top of page

3 Question Mantra - Habit Change Workshop

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

This blog is an edited transcription of a video that can be found here!

To accommodate different types of learning styles, this week's blog will appeal to auditory and kinesthetic learners, and next week's blog will appeal to visual learners. If you want to unpack this more please check out our Identifying your goal using the 3 Question Mantra blog post. The goal of this program is to help people make intentional changes to their habits, and bring consciousness to their goals.

Dr. Jeff Kaplan: This coach program that we put together was built on this model of how to help people change. What we're doing today is a demo. So if you're feeling courageous this Friday, begin to think about raising your hand to be part of the demo.

I assure you it should be relatively quick. It all depends on how far we collectively want to go with the demo. We’ll learn this technique that you could apply in your life. The idea here is to help people stay conscious of what it is that they said they want to do and the reason for it. Imagine that, right?

So here's my little setup. If somebody said “there's something out there that's free, that you can take anywhere you want, it doesn't cost you anything, and you don't have to have equipment around for it to work. This thing could help you be aware of what it is you're trying to do so that you can make good choices throughout your day.” Would that be a good thing? Hopefully the answer is yes.

A really quick story for you. When we first started the work in 2005, I tried to get the website, but it turned out it was taken by a psychologist who had created a device. This device is still out there, called Motivator, which is sort of like a beeper-like device, for those of you who know what that is and are as old as I am. It was like a pager that you’d keep around your waist, and it would vibrate periodically throughout the day to remind you of what you were trying to be conscious of. That was the closest thing I could come up with to help people remember their goal throughout the day. For example, say you wanna change something, but throughout the day you forget your goal. You may forget you want to eat healthy, or that you want to exercise, or that you’d like to be nicer to your family. Whatever it is. You might put up a wallpaper on your computer or you might put a little sticky note up or something to help you remember but then eventually it becomes background noise.

So Let’s just talk about what this is and then we’ll demonstrate it, and then once we’ve processed the demo we’ll do some questions and answers and have a dialogue. Who is feeling courageous and is willing to demo?.


Jeff: It is new into 2021, right? So is there a particular goal that you're hoping to achieve?

Lisa: Hm. I think it's more of the way I think about things that I'd like to work on.

Jeff: Say more on that.

Lisa: Not to have this attitude that I'm too old to start new things. And, you know, that I don't kind of make my choices based on that kind of a thought pattern. So I'd like to have more flexibility in how I make decisions about what I'm going to spend my time on.

Jeff: So is it about being a flexible decision-maker? What's a word or a couple of words that might capture this? For example, If you were that thing, what would be different?

Lisa: I wouldn't be looking at the end. I'd be looking at the beginning. I wouldn't be saying, “Do I not have enough time left in my life for this?”. I would just be sort of heading into adventures and in a less constrained way. I think it is flexible decision-making but based on these limiting beliefs about my age.

Jeff: Yup. I love it. So what came up for me, is it the words: In flow with life. You know, like just being in flow with life, as opposed to, wrestling with that thing called time, or thinking I'm here at this point in my life, you know, that whole crazy thought process.

Lisa: That sounds right.

Jeff: So in flow with my life, in flow in life, like you speak whatever it sounds like to you and then let's see if it feels right together.

Lisa: In flow works great for me.

Jeff: In flow works great? Okay. And why is that important? What's important about being in flow?

Lisa: I think that that prevents me from feeling like I didn't actually live my life. You know, I want to feel like I've made a difference, that I've actually existed, in that when I get to the end, I want to say, “Woo Hoo, that worked for me.” That when I'm in flow and in the present and in the moment, I feel kind of eternal. But when I'm not in that, I feel kind of constrained by “oh, maybe I shouldn't embark on this or maybe I shouldn't go over here or maybe I'm too old for this”.

Jeff: It's like bargaining against yourself, or getting in your own way unnecessarily. I loved the woo hoo. Joy, something like being in Joy also just showed up for me. So if all of that were true, what excites you about that?

