As we’ve already learned in our past lessons; the longer the idea remains in the mind, the stronger the opposition (Law of Reversed Effect) there is to replacing it with a new idea. This happens because the more times a response is used in a given situation and it seems to give a satisfactory outcome, the more embedded that response becomes. The longer it is used, the more reinforcement the idea gets and more certain the belief that it is the correct way to respond.
Due to this reinforcement, the mind creates fixed neural pathways which are very difficult to dislodge on your own. This law of thinking is the basis of the saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. With the use of NLP, however it’s quite easy for a skilled practitioner to replace old ideas with new ones.
On the other hand, if a behaviour is not reinforced it tends to go into extinction, especially if a different reinforcer is used for the same behaviour. This is how bad habits are replaced.
Anything that is not used is lost. When it comes to success, the greater your commitment to achieving your goals, the more you will be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve. The principle of use states that whatever we don’t use we lose.
If you could tie up one of your arms against your body so that it’s unusable for long enough, you will eventually lose the use of that arm. That arm will become useless. The same applies to our minds and other human attributes. When we stop using courage, initiative, faith, energy, talents, knowledge, money, etc, they diminish!
The opposite holds true as well. Whatever we use increases. Just as the more you use your muscles, the stronger they become; the more you are committed to your goals, use your talents and apply your mind on how to achieve them, is the more your will achieve.
Applying The Law of Reinforcement
Any behaviour that is continually reinforced will become automatic, any behaviour that we fail to reinforce will dissipate.
Reinforcement is what causes habits to form in the first place, and it can be used just as effectively to break them.
- Reward Your Desired Behaviour
In order for your subconscious mind to link the desired behaviour with the reward, the good behaviour must be rewarded each time the act was performed correctly.
- Give Emotional Rewards
Since the subconscious mind is the domain of emotions, emotional rewards work best. Wallow in your every success. Give yourself a very enthusiastic pat-in-the-back each time you get it right. Make yourself feel really great about your successes.
- Reward Continually
You must reinforce your desired behaviour EVERY TIME in the beginning. You must reward yourself continually. Just a word of caution though: make sure that the reward is good for you – a beer or an ice cream as a reward is not such a good idea unless you want to have to tackle breaking another bad habit later.
- Reward Immediately
The reward must be received immediately. If the delay between the behaviour and the reward is too long, the behaviour will not be associated with the reward. You must link the emotion to the act.
- Surprise Yourself
You can also reinforce behaviour by giving yourself a reward even greater than expected. This way, you subconsciously look forward to hitting the jackpot. Be spontaneous and give yourself a reward as a mental surprise. If you are working with a friend on a weight loss plan, make it a game. Roll the dice or draw cards to see how many kilos you must lose or how many days you must go to the gym before you are rewarded.
Whatever you say and think reinforces your actions. Teach yourself to look at the positive side of things. Avoid dwelling on the bad or what you see as failures. Focus on what you’ve learnt through your mistakes.
Cultivate enough faith to keep you thinking about how you are still in the process of achieving your goals. The more you keep affirming your commitment to achieving your goals, the more able you become to translate your words and thoughts into actions, and therefore successes!