Journal with a key to positive change.

The #1 Key to Positive Change

Whether small annoyances or huge distractions, you don’t have to keep living with those negative habits, problems, and issues that affect you and those around you.

Naming the issue may be hard but breaking it off is the challenge that reveals your character, fortitude, and grit.

Too often we think that being intentional NOT to do something is the answer. Just tell yourself to stop. Tell yourself to stop thinking about it, stop doing it. That’s what we do, right? With exasperation and frustration, because it doesn’t work!

This strategy is ineffective. Here is what we need:

Be intentional TO do something vs. being intentional TO NOT do something.

Please don’t let the significance of how different those two things are slip past you.

When you think about what NOT to do, you can’t help but think of that very thing. It’s a psychological concept called the ironic process theory. This theory purports that suppressing thoughts actually makes them come to the surface in intrusive and sometimes even obsessive ways. Try it. DON’T think about a purple dragon. DON’T THINK about a purple dragon! DO NOT THINK ABOUT A PURPLE DRAGON! And there it is, right? The purple dragon. So, when you are trying to break the habit of thinking of purple dragons, telling yourself not to think of them is ineffective.

Being intentional TO do something specific, however, puts your thoughts on that new thing to be accomplished instead of that old thing to be conquered. And we don’t even realize that in the process of accomplishing, we are conquering.

THINK about a red dress. THINK ABOUT a red dress! THINK ABOUT A RED DRESS! And there it is. The red dress. Do you see how this works? When you want to STOP thinking of purple dragons, START thinking of red dresses. Fill in the blanks with whatever is your purple dragon, and whatever is your red dress, but grasp this analogy. It is truly a game changer.

The #1 key to changing a habit is to stop focusing on what you want to stop doing and start focusing on what you want to start doing.

What do you want to start doing differently? What’s the positive replacement? You need to name it, because unless it is specific you will revert to the old. To what you need to stop. You won’t always want to do the new thing when the old habit raises its head. The familiar is always the path of least resistance. But if you are prepared with a specific to take its place, it certainly makes it easier to CHOOSE yes to the new.

Start the mindful practice of catching yourself doing the old thing, shift to an intentional focus on the new thing you are going to do instead, then stay focused on the new. Stay consistent with the new.

Replace the old thing EVERY TIME with the specific, positive, new thing you have determined you want instead. Take a minute to wrestle it through and win instead of letting it champion you.

The difference between telling yourself TO do something and NOT to do something is significant. Tell yourself to NOT think of a snowcapped mountain, and you think of a snowcapped mountain. You can fill in the blank with whatever you want – an orange raccoon, a motorcycle gang, Cinderella. Whatever you tell yourself NOT to think of, you think of.

Change the game entirely by telling yourself what TO think of, or what TO do, and do it with consistency. You will win hands down!

What do you want to change in your business? Your personal life? Your health? Your relationships?

What are your thoughts? How do you navigate the needed changes in your life? I would love for you to email me here:

Brenda Harkins is an Author, Speaker, Mediator, and Coach specializing in Personal, Relational and Leadership Transformation. Brenda founded Harkins Leadership Group and developed the Loud Is Not A Language® communication model, helping to build collaborative communities on foundations of trust both professionally and personally. Brenda’s passion for mining gold in people is shared with her love for God, family, good friends, good coffee, and west Texas sunsets. You can reach Brenda through or directly via email at