#222 - THE HABIT REVOLUTION, with Dr Gina Cleo

Welcome back! 

In recent years I’ve learned something I wish I’d learned at a very young age.

A key secret to success in life - and to achieving dreams - can be found in our daily habits. The simple unconscious things we do every day - and our ability to change them as we need to.

So, there’s no prizes for guessing I was extremely excited to spend time in conversation for this episode with the amazing Dr. Gina Cleo.

Gina is a leading habit change expert, PhD holder in habit change, adjunct professor at Bond University, accredited dietitian, and founder of the Habit Change Institute. And she has a wonderful personal story that led her to focus on habits.

You are going to learn so much as you take a front row seat on this conversation, including:

  • The true nature of habits and how they shape our daily lives.
  • Remarkable techniques you can use to rewire your brain to form & sustain good habits.
  • The myth of the 21-day habit formation and realistic expectations for habit change.
  • Personal stories of struggles and triumphs in habit management.
  • Practical tools and techniques for overcoming common habit-related challenges.

If you’ve ever set a goal to start a new habit or break an old one and you fell off the wagon, then you’re in the right place.

The good news is it’s reasonably simple and never too late to reprogram your habits and this conversation shines a light on how.

Discover evidence-based techniques to break free from unwanted habits and navigate setbacks to achieve the lifestyle you’ve always wanted, no matter what stage of life you’re in.

Packed with practical insights, inspiring stories and surprisingly simple activities to try immediately, February in Platinum Coaching will guide you to success through the incredible power of habits.

Whether you're looking to break free from negative patterns or cultivate new, empowering habits, this episode offers valuable insights and actionable advice.

Tune in now to start building the dream life you've always wanted. Remember, it's never too late to transform your habits and, in turn, transform your life!

As always, I’d LOVE to hear what resonates with you from this episode and what you plan to implement after listening in. So please share and let’s keep the conversation going in the Dream Life Podcast Facebook Group here.    

Have a wonderful week …and remember, it all starts with a dream 💛


Kristina 💛

Dream Life Founder

PS: If you – like me – see the magic in crafting positive habits and you’d like some help with it, this February our focus in my Platinum Coaching Program is on just that.

Join me live online over 4 x 60 min sessions – including a detailed Q&A with Lyndall Mitchel. It’s a truly amazing opportunity and will be so valuable.

…and if you like, you can sign up for a monthly subscription for February and cancel any time. More info here…



  • Want to join us to focus for a month on transforming your life, starting with your habits Join our Platinum Coaching Program this February and hang around positive like-minded people. Learn more here…
  • Dr. Gina Cleo’s Book - "The Habit Revolution" - which delves into habit change and behavioural science.



  • Buy our new Habit Journal here – your guide to changing and maintaining habits for 3 months.
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 What would you do with your life if you knew you couldn't fail? If you had all the money, all the time, all the knowledge, all the resources that you needed, what would you do with your life if you simply knew that anything was possible for you? My name is Kristina Karlsson, founder of global Swedish design and inspiration brand Dream Life, and author of the book, Your Dream Life Starts Here.

And I. Love exploring these sorts of questions to inspire people like you to chase your own dream life, whatever that means for you. Many years ago, I wrote down a dream on paper that would one day bring Swedish design to the world and create beautiful, inspiring, and meaningful products that would bring sparks of joy into the everyday lives of millions.

Now that I have achieved that dream, I want to leverage everything I've learned to help you dream big and to create a global movement, to inspire. Buyer, 101 million people to transform their lives and transform the world. In return, each episode, we'll dive deep into the power of dreaming and share real insights and practical ideas that you can use immediately to build a dream life of your own.

Hi there, and welcome back to another episode. I'm really excited because we got a super inspiring guest on today, and we are talking about one of my absolute favorites. favorite topics, and that is habits. My guest today is Dr. Gina Cleo. Gina is at the forefront of habit research and behavioral change.

She has a PhD in habit change and is a adjunct professor at Bond University in Australia. She's also an accredited dietitian and founder of the Habit Change Institute. Institute, where she trains habit coaches, support clients, and give keynotes on creating new habits and breaking old ones long term. If you have ever set a goal to start a new habit, Or break an old one and you fell off the wagon.

Maybe you've been in a cycle of yo yo dieting, phone scrolling, or alarm snoozing. Or if you intend to do one thing but end up doing another. Then keep listening. Why do you find yourself repeating? Unwanted patterns. What do you do when exhaustion creeps in and you lose your willpower? The good news is that it's never too late to reprogram your habits.

But how long does it really take and how can you make the changes? Stick. That is what we are going to talk about in this episode. Leading habit researcher, Dr. Gina Cleo, reveals revolutionary breakthroughs in behavioral science that will help you uncover how your brain works and how to rewire it to make instant and lasting change in your life.

So let's discover evidence based techniques to break free from unwanted habits, master your motivation and navigate setbacks to achieve the lifestyle and dream life you always wanted, no matter what stage of life you're in. I just love this conversation. So let's dive straight in.

Hi, Gina, and a very warm welcome. I can't tell you how excited. It feels a little bit like Christmas morning to me to chat to you. Oh my God, I feel the same. Same when you brought out the Habit Journal, like years and years ago, when you were still with Kiki Kay, I was like, one day I'm going to meet this woman.

This is just ridiculous. And here we are. And here we are. And here we are. And we got so, before we pushed recording, I think we could have, we could have actually spoken for the entire, entire hour without recording. So I'm so glad we got to this now. Me too. So, for anyone listening. Love to hear a little bit about your journey before we diving into your amazing book.

But first, congratulations on the Habit Revolution. I thank you. I absolutely love it. And I'll, we'll talk more about my obsession of course, with habits. But before we get started, I'd love to know, do you, did you have a dream as a kid, something you wanted to do or become or have? I think when I was a kid.

