While most of us can't remove ourselves from daily life as radically as that man who went to Africa, we can create the conditions that make rebirth possible. Based on Dr. Treitler's observations, she can suggest concrete steps to change a habit that have nothing to do with food or exercise or any other behavior you're wrestling with. The fact is, no matter which cognitive type you are, you can "learn to shift to another mode of thinking," to "stretch" the brain quadrant boundaries in which you feel at home, says Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, CEO of Herrmann International, which developed the HBDI. So for people who have no natural inclination to be systematic and detail oriented ("B" strengths), Treitler says the goal is to build up familiarity and comfort with those approaches.
According to Herrmann-Nehdi, simple activities practiced over a period of about three weeks can bolster your inner bookkeeper. They can be done in stages, she says.
- Begin with organization. Alphabetize your CDs, then, a few days later, your spices. A few days after that, rearrange your closet, then your tax papers.
- Next comes timeliness. Keep a time log of your daily activities, and start being punctual for every appointment.
- Then comes planning. Sit down and map out a week in advance. It's also helpful to follow a routine—jogging a certain course every other day, balancing your checkbook once a week.
- Finally, there's step-by-step thinking: Cook from a recipe exactly as it's written, knit from a pattern, learn a computer program by following a tutorial or manual.
If these activities seem grating, you can make them more appealing to your naturally dominant brain type
, Herrmann-Nehdi says: "A 'D' [conceptual, risk taking] could dream up something she wants to achieve in a year's time, then, working backward, create a timeline and checklist of what needs to be done." A 'C' (emotional, people-oriented), adds Treitler, could teach her niece to balance a checkbook. Think of these activities as physical workouts, suggests Treitler: "When you practice them regularly, it trains your brain to become accustomed to new ways of thinking." Later, when an actual diet plan requires steadfastness and attention to detail, the effort won't feel so alien. The most important aspect of redefining yourself is "doing something empowering," says Treitler. "It may be teaching, volunteering—anything that allows you to take on new status and to be in the position of helper rather than one who needs help." From this strengthened position, you go forward, not back.