.” No hype, no cheer leading, no pep assemblies, no motivational speakers.

The lesson is this: Don’t try to “get up” emotionally for an important event, rather “be up.” Change your internal standard in your mind ahead of time as to what it will take to be best of class, best in the league you want to be in socially, financially, professionally. You’ve got to have the model of what it takes and then practice it during every spare moment. That’s the slow, slow, slow, flow approach. Easy, easy, easy, flow. You just adjust your inner standard of excellence and put it on an automatic level.

People ask me, “Do you get yourself up when you speak or teach?”

“No,” I say, “I am up. I’m just myself.”

“But don’t you get nervous?”

“No. Why should I get nervous? This is me. I only get nervous when I try not to be me: I lose my memory; I get uptight; I start to perspire; and I’m not sensitive to my audience.”

Before a speech, I anticipate the level of emotion that I need to have and I rehearse it in my mind until it’s routinized, until it’s assimilated. Then I relax, relax, relax, and flow.

Don’t try hard to be what you’re not. If you need to change who you are, your self-image, do that the same way you built it in the first place through the words, pictures, and emotion of our self-talk. Smart talk is positive, affirmative talk about the way you intend to be before you ever see it in your actions. You affirm that you are strong before you are. You affirm that you are relaxed before you are. You affirm that you are calm before you are.

Groove Behavioral Habits

The old approach to changing behavior was to tough it out, holding or repeating a new behavior long enough, if you could, until it became habitual. During this process, you were under tremendous stress because you were out of your comfort zone. In a sense, it was coercive, forced discipline.

My approach to changing behavior is first to change your self-image through smart talk; your behavior then follows. I feel that the key to maximizing potential is to alter your internal idea, your standard or self-image, how you are on the inside, and let your action flow from it. When you let go, you will act like the person you now know yourself to be. How we you and I, and our children, friends, and co workers think of ourselves is reflected in our behavior. We behave, not like we’re capable of, but like we know ourselves to be.

If you know you’re no good, you act no good. You act like the person you know yourself to be. “You never listen.” Oh. “You’re always getting in trouble.” Once you know that, if you’re not consciously trying hard to be good, you must be bad for sanity. If your self-talk says, “I’m not a morning person,” you won’t be.

However, you can change your behavior by controlling your self-talk and image in the areas where you want to grow, and affirm them on a regular basis. I recommend that you not only affirm the behavior that you choose, but that you assimilate your affirmations regularly. You will then discipline your behavior with ease.

So you invest a few minutes in the morning and evening every day to make about 20 affirmations in the areas where in you want to grow. If you don’t affirm and assimilate, you tend to get busy and go back to the way you were. And if you can’t get from here to there doing what you’re doing, you need to change habit patterns.

Your current behavioral habit patterns represent restraining forces to achieving your aspirations and goals. You may set a new aspiration or goal, but you’re so grooved in your daily routine that it’s difficult for you to do what’s essential. You think you need to do more, work more, get up earlier, stay up later but what you need to do is to put in new patterns of movement, activity, or behavior.

Habits start on a conscious level with deliberate, conscious activity. But once a pattern is established, your behavior is turned over to the subconscious to flow. For example, after you play a particular song on the piano many times, it becomes an automatic part of your behavior. Many martial arts are about repetition, using imagery until the flowing motions become routine.

Many folks have life down to a routine. They can get up in the morning and get to work without really waking up until 10 a.m. They’ve got down what they do in their morning routine, what they do for breakfast, how they drive, where they park it’s all automated. Now, the problem is when you bring a subconscious pattern to the conscious level, it becomes bothersome. When new managers come into the organization, they become a bother because they disrupt your routine: “We’re going to ask you to change patterns of what you do in the morning, what you do in the afternoon, how you go about your work.” When you do something different in your pattern, it becomes difficult or bothersome. Coaches often bother their athletes by taking a subconscious skill and telling them to “focus on follow through,” or to “look at this, and do that.”

We’re at our best when we can let go and free flow. But when we start putting in new patterns, we go back to the conscious level. Most people don’t like that. “Look, I’ve got my day down good. Don’t give me something new to think about.” Some people resist you when you ask them to move what was subconscious to the conscious. It’s bothersome to people. “I had it down good, and all you’re doing is disrupting the department. You’re screwing things up.”

If you want something to be habitual, get the new pattern down and practice it in your mind. For example, to improve your golf game, you need to go to a pro and groove the right kinesthetic pattern. Once you get the feel of the kinesthetic pattern and some feedback on your swing, you can then just practice perfection in your mind. You can routinize a great deal of what you want just by thinking about it. Affirm and then assimilate the new pattern while you’re sitting at home or riding in a car. You don’t need to be doing it on stage or in a practice session. In fact, the practice of imperfection gives you imperfection.