I remember wanting to be an air hostess and then I went on an airplane, which at the time was like Egypt air and everyone smoked still on the airplanes. And I was like, I do not want to be an air hostess at all. And now I actually think it would, I would not be a job that would suit me whatsoever. But I, it's funny.

I was always the person who. I had more like short term dreams. I didn't have like long, long term dreams and I'd say I'm still really very much the same. I'm like, I want to do this this year. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that. And you know, it's funny cause when, when I turned 30 many years ago, I brought out a book that my girlfriends wrote in when we were kids.

Called my friends, this was in Sweden. It was a very popular journal to have back then. And I read what everyone wanted to do when they were older and everyone wanted to be flight attendants. And I think it's also because I think now we fly so much more frequently and the world has opened up in so many ways, but I think back then it was a real adventure.

But yeah, I hear you every time I, but I don't think it's a job suited for me either. I, they do such a, it's a hard job. But anyway, we'll talk about that another time for you to share a little bit about your journey, because we've got listeners from all over the world that might not know about you yet.

Yeah. So I have always been really interested in health and wellness and still am. And I started my career as a dietician. So before that I was born in Egypt, grew up there, lived in New Zealand for a few years and now I live in Australia on an acre block with my husband and my little doggie, Macy Gray.

And basically my career started as a dietitian and I loved, I loved what I did. I loved being able to guide people into a greater sense of confidence and to really find a deeper level, I guess, of their health and wellbeing. But I found that the results were just short term and they weren't able to achieve those long term outcomes.

And it was the same with me. You know, I was myself battling with disordered eating and really unhealthy patterns in my own life. And I was frustrated with myself. You know, why is it that I finished my clinic and then on the way home, eat a packet of biscuits in the car. And I keep telling myself that I'm not going to do that.

And then I end up doing it again. So I became really fascinated with this question of. Sustainable change of long term outcomes. And so I did my PhD, essentially, in looking at the brain, trying to understand why we do the things we do, what motivates us, and how do I harness that as, like, some sort of superpower.

And I fell into this incredible world of habits, which is the only proven method of achieving long term success. I love that. It's so good. And I love, I love even more that you actually now have put all your knowledge into a book. I always, I'm so grateful to authors because you've done so much work on habits and then you put it all in a simpler version for us to read.

So I'm so grateful. What actually made you, you read, write the book? It's funny because after my PhD, you know, I had to write a hundred thousand word thesis and I was like, my writing career is done. Like I can just take off writer right now. And then my agent actually kept saying to me, Gina, there's a book in you.

There's a book in you. And I. put it off for like the first three years that I was working with her. And then she came to me again and she just sat me down and she's like, you need to write a book. And at the same time, you know, I do a lot of speaking at corporate present, like I do corporate presentations and I run habit courses.

And the question I would always get is where can I get your book? Yeah. And. I didn't have anything to offer. And although there are other habit books on the market, you know, some of the most popular ones aren't evidence based. Yeah. And so instead of referring people to, I guess, information that might make them feel motivated, but not necessarily inspire true change.

I gave in and I was like, all right, I'll write a book and surprisingly, it was actually a really enjoyable experience. I really enjoyed writing. That's so good to hear. I write a book as well, and actually for the same reason, because I, I do a lot of speaking and there was always like a handful of people.

Asking after what's next, how can I create my dream life? Cause that's really what I speak about. And back then it was a lot about business, but I felt like my business journey was kind of still going. So I felt like I wanted to more focus on the, on helping people live their dream life, which is creating a business or.

Doing a career or having a career is very much part of that. So I can understand it, but I found that actually the habit of writing every day was hard. I'm a very good procrastinator. You know, well, I have, I was having the same existential crisis when I was writing the book because, you know, the logical me is like, okay, just set time away to write an hour a day minimum.

And then when you're there, you probably find that you write a bit more. The emotional or creative me, some days would just wake up and I'd write for eight hours. And then other days I'd be like, no, today I'm a sit by the swimming pool and do absolutely nothing. And my creative brain just isn't there. But I learned that we actually work a lot better with quality over quantity.

We're better off just working with our brain rather than against it. So I embraced it. And I still got the manuscript in on time. Amazing. Did you find the same? Yeah, I, I realized in my Hubbard journey that I am so much better doing something daily. But that doesn't mean that I wrote all the time, because I definitely had days where I woke up similar to you.

Thinking, nah, I can't do it today. And I did as I, as I told you before we recorded, I have a habit cloud and it was born out of, it was born out of me dragging my friends who really didn't want to be part of it. I will be saying, Hey, let's do this challenge. And I like, it was a lot of exercises. exercise challenge, a lot of ones that we didn't really want to do, but we knew were good for us.

And in the end, I was like, I'm actually really, I don't really want to be the, the friend who's annoying that always says, Hey, should we do this? Should we do that? So I decided to just open one up where people who wanted to join joined. And it's really great because we, so we evolved it from starting to based on the research of, you know, the average habit.

There's lots of use and research on this. And as you know, but it's the 66 days. So that's We decided, let's everyone choose the habits for 66 days. But then I found that a lot of people who were not into their habit, cause we tried lots of different habits, actually didn't stick with it. So we now have it as a 30 day habit.

And then obviously if you want to continue, you continue. Make it a habit, a part of your life, but we, I encourage people to really try some different things because sometimes we do the same habits and as you know, and it's so automatic that we don't even think about it. So in December, I choose something very different.

So my habits, it's normally around. Health and wellness and exercise and things that, you know, I did a hundred days of running. It's something that I find quite challenging and I need to do something and I actually ended up doing 200 days of running. It became such an automatic thing for me that I just went up for run.

So I'm really short, but anyway, the, the December one was about not complaining and. I love this. How did you go? You have to tell us exactly what happened. It went really bad. And I've shared this many times on the podcast and in my coaching program that I failed completely. I think five days out of the 31 days in December.