Lisa: What doesn't, right? I guess a part of me doesn't believe you can live it all the time. I have a pretty good dose of it on a daily basis, but I think I constrain myself sometimes. And I'd rather not do that. I mean, who doesn't want to be in joy and woo-hoo and in flow? I feel like what's not to love about that?

Jeff: So, you know, last month we did a similar thing about “what’s the why?” And this was a beautiful example of when you get to that, “How could you not want that?” Right. That's when, you know, you've gotten to the core of it. So this tool that I'm going to work with you on is the three question mantra and we're going to develop it together. It's almost, it's actually kind of developed. I'm going to share with you, and then we're talking about how to use it. We’ll think of this as planting the seed and I'm going to want to hear from you in a couple of weeks and I want to hear how it's going. I'm going to start with this: when you wake up and do your morning routine, say when you're brushing your teeth. You’ll pick one of those things in the morning that is a regular part of your routine. When that happens, I want you to ask yourself this question.

Question 1: “Do I want to be in flow? Or Do I not want to be in flow?”

Can you imagine yourself asking that question?

Lisa: Absolutely.

Jeff: Obviously the point of asking that question is to help you connect in that moment with that which you desire. As busy people, it's easy to forget that this is important to you. There's two answers to that question that you can pick. Either, “Yes, I want to be in flow” or “No, I don't want to be in flow”. If the answer is “No, I don’t want to be in flow”, no worries, go on with the rest of your day with that understanding. If you pick “no” often enough, it may be good to reconnect with that and see if we found the right thing, the right “why”. If the answer is “yes”, then Lisa I want you to move on to the second question. The second question is, “Do I choose to be in flow right now?” or “Do I choose to not be in flow right now?” Those words and the order of those words are important.

Question 2: “Do I choose to be in flow right now? or Do I choose to not be in flow right now?”

The important words from that question are Choose, and Now.

What is really important here is that any answer is a good answer, and that there’s no shame in the answer to these questions. This is not about tricking yourself into changed behavior, but about bringing consciousness to the choice that you’re making, and would be making anyway. You're making the choice already, you're just generally making it subconsciously, right? You're not really bringing consciousness to it because you're busy living your life. If you choose to not be in flow right now, no worries, go about your day with that choice in mind. However, If you choose to be in flow right now, you go to the third question. The third question is always the same, no matter what the goal is.

Question 3: “What action do I need to take right now?”

And then obviously you then take the action. What's interesting is that there's an unfolding of this process. The first thing you're doing in the course of these 10 seconds is just reminding yourself what it is that's important to you. By bringing consciousness to the choice that you're going to make anyway, you’re helping you make a decision about that next action that you have to take. An action can also be avoiding something that you might do as well. If your goal was eating healthy, maybe you avoid eating a piece of cake? Now the action is to say no to that piece of cake. So in taking that action you’re very present and focused in on the moment.

For example, If you think about how alcoholics anonymous or other therapies, it's about one day at a time, this is literally one moment, one decision at a time. And that's all we care about because what happens is as you bring consciousness to a choice. This will come up throughout your day, while you’re doing dishes, or something else. What you’re trying to do is form a new habit. It's such a simple habit, and will help you when distractions show up, as a way to bring you back to focus about what's important to you. Before we continue do you have any thoughts, or questions or reflections?

Lisa: I think the hard part for me will be deciding what action I need to take right now. That seems to be where the rubber meets the road for me. It's nice to contemplate, but where's my behavior?

Jeff: Yeah. What's tricky about that is because the behavior that you chose is about thought, right? It's about getting in your own way. So let's play with this. What I want to do is pinpoint what it looks like for you when you’re in flow vs. not being in flow? What does that look or feel like for you?

Lisa: I think it would look the same, but it would feel different. So I'm thinking about arresting the way the thoughts kind of habitually fall into place and run away with themselves. If I could come in and say, do you want to be in flow now? And what would be the next action? It might be that I step away or meditate or become mindful in another way.

