Cognitive Habits & Nice Girls & Goats

What do goats have to do with nice girls and cognitive habits? Well, read on…

cognitive habits make it hard to goat

A friend recently sent me the meme shown here. At first, I just laughed and replied along the lines of, “2020 the year that keeps giving,” and “Stop the planet I wanna get off.”

And then I started thinking. I had just spent an immense amount of time and energy writing and publishing my new book and announced it to my Facebook friends. Here is my post:

Semi-retirement has afforded me more time to play with grandbabies, dance, and write. I’m pleased to announce publication of my book, A Diet is the Last Thing You Need: Weight Loss & Maintenance Answers. If you or anyone you know is looking for an evidence-based, gentle way to get a handle on overweight, I believe you will find this useful.

Can you see what’s wrong with my post?

That’s right! I am the “nice girl” my mother raised me to be. Nice girls don’t boast and they don’t toot their own horns. If they are especially skilled at something, indeed even if they are expert, they modestly allow others to recognize them. This is a cognitive habit that may have been useful in the past and in some situations but most certainly is not useful now!

Now look at my Facebook post again. It took me one minute to type—and then I sat there another 20 minutes telling myself to delete “I believe.” I could not delete those two words!

I could not trumpet my expertise and say, “You will find this useful!” Feeling compelled to soft-sell the work I had poured my soul into. My post was warm Vanilla ice-cream when it should have been ice-cold Rocky Road Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough—With Sprinkles!

I wanna goat!

But it’s hard. It is hard because of those cognitive habits that we learn as we go through life. In my case, one of those cognitive habits is that I define myself as a “nice girl’ despite the fact that I’ve had enough birthdays to make calling myself a “girl” fairly ridiculous! Kidding aside, the way I define myself has been shaped by the context (last century) in which I grew up. As such, how I was supposed to behave had much to do with my gender. Hence, despite embracing Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan as role models, my reflex in situations that call for direct forcefulness is to say, “I believe” in place of “I know.”

Habits Can Help and Hinder

All of us have habits, both cognitive habits and behavioral habits, that help us navigate life. Most of those habits are helpful. However, some may have been helpful to begin with, but are now either no longer helpful or are downright harmful. Had I been directly forceful as a young girl, it would have caused social problems for me so it made sense to be modest. In today’s reality, that belief works against me and it is more logical to speak up, to recognize my value, to own my power!

Join me in tackling those cognitive habits that interfere with accomplishment of your goals. Grab onto the handles that derail those habits. That means pushing ourselves to do the Uncomfortable. In my case, that’s changing my marketing approach from one of “Please read my book because I think you’ll find it helpful’ to “I’m a bad*ss psychologist who knows how to help people.” In your case, it means figuring out what ingrained beliefs about how you ‘should’ be are getting in your way and then talking back to them. Identify the belief (cognitive habit) like I did with “nice girls,” challenge its logic, and then jump around to embrace what you want—and head butt anyone who gets in your way!

Own your power!

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