June 28, 2017
Joe Fairless

4-Step Process to Rewire Your Brain and Create New Success Habits

We’ve all heard of the concept “Success is 80% mental/psychological, and 20% tactical.” If you are dedicated followers of this blog, you’ve learned a lot of great real estate tactics, but today, we are going to focus solely on the psychology and mindset behind success.

Joan Sotkin, a holistic prosperity and mindset mentor, has made a career out of helping entrepreneurs and practitioners succeed. She believes that in order for us to change our financial situations, we must understand our internal environment and the habits we’ve developed over the years, many of which start in early childhood.

“What I found is that people have an aversion to really looking inside them,” Joan said. “They’re afraid that they’re going to find something that’s awful. Because so many people have negative self-talk, they don’t necessarily like themselves inside… If you understand that it’s all habits, that everything about you is a habit, then you don’t have to say ‘There’s something wrong with me. I’ve done something wrong.’ All you’ve done is what you were programmed to do.”

Joan thinks we can use the principles of brain science to change our habits and programming. She said, “it’s really almost mechanical, the mechanics of psychology, because whatever you do, whatever you think, whatever you believe, however you feel as a response to life, those are all just habits that are actually these neural pathways that are built up in your brain.” If we want a different outcome, in our personal lives, financial lives, or life in general, according to Joan, we need to build up new neural pathways.

How do we accomplish this? In our recent conversation, Joan outlined the four-step process to ridding ourselves of negative habits, building new neural pathways in our brains, and changing our lives for the better. The process is Recognize, Release, Replace, and Repeat.

#1 – Recognize

The first step is to recognize the bad habit. For example, Joan said, “if you have a habit of being disappointed in your outcomes, your financial investment outcomes, that’s really a habit. You have a disappointment habit. So if you decide you want to have a satisfaction habit instead, first of all, you have to recognize that habit.”

It is easy to understand the process for recognizing a poor habit, but actually recognizing it in yourself is much harder than you would think. “That’s pretty easy, because you can hear yourself thinking ‘Oh, I wish I had done something else’ and ‘Every time I try to make an investment, I don’t get the results I want’ – so you can recognize that,” Joan said.

However, if it was that simple to recognize a bad habit, we’d all correct them on the spot and Joan would quickly be out of a job. That’s why she says it’s better to have someone else help you identify bad habits. “I was working with someone who thought she had a money problem. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t make the money that she wants,” Joan said. “So I said to her – and this is the important question – ‘How to you feel about your situation?’ and she was a little stumped. She doesn’t have a great feeling vocabulary. So I said, ‘Do you feel trapped?’ because that was the sense I got. She said ‘yes.’ Then I said, ‘Aside from money, where else do you feel trapped?’ She said ‘I feel trapped in my job, I feel trapped in my relationship, I feel trapped in my house…’”

In this example, Joan’s client knew something was wrong, but she couldn’t identify the exact cause. Joan helped guide the client to the bad habit – feeling trapped.

Once you’ve identified the bad habit, either alone or with the help of a friend, partner, family member, etc., then you can move onto the next step – release.

#2 – Release

Joan provided multiple release techniques. One is as simple as admitting aloud your bad habit. For example, if your habit is being disappointed, Joan said, “Once you say out loud, ‘I feel so disappointed,’ that’s actually part of the release.”

Another release technique is a specific visualization. “For example, one of the ones that I use that I found really helpful,” Joan said, “I imagine myself in a cage, and I imagine that the door to the cage was open, and I had to walk myself out of the cage, and I was amazed at how difficult that was. Because on the other side of the open door is the unknown, and our amygdala – which is more brain science – does not like uncertainty of any kind. So what you’re doing that leads to uncertainty, your brain tells you it’s dangerous, so you stay in the cage. Very often I have to lead [clients] out of the cage. They’re doing it by themselves. If they are determined to not feel trapped, then they have to find that strength within themselves to get out of the cage. If they can’t, then they’re going to stay stuck, and so many people just stay stuck… So either you need to get someone to help you out of the cage, or you have to kind of take yourself out of the cage slowly. Put one foot out of the cage, and if it’s not dangerous, then you can take the other foot. You have to try it slowly.”

If you think visualizations are a little strange or none of that made sense, no problem. A third technique Joan provided is to will yourself to do something you are afraid of or have been avoiding (which is a technique based on the “exit the cage” metaphor). “I had a therapist who said I was counterphobic, which meant I did whatever I was afraid of,” she said. “That has served me very well. A lot of people just are so afraid to try something new. You have to make the decision. Remember I said it was all about decisions? You have to make the decision that you’re willing to get out of the cage no matter what.”

#3 – Replace

After you’ve recognized and released the bad habit, the next step is really important. You need to replace the bad habit with the better habit of your choosing. To accomplish this, Joan said you need to ask yourself “What would I rather be feeling at this moment.”

“You might want to be feeling free, you might want to be feeling courageous. So you pick a feeling and you ask yourself, ‘Do I know how to feel that?’ and the idea is to remember back in a time in your life when you actually felt that. Kids have a lot more courage than grown-ups because they haven’t been knocked down by life enough times. Remember that time, and then you make it a deal with yourself that when you feel this fear of coming out of this trap, that you’re going to take a deep breath and let yourself feel courageous or confident.”

If you are having difficulty finding a time in your life where you felt the new emotional habit you want to create, or you are having trouble replicating it, it is probably due to a small emotional vocabulary or low emotional intelligence. No problem. Joan has a solution for that, because she started with a nonexistent emotional vocabulary and had to begin from scratch.

“I was brought up in a family where one of the rules was ‘Soktins don’t feel.’ We were the only Sotkins in the country, and my father was a little nuts and had all these rules, and one of them was ‘Sotkins don’t feel.’ So I was coming from a place where I had zero vocabulary when it came to emotions. So what I did was I created a list of emotions and I would practice feeling them… You can actually practice feelings and become more aware of them when they’re happening inside of you. Feelings don’t happen in your head, they happen in your body because they happen when these neural peptides attach themselves to receptors in your cells, and that’s what allows you to feel these things in your chest and your abdomen or in other parts of your body.”

A good exercise would be to create a list of emotions, and each day, take a few minutes to practice feeling them, like Joan had to do.

#4 – Repeat

Once you’ve selected your replacement emotion, according to Joan, in order to build up these new neural pathways, “Repeat. Just keep doing it over and over again.” Whenever you are in the situation that brings up the bad emotional habit, recognize, release, and replace. Repeat over and over and over because Joan said, “that’s how you build the new neural pathways.”


In order to replace bad emotional habits with positive habits of your choosing, Joan recommends following a proven four-step process:

  • Recognize – Identify the poor habit you want to get rid of. If you are having difficulty recognizing your bad habits on your own, elicit the help of a close friend, family member, etc.
  • Release – Release the poor emotion through the spoken word, visualizations, or taking action.
  • Replace – Select the new emotional habit that you want to replace the old one with. You may have to improve your emotional intelligence by listing out emotions and practice feeling them.
  • Repeat – Repeat the first three steps whenever the bad habit arises to build new neural pathways in your brain.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.

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