So 26 failures in five days. I made it and those five days, I think, I think I spent a day on my own, so it was much easier. Oh, okay. Okay. I have a couple of questions about this cause this is so juicy. Firstly, can you tell me what was it that cracked you? What did you feel like? Nah, I'm going to have to just complain about this.

Like what was it? There's actually three things and I, it was so interesting. You really went all out. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, I analyzed it and it came because. First, I didn't want to do something extra in December because, you know, sometimes December is so full with kids, so it's often end of year celebrations and there's so many extra things.

And so I felt like I want to do something that wasn't required a lot of effort in terms of doing something. And this one was just more stopping me to do something, but it was really challenging. So the first day, 8am, Tiffany, my daughter, 12, 12 year old, she said, Mom, it's 8am. And you failed and I'm like, great.

So then I, absolutely. So what really made me complain was I don't love looking for things in the morning. So I have a two hour morning ritual that I. Absolutely love. So I get back to my family at 7am. So I get up early, I exercise, I meditate, I journal. I do like, I love my morning so much. So I'm in a really great Zen space.

And then I go come in and it's all on seven o'clock. And because I love planning and I love being organized and it's something that doesn't always come naturally to me. So I have to work really hard on that. So that's why I find it even more frustrating when I have to, to look after my kids in that way.

So looking for, you know, You know, the, the school bag or school shoes or socks drives me, because I always say, Hey, prepare the day before. Anyway, so that is number one that I complain. It's every morning I get frustrated and sometimes angry because I just feel like. How many times do we need to go through this?

And then another thing that I really complain a lot about, because so it was been, it was so good, even though I failed every year, almost every day, it made me aware, so aware on what my issue was, but the other one was running late. So I am an optimistic person as I am. So, so it's, it will be easy for me to run late.

So I work really hard on not running late when someone else makes me hurry. So, because they are running late makes me. Complain. So this is, even if I didn't have to drive them because my partner often drives in the morning and I do the pickup, even to kind of get them out the door on time really made me often complain.

And it was, it was also really interesting. So I was at a Christmas shopping, being in, I haven't been in retail for so many years. I really love avoiding retailing to some enough and, and yeah, and then my, I was in a shop that I don't love. And, and with my daughter and my girlfriend, she said, what are you doing?

And I just said, Oh, I mean, you know, whatever store I was in, I don't want to talk about it because I don't want to give them files. It was just more my issues. And, and I was complaining of a text and I wrote to her back and said, Oh no, I just complained because she knew about it. And she, and she said, no, no, that was just a statement.

And then we had these big, big debate. In the family, this is a complaint or a statement, and everyone said it's a complaint, so, yeah, so it's really fun. So that's what, what I did. I would also question if you telling your kids about them being late or like losing all their things, is that just setting boundaries or is that?

actually having a full blown complaint. I feel like a complaint would be, well, I guess it's perspective. It could be both, right? The night before I'll be saying, Hey, make sure you have the uniform ready, the shoes ready. So I will go in a non complaint, very calm way. When I complain, it's when it's not done and it's happened over and over.

So it's kind of a, so it's perhaps a valid thing, but I just didn't want to be the person cause then you'd be like, after it's like, you know, they, they're kids for such a short time. I don't want to be the nagging mom. every morning. So then what do you do if you don't say anything to them? What? No, no, I said things it's more than not have their lunch and their bags.

And yeah, no, it was more how I said it, I think. And also not complaining. Cause you know, in the end of the day, it's up to them because they're big enough now to, to make it happen. So I actually wrote them after day five, when I hadn't had a day ticking it off, I was just like, so I wrote to the family in the family chat that said, if you want me to.

make this habit work. This is what I need you to do. So I wrote like a great idea. So I, so we work together, but it's been interesting because the Tiff, Tiffany would sometimes just look at me and I'm like, Ooh, failed, failed. And it's not, you know, sometimes. Anyway, enough about me. Let's talk about you and let's start.

Let's talk about what is a habit. Let's start there for our listeners. Yeah, so a habit is essentially a behavior that we've repeated so often in the same context that eventually our brain Associates that behavior with the context and it happens automatically or subconsciously or mind mindlessly So a habit is always triggered by something either in our internal or our external environment So for example sitting in the car is the trigger And then putting on your seat belt is the habit that happens because you're sitting in the car or brushing your teeth is a habit that happens because it's part of your morning routine.

So those are our habits. They, they don't require a lot of mental energy and they happen very efficiently in the brain. So on that context, because we, a lot of people talk about addictions in today's world, especially addictions that might not be as serious in terms of a drug addiction or something that really harms them.

But we, I'm talking social media, I'm talking about other addictions that might be on the edge to kind of sabotaging their life. Hmm. Yeah, so habits and addictions share similar characteristics, but they're certainly not the same. Like habits aren't addictions and addictions aren't habits, and the main differentiator is really how much control we feel we have over it and how much it's impacting our life.

All of our habits give us some kind of reward. It's gonna be something like dopamine or the comfort of being in a routine or you know, the feeling that we get after it. But our addictions give us. a way bigger reward. And that reward might be a much heightened level of dopamine. And it's so high that we almost feel like we're out of control with it.

Like we want to do it again. Our brain's like, Whoa, if we don't do this again, we're going to go into some sort of fight or flight or freeze. And that's going to be really uncomfortable. I need this to survive. So it's a much greater pull. It's so interesting you ask this question because a lot of times.

when I get interviewed by media, they'll talk about things like, you know, substance misuse or, you know, gambling and they'll associate it as a habit. But actually we're talking now in the realm of addiction, which means similar. Yes, it does need those habitual, you know, I guess understandings and awareness, but also needs further intervention generally with like a coach or a doctor or a support group.