Jeff: Exactly. I do know that you're highly resourceful. I know that you teach coaching, and I know that you have tons of skills available to you that if a thought came up that was unproductive or intrusive and you could choose to be in flow, and easily just shift your focus of attention. Right? You create a wedge between that initial thought and then what you do subsequent to that. Do you feed the thought? Do you not feed the thought? Do you redirect it? Do you remind yourself of another mantra that you play with around living every day in the moment.

Lisa: Saying create a wedge is almost like a mantra for me. It could be the first place I go when I feel that coming. I could say “create a wedge”. If you choose not to, let's create a wedge, you know? Sometimes, finding the language for things helps me a lot.

Jeff: When you think of a wedge, what picture comes to mind?

Lisa: Well, a literal wedge, a little physical wedge comes into my mind, but the idea that it gives me some airspace is what’s useful about it. So I could actually think of it as a physical object, or as something that gives me a fulcrum on which to shift.

Jeff: Yes. So you know, that what's coming out of this is a homework assignment. Would you be willing to look online and look and purchase a little wedge? Or if you're artistic, you can make one and if there was something on it, like some words on it, what words might be on it?

Lisa: Take a deep breath. First things first, all that sort of thing. Breathe into flow. Be here now.

Jeff: You can even have something interchangeable to shift for whatever your mood is that day.

Lisa: It's simple and it's something concrete, and a reminder to carry it around with you.

Jeff: Yeah. You're a visual person. So once you've done that a few times and, and the wedge has been in front of you.

Lisa: Oh, it's there already.

Jeff: That's great. Before we sort of talk about this in the wider group, thoughts, questions, anything else, or you feel complete around this?

Lisa: I think it’s a lifelong situation that, you know, I got to also just be able to say there's no wrong answer. Some days you're going to be in flow. And some days you're going to choose the Snickers bar or the impeachment hearings. It's a constant thing between, do I want to be numb or do I want to be here? So the wedge will help with that.

Jeff: Okay. So since you brought it up, if you do this over a period of time and you do the three questions and you get habitual around that, you can use the second question throughout your day for different things. So for example, you turn on the TV while you are making something but once you're done making the thing and done eating the thing the TV is still on. Do you stay there or do you choose to turn it off? We talk about this wedge, when it comes to subconscious behaviors, because TV hypnotic trance. It’s intentionally staged to keep you stuck, in how they schedule commercial breaks. A simple technique is to shut the TV off for 10 seconds to create that wedge. Of course, you can turn the TV back on, but 9 times out of 10 you’ll feel you don’t need to.

Lisa: The conceptualizing of it helps me. I like concrete visuals because I'm very literal.

Jeff: Yes. That's good. So what you could do throughout your day is you can use different versions of this. If we use what you said earlier, “Do I choose to be numb right now?” or “Do I choose to be in the moment right now?” or what came to me right now is “Do I want to be free right now?”.

Do I want to be numb right now? Or do I want to be free right now?

Lisa: Wow.

Jeff: Yeah, that hit me too, I got chills on that one. Wow. I mean, free and freedom goes with so much of what we're talking about. Doesn't it?

Lisa: Something hits there for me too.

Jeff: Yeah, that's interesting. Well I want you to play with that one. Then you can use it in different situations whenever you find yourself in a habitual pattern. Right. You can notice when it is and give yourself a conscious choice.

And again, there's no shame in that. Do I want to be productive right now? Or Do I not want to be productive right now? Do you want to be loving, loving, like a loving person right now? Do I not want to be loving right now? So does this all make sense?

Lisa: Well, you know, present is such a neutral word, but free isn't. You know, so if the choice is between numb and free that’s really more poignant and powerful.

Jeff: Yes. If you want the true core to the model, whatever word you use right now it’s very generalizable to what you’re making a choice to do right now.

Lisa: I love it.

Jeff: Again, you are resourceful. The action is the easy part, you know, it's bringing consciousness throughout the day. That's the momentum that we're looking to get.

Lisa: Thanks.

Jeff: All right, thank you very much. Hands on my heart to that.


bottom of page