So yeah, very different. But I think the most, I would say what I've been reading from the research lately is the fastest growing addiction is phone addiction. That is very real and it's happening across. all generations now, not just millennials, which is sort of where it started. Oh, absolutely. It's definitely one of my bad habits as well.

If there is such a thing as bad habits, but a habits that do not serve me and I love social media, but I find sometimes I just, after that dopamine hit, and I've spoken about this many times on the podcast that often I do a detox once a quarter where I take away. Lots of, you know, caffeine, sugar, et cetera.

And what's so interesting is that when I don't have the sugar hit or the caffeine hit or any of those kind of ups and downs, I go to the phone. So I kind of have to put another rule in terms of my detox and not being that dopamine hit. Pleasure is pleasure. I mean, it's going to want to get it in any form it can.

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So in your book, you talk about habit. Versus intentions. Talk a little bit about that because I love that part. Yeah, so we have two factors that govern our behavior and one is habit and one is intention. Our intentions sit in the prefrontal cortex. It's our logical brain. It's where we make conscious decisions, where we decide how to get from A to B.

It's very much like a thought through process. Whereas our habits come from a part in our brain called the basal ganglia, which is more associated with our emotions, with our memories, with how we're feeling, with like quick pleasures essentially. But also things like when we're in a rush or when we're time poor or we're hungry or fatigued or stressed, we tend to fall back.

into our basal ganglia, into our habits because they don't require energy or effort or any sort of like cognitive resources. And it's also why when we are stressed, we tend to fall back onto our unwanted habits because. They're easy. And our brain doesn't have capacity to make better decisions at the time.

So those are the two things that govern our behavior. The research shows that we are always in a state of habits and we sort of tap in and out of behaviors. You know, the example that I give in the book is take a nurse who is drawing blood from someone, say like they're taking blood and they've done this a hundred times.

they don't need to really consciously think about this action. But if they've got sort of a difficult patient to work with or a different vial they need to use, that's when they need to engage that conscious brain to get the job done. But habits will still be the underlying behavioral mechanism within that action.

That makes a lot of sense. But I loved how you shared in your book one of your habits that wasn't serving you, and that was the chocolate bath. Oh yeah. I'm like, what you going to bring out? One of the books I'm, I'm assuming all okay to bring out, so. All okay. Yes. So I'd love to talk about that because I have a feeling.

I mean, one thing in the Habits Club that we often talk about is sugar and how addictive that is. And so I'm doing a year, no alcohol in 2024. And then I decided to go sugar free in January because I just knew that if I take away the wine, which is to me, it's like my chocolate, I knew that I would then go to sugar and being an all or nothing.

personality. I'd like to talk a little bit more about that. I'll try in moderation, but I think we all differ. I'd love your thoughts on that, but tell us a little bit about that because I have a feeling this is something that happens daily at the petrol station or another trigger that might get you to do something that we think, why did I do that?

It didn't even feel like chocolate. Yeah, it was so interesting when I was reading the book to, you know, to do an audiobook with Audible. And I was reading the story back to myself. And I remember thinking, Gina, this is so out of character for you, but it's true. It is definitely what I was doing. I think what was odd about it is it didn't really align with the rest of my life, which shows that it was not aligning with my values, which is why I was really interested in breaking it.

So what I would do is I would, every time I go to the petrol station, I would grab, you know, one of the chocolate bars at the counter. And I was doing this habit fairly mindlessly. I was doing it really subconsciously. And it wasn't until one day when I noticed, you know, the little side, you know, the pocket in the door was overflowing with chocolate bars and like wrappers.

And I think it was actually because I was getting my car serviced. So I was like, Oh, I've got to sort of tidy it up a bit. And I realized I could

And I was like, what am I doing? And I, I noticed then, you know, I had to go back and go, okay, what's triggering my habit? When is it that I'm actually getting these chocolate bars? What am I feeling afterwards? And I wanted to, I guess, hack the system and rewind the process and break this habit because I know it wasn't good for my health.

It doesn't make me feel good. And it was entirely unnecessary. I was not using chocolate as a treat clearly because it was happening all the time. So that was the habit that I had. And I was able to break it by firstly noticing it and realizing that the petrol station was my trigger and then anticipating that it was going to come.

So I would say. when I fill up my car, I'm going to crave having a chocolate bar. It's going to be the normal. It's what I've always done. But what I'm going to do instead is this. And I would just have some like vitamin water or like some, whatever it might be just to sort of distract myself from grabbing that chocolate bar.

And what was interesting, it didn't take very long for me to break that habit because I felt really good not eating chocolate mindlessly in my car like that. When I eat chocolate. I want to sit and savor it and enjoy it and I wasn't doing that in my car. Yeah. I love that and I think so many of us are doing that in different ways.

So, so how can we then create new habits? What's the strategy for doing that? So the formula that I've put together is a five step process and it's a tried and tested method and it starts with. Setting an intention or deciding on a goal that you want to create. And the reason I've put that as step one is because change is hard.

Our brain doesn't really like change. You know, change takes a lot of energy from the brain and the brain's already, you know, keeping us alive. So it's already got a pretty important job going on. So when we decide to make a change, we have to really truly make a commitment to it. We have to say it's not, Oh, I think I want to change that.

It's, I'm going to change this and I know that I can and will do it, and I'm really committed to doing that. The word decide in Latin comes from the word decidere, which means to cut off or to strike out all other options. Like, don't give yourself the option of, I might do it, but I might not. It's like, no, no, I'm actually just not going to do that.

Step one, decide on a goal. Step two is choose a really simple action. That's going to help you get towards or closer to that goal. And the key word here is simple. We don't want to try to change big things. And I can talk more to that later. And step three is create the context. So when or where are you going to do this habit?

All our habits are triggered. So we have to create some sort of trigger for the habit that we want to do. So it might be a time of day, like Like for you, you start your day at 5 a. m. So you say 5 a. m. I'm going to go for my workout. People are probably like 5 a. m. Oh my goodness. I mean, I'm a morning person, so it's okay for me guys.

It doesn't have to be 5 a. m. It can be any time of day you choose what works for you. And then, then you want to actually, every time you encounter that trigger to do the chosen habit, your brain doesn't like the confusion of. Being triggered and not doing the habit and then sometimes being triggered and doing the habit because that doesn't create that strong neural pathway connection that we need to establish great habits.

So, for example, if you wake up and it's five a. m. and you've four days in a row now, you haven't done your morning. Your brain then on the fifth day is like, I don't really know what I do at this time of day. It's really just all ambiguous. So when you encounter the cue, it's important to take action. No matter how small it is, it could just be getting in your active wear, stepping outside and coming straight back in, but you have to initiate.

the habit. And then step five is using a habit tracker and that can be a written journal or a diary or there's plenty of habit tracker apps that you can use as well. Habit trackers are important because they're like a little hit of dopamine for your brain. It's like when you give a child a little gold star when they've done something good and they feel so, Super motivated to do it again.

We don't grow out of that reward learning and actually reward learning is really important for creating new habits. So that little tick gives your brain that beautiful reward and reinforces the habit, makes you want to do it again. Yeah. So that's how you create a new habit. It sounds so simple, doesn't it?

It really is just about being aware. And what you said earlier about aligning habits with your values. And also for me in the dream love community, I often talk about creating habits that actually will help you get to your dream life, whatever that is for each individual, that will be different for everyone.

But I always feel like if you focus on your health and wellbeing and energy, habits around that, because sometimes, you know, I love spending time with people away. So, you know, even staying with people, cause you just see how other people have habits, be like, why would they be doing this if they want to do that?

And it's an interesting cause they don't. They're not even aware. So I think having awareness is so, and one of the reasons why I wanted to, so I've been, um, doing alcohol free before, but I love wines. It's always been a bit of a challenge for me, but one of the things I just felt like I read so much about health.

I do so much great things for my health and then I destroy it with alcohol. I was like, just did not make sense to me. And you know, everyone has to do their own thing. And also in the end it really affected my sleep. So that's what made me really come up with change. So it's just an interesting way of for everyone listening to start this journey with awareness because I think if we don't know what we want to change, it makes it hard.

It's so true. And I think that's part of the reason why, you know, I love how in your habit group, People get to choose their habits. I love that so much because then it matters to them. It's something that they value. If you were to put down a habit that everybody had to do, like when you were doing it with your friends, when you were doing it for 66 days and it was around exercise and they didn't really want to do it, it's not going to stick because they're externally motivated, extrinsically motivated.

They're doing it because someone else is doing it or someone said it was a good idea or it's a workplace event that's going on. You know, there's challenges that we often see. Yeah. That's great for changing your behavior short term. It's not going to result in long term, meaningful life changes. That has to come from within you, from within your own values and what you truly care about.

Yeah, absolutely. I read in your book that our brains are only capable of making three changes at once. And I loved reading this because I get so many questions because I always inspire my dream life community to choose three dreams or three goals in a year. And everyone's like, can't I have more? And I said, yes, you can.

Yes, it's up to you, of course, but I tried so many different things and I'm going to be, you know, I'm a person who wants to do more than less, but I really find that three really helped me sticking to it. So when I read that, I was really, really happy to read that because then just explains why it's sticking because I often get asked around newest resolutions.

I don't have the answer. As I don't, I don't have the research behind, but I always think about it myself. And I think a lot of people actually forget what they have set. So a lot of people are really excited at New Year's and then life happens and goes back to normal. And then it's like, I don't even know what I set.

So can you talk a little bit about why we need to just choose, you know, three or less to stick with the change. And it's up to three. Because our brains are making 35, 000 decisions every single day. So busy keeping us alive and making all these decisions. We're not even aware of like, if you think of just taking a seat, you just think you're deciding to sit down, but actually your brain is doing all the stuff to make sure that you're sitting safely, comfortably it's, you know, noticing where your feet are, whether you should be hands down or not, how to balance your body, it's making hundreds of decisions just in that one action of taking a seat.

So our brain doesn't like change for that reason and needs to preserve energy. And so when we try to do too many or make too many changes, it becomes overwhelming for the brain. Something's going to give and it doesn't work like that. Because our brain's most important job is to keep us alive. So it's going to prioritize that over anything else, but also life happens.

Like you said, there's always stuff that's going on in our life and trying to create change around that is really challenging. So three is the golden number. And you and I sound so similar, Christina, because I totally tried to do five. I tried to do five little changes. I was like, I'm a habit expert. I'm also an all or nothing person.

Recovering all or nothing person and I'm a high achiever like yeah, I could do five. No, it totally defeated me I tried for that defeated me, even though I really pushed with it. It didn't work I tried three and it was perfect. You know, I was able to really maintain my habits now with that It's not necessarily three habits for the year.

It's three habits until that happens I mean, I actually now do one at a time because I find that works even better. My habit develops even quicker and I'm all about fast results. So if you just do one at a time, once that starts to feel automatic and a little bit more natural, like you don't have to exert so much energy to do it.

Then I add another one. Yeah. And then one feels the same. Then I add another one. You could potentially have 20 goals in a year. You just don't do them all at one time. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I couldn't agree more. So let's talk about self control because I think it's, um, one thing to read about all this.

It's another thing to actually do it. So how do we do it? And how do we practice self control, whatever that is. I'm so glad you brought this up because I wanted to circle back to this after you shared your story, complaining on the fifth day of December when you're really trying not to do that. And there was a real pattern in what was going on, you know, for you, it was after several attempts at getting your children to behavior change in a particular way or to remember their things and it wasn't happening.

And you came home from this sort of Zen state from your beautiful morning and it was getting hijacked by. Children or, you know, other people who weren't being compliant with the rules. And that's really frustrating. It's upsetting. It takes you out of your rhythm and that actually depletes your self control significantly, which is why it's really hard to maintain your habits.

Throughout that state, the things that deplete our self control are things like not sleeping well, having tempting food around you or something tempting around you that you're trying to avoid. It can be your phone. It could be sugar. It could be glasses of wine, having an uncomfortable conversation with someone or experiencing negative emotions.

Also things like exerting initiative. Making lots of decisions, all these things are sapping our self control. So no wonder, after a long, hard, emotional day, we want to come home to salad. We don't want to come home to salad. We want to come home to chocolate and cheese and crackers and wine. Because those things are going to be comforting, they're going to give us dopamine.

And we don't have self control to say. I'm not going to do those things. The way we replenish our self control, which is a replenishable resource. Think of it like a bank account. You can debit and you can credit into that account. We replenish our self control by meditation, rest. sleep, taking periodic breaks throughout the day.

So the research shows about 10 minutes in every hour, feeling positive emotions like gratitude and love and you know, all those fuzzy feelings that we get and having something to eat. Carbohydrates, especially, you know, they boost our blood sugar levels, like obviously. low GI carbohydrates, like good whole grains or fruits and vegetables, that is going to help us to maintain a better sense of self control, but we can't really depend on it because it's up and down all the time.

Yeah. That's so interesting. And I'd love to get your view. After all your research and knowledge in this area, cause I get really passionate. I share always cause I always feel, I always share my dreams and goals and my habits and the journey I'm on because I always think maybe I can inspire some people out there.

My dream is to inspire 101 million people to write down three dreams and go and chase them. That's kind of my big purpose. And I always know that there will be someone who is annoyed. That's a lot of, um. Views on if we should drink or shouldn't drink, or I should live a little, like hear that a lot. I should, I hear so many things.

It's so interesting. And everyone said everything in moderation. And while I agree with some of that in terms of, I don't think this all or nothing is for everyone. I think this is absolutely up each, for each person to decide. Do you believe in moderation or do you think it's a personality and we all have to decide what we go for?

Because it really, for me, quitting sugar by moderation wouldn't be an easy thing cause I just want more. And I was never a sugar person. I was a savory person, but I realized now when I don't have my savory, which for me was like wine and cheese, that combination, I feel like I'll just have some sugar and then I might have another one, being all or nothing personally, I'll go for another one.

Yeah. Totally go all, all in. The research shows that if we're feeling quite addicted to something, then it is actually quite healthy to abstain from that thing for about 30 days. So our brain tends to, I guess, experience less reward from it if we do abstain for 30 days. I also don't drink alcohol, but I say that, and I will drink very occasionally on a really good occasion, knowing that I'm going to have a Not a very good sleep that night.

I'm going to probably regret it the next day and I'll be like, well, that wasn't worth it. But every now and then, like if I have a really good friend's wedding or I'm, you know, there's a really good reason or celebration, it might be like earlier in the day. I have caveats and I don't feel bad about it.

My whole persona around it is I don't really drink very often, but saying that I might only drink. two or three times a year. I don't want to feel like I can't have it around or that I'm sort of scared of its presence near me because I will be out of control with it as well. Not saying that you're like that or other people have decided not to drink at all are like that.

It's very much a temperament thing. And I think this can be, It's such an important conversation because, you know, I ran a habit program, like a habit change program recently. I had 350 women in it, and they were setting their goals at the start of the program. And a few of them said, I want to cut out chocolate.

And a few other women were sort of like getting on the same. No chocolate train. And then a couple of weeks into the program, when we started talking about values, they realized actually they didn't want to cut out chocolate. They didn't believe that that was important for them. What they wanted to do is change their relationship with chocolate.

And I think those are the conversations we need to have with ourselves is, do I value sleep more than I value the pleasure I get from alcohol? Yes. Most of the time. Yes. And if that means it's no alcohol. Great. Like, so be it. We also live in a culture where so many of our unwanted habits are accepted and they're normalized like scrolling on our phones.

We spend two and a half hours a day scrolling on our phones. We have a culture of drinking and that being normal or. Indulging like overeating and not being normal, but I want to step back and go, how is this serving you? Is it actually something that you feel good for or is it something you're doing because it's socially acceptable and it's almost an expectation.

So if you need to be all or nothing with something or I guess completely abstain and that's going to be your jam, do it, do it fiercely, do it boldly and who cares what other people say, but if you want to do things in moderation. Awesome. You can do that as well. Whatever works. Yeah. I love that because I think everyone is so, so different because I tried everything.

I love experimenting. And one of the things that I've noticed with myself is that if I say I'm not going to do it at all, so I don't have a lot of sugar. I also don't have a lot of alcohol, so it's not a big deal. But I just find that I'm a really good negotiator. So I'm really good negotiating with myself that's like, maybe I should have this, maybe I should have that.

And I also think when you have big dreams and goals, there's a lot of resistance for me anyway, to kind of do the work because there's a lot of things out of my comfort zone. There's a lot of things to kind of get done in one day. So for me, having a bit of chocolate is. Probably more of a procrastination tool, to be honest.

And I think most of us use that for our phones as well. We actually don't really want to go on the phone. We just want to break from, it's a little bit uncomfortable or hard work if you have, you know, Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So, um, I just love not negotiating. And I think that's really good too. When you exercise in the morning, I just go for a walk in the morning and I just love getting out cause I just love how I feel when I get back.

And, um, I love coffee. So I know how good I feel walking, but also when I come back, I just like, that's my like little reward having a coffee. And I try to not have the coffee before so I can. Yeah. really have that as my reward. So in your opinion, how long does it take to change your habits? Well, to create a new habit, a lot of us have heard that it's 21 days, which is a complete myth.

There's absolutely no research to validate that it takes 21 days. So if you've ever heard someone say that, give them a flick around the ear or something. It's not true. It takes really anywhere from. From three weeks to up to a year to, to create a new habit. And the average time is around 66 days or 10 weeks.

The latest research that has come out has shown that people that were asked to wash their hands every day took about two weeks for that to become a habit. Whereas people that were asked to go to the gym every day. It took anywhere between four and seven months for that to become a habit. And that's because going to the gym, there's a lot more steps involved in doing that.

It takes a lot longer. You need a lot more motivation than just simply washing your hands for a couple of minutes. So it's going to depend. The other things that depends on is how consistent you are with. Doing your habit, the more consistent you are, the quicker it's going to develop how badly you want it.

If you really want that habit and you've got a strong intention, you can develop the habit quicker. And lastly is how your environment supports you. Are you tracking your habits? Are you making sure that you're not having to make too many decisions? Is your self control, you know, in check, like there's not too much stress or, or I guess like time restrictions in your life that's going to make that habit.

Harder for you to continue being consistent with it's a two steps forward one step back process And the most important message here is if you just keep on keeping on Anything that you repeat consistently will become a habit. It absolutely will it's how our brain is wired Don't expect it to only take 21 days Expect it to take a little bit longer so that you can persevere until the end.

Yeah. So we're getting to the end. I love your recipe for change in your book. So let's just talk quickly about that, and then I have a couple of shorter questions for you. It's called The Combi, and it was actually created by these. Amazing researchers in the University College of London, Dr. Susan Mickey and her team, who I've had the pleasure of meeting and the COMBE stands for capability, opportunity and motivation and the B stands for behavior and essentially what this is saying and it's been proven in like thousands of studies now is that for every kind of change that we want to make in our life, we need these three elements, all of them.

We need to have the capability to do something. We need the opportunity to do it and we need to have some sort of motivation to do it. Capability can be, you know, can this behavior actually be accomplished? Is there opportunity to do it? Do I have the resources around? Do I have the time and capacity to do it?

And motivation is obviously, do I want this enough? And I, you know, I've put a, I think it was called a combi diagnosis or something like that. And what that is, is. If you're trying to change something and you're really struggling to do it, you're probably missing one of these three ingredients. So check in with yourself, ask yourself the questions, you know, do I have the physical opportunity?

Do I have social support and social opportunity? Like, and it goes through a list of questions you can ask yourself. Now, once you identify what you're missing, that's the only thing you need to work on in order to make that behavior tangible in your life. So, that's. That's the change recipe. I love that.

Love that. Great recipe for change. Thank you. So, I'm curious, have you got a, uh, morning ritual that you, some habits for you in the morning? I do. You and I have such a similar lifestyle by the sound of it. I'm also very much a workout in the morning kind of person. And it's funny, this morning I had an interview on the morning show and it was an early one And I thought, Oh, I'll skip Pilates.

This morning. And then I remembered it really improves my mental health when I work out. It also makes me concentrate better. It puts me in a much better mood. I have better energy throughout the day. And I was like, I would be crazy not to go. And so I booked the earlier class than I would normally. So normally I go to six 30 class.

I went to the five 30 class. And I remember sitting in the chair at the channel seven studio and being like, I'm so proud of myself for going like I feel so much better. So it always starts with some form of activity, so it'll be Pilates or it'd be some strength training or some sort of zone two kind of exercise.

And then I will sit on my deck outside in the sun and I'll get some natural light. And then I do some breath work for about 15 minutes. Then I'll have my breakfast and then I get started on my day. Love that. What a beautiful way. And I believe you're in Queensland, which makes, I think, getting up a little bit earlier because I often stay a couple of days extra if I do a talk up in Queensland and I just see it.

If you live here, it's so much easier to go to bed earlier, but also to get up early because of the. Climate. Yes, it is. And it's nice and sunny by the time I get up. So, you know, it's easy to get my body in that rhythm already. It doesn't feel like it's cold and dark. That would make it much harder. It is much harder.

Absolutely. Having lived, so now I'm in Melbourne, but I, um, used to live in Sweden, used to live in Sweden and. The darkness there is makes it so hard. It's amazing if people actually get up and exercise at 6 a. m. because it's pitch black. So yeah, absolutely. They're real keen beings, those ones. Absolutely.

Another question that I have is, what's your favorite non fiction book, except for your own of course? This. Or. Haha. What about, it doesn't have to, sometimes it's, um, really hard to answer this if you're a big reader, but it could also be a book that had a big impact on your life. It doesn't have to be your favorite.

I think a book that had a really significant impact on my life is Self Compassion by Dr. Christian Neff. I love this book. It is all about being kind to yourself because I am, I guess, a high achiever and a bit of an all or nothing person. I do tend to be quite self critical. That is my natural inner voice.

is to be critical. Like, Gina, you said you'd do that and you didn't, or how can you really be a habit researcher if like, you know, you're playing Tetris on your phone for two hours a day, or there is an inner critic. And I've been so fortunate to learn more about self compassion and to Guide my inner critic into more of a, a much more compassionate tone.

And I've done a lot of work in the space to the point now where I'm like, am I too kind to myself? Cause I'm like, okay, girl, like you can just chill. The really cool thing about the research around self compassion is that the biggest and most transformative changes we make in our life comes from a place of self compassion and not self criticism.

When we think to ourselves, If I just, if I'm just a little harder on myself, then I'll be more motivated tomorrow. Like really give myself a kick up the bum. Like that's going to work. It actually doesn't. It's when we go, it's okay. Everyone has a setback. We are all human. This is a shared human experience.

I've had a lot on my plate or I can just pick myself up. right now again and just keep going. Those are the moments that create the biggest transformations. And I have found that in my own life, especially from, you know, I've experienced a really horrible trauma a few years ago, and I needed self compassion to get me through because I couldn't be the person that I was pre the trauma.

I had to be so kind and gentle and patient with myself in every single step of the way. And yeah, it was completely transformative for me. Yeah. I haven't read that book. So thank you for sharing. And I know our listeners love hearing the recommendations. So thank you for sharing that. And I. Actually, I am big believer in that too, because I think if you do it with kindness and self care and self love, it's a much nicer experience, regardless if you can achieve it both ways.

And I had the author of The Kindness Method, she's a girl in UK, and I've read recently that she lost 55 kilos. And it was all based on kindness and I, it was such a beautiful article. And I think especially with weight loss, there is so much, and it will be such a hard one to do first of all, but also secondly, it's so easy to, to sleep because of the environments that we're in and the access we have to, to things that are triggering us.

So self compassion is absolutely vital. That's an incredible story. Wow. I'll have to read that article. Yeah, I'll send it to you if I, I'm sure I can find it again. And she's a gorgeous girl that I might need to connect you with as well because she's beautiful. Yeah, amazing. So for anyone listening, what do you think they should start with in terms of starting this journey on looking at what habits they want to either add or remove from their life to make a life that are their dream life?

I think whatever change that you want to make. Don't assume that you're going to be more motivated or you're going to have more time or more energy or you're going to be less stressed when you're doing that thing. It's so easy to say, I'm not going to snooze my alarm tomorrow. And then you, you know, when the alarm goes off, it's dark and it's cold and you're so comfortable under the, you know, the quilt.

And the last thing you want to do is get up. You're going to snooze the alarm. And so I think to start really small and. And know that it's actually through the process of starting that our brain creates these neural connections, which, uh, which become our habits. They are our habits. Eventually start so small, something so small, you feel like you can't say no to doing it.

Yeah. And then from that, that's what you build on. And I call these micro habits. You build on that. And don't think to yourself, this isn't going to result in rewards. Like, this is just pointless. No. What the idea is that you're creating the building blocks of an incredible life through the power of habit change.

And this is how it's done. So I would say trust that process because trying to do big things doesn't work. And I'm sure it hasn't worked in most people's lives before. Yeah, absolutely. I love the chapter about micro habits as well. So for anyone listening, you need to grab the books because that's where all the inspiration and knowledge is to, to get a bit deeper.

This has been so inspiring. I love to just ask you one more question and that is knowing what you know now, what kind of advice would you give to yourselves when you are You know, in your late teens or early, early twenties, stop making so many plans. No, I would say things don't always work out the way you planned it, but it's okay.

Things still always work out just because it didn't go according to how you thought it will. Doesn't mean it's going to be worse. It could actually. Be more magical. And that's what it has been for me. And I would say just be kind to yourself. You know, that's, it's such a narrative in my life is just be kind, be gentle and know that, you know, your dream life is there and it will happen because I feel like I am definitely living my dream life.

I'm, I've never been in a state where I've had as much freedom as I have and it's a, it's a beautiful existence. And I've created that through. Compassion and kindness and doing what I love, being in my values rather than trying to fit into the status quo. Yeah. I so want that for everyone because everyone's dream life will be different.

Everyone's habits will be different. But at the end of the day, you just want to do something you love and you want to get to the end of your life thinking, I did everything that I wanted to do. It didn't. Might not have worked out the way we want to do. I certainly had my very big public path that didn't go to plan.

But saying that I love my new business so much more than I love my first business. And I love my first business. And I think it's so amazing. I was driving to watch my son, Axel, to play cricket yesterday. And someone parked in front of. My driveway, there was kind of an opportunity to go, but it was, he was like halfway and then there was someone else parked and I was like, Oh, I wonder if I could do it like, and I love a challenge, you know, my neighbor comes fast and he said.

Oh my gosh, you are so calm for this, this would make me furious. And his car was actually in front, so he could move that so I can drive on an angle out. So that was perfect. And he said, I don't know how you managed, I said, this is, you know how sometimes when you do meditation, you think, Oh, it's just, I can miss a few.

But I think that's the foundations to kind of keep calm and keep your head level. Because I think when things do not go to plan and, and of course it happens to all of us, it's good to kind of know that worse thing can happen. And he said, yes, I know, but, and then he was like, and I said, Oh, I think you might need a meditation more than me.

It was funny, but you know, things. do not always go to plan and how we handle it and how we see it and how we then talk to ourselves, I think is absolutely vital because you, you decide in the end your story. So thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure to meet you, first of all. And secondly, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your wisdom and writing a whole book for us to, to learn.

I need to reread it. I am a person who highlight, like I have so many highlights in this book already. And I want to do the exercises properly. I've done a few of them, but I want to do it properly. So thank you so much. And I, I am so excited to have you as our superstar speaker for February. So thank you so much.

I look forward to digging even deeper. Oh, thank you so much for having me. Awesome to meet you. Great to chat. Oh, wow. How inspiring is Gina? And how inspired are you right now to change your habits? I could have seriously spoken to her for hours before we actually hit record. And we had to stop because we had so much to talk about.

So if you are inspired to take your habits to the next level, please join me in the Dream Life Coaching Program for February, where our focus is wellness and habits to support your dreams and goals. We also got a super inspiring wellness expert, Linda Mitchell, who's been on the podcast. She's the founder of Aurora as our superstar speaker for the month.

And I will be sharing everything I learned about habits over the last 25 years. I can't wait for you to join us. So head over to your dream life starts here. And I will of course link to it in the show notes as well. I am so excited to make 2024 my best year yet, and I really hope you are too. As always, I'll be back on Monday with a new Monday morning motivation episode.

I'll see you then. 

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