How can you get yourself to go to the gym instead of sitting back down on the couch to watch the 5th episode of Master of None?
Is there something you can do so that the next time your spouse is asking you a question at the same time that your kids are clamoring for snacks, you don’t snap at one of them?
How many things do you want to be different in your life? How many habits do you want to form or break? Chances, are there are quite a few.
I’d like to meditate more regularly, be more patient with my family, start meal planning instead of throwing together things that I find in the fridge, keep my car clean and my bags and papers more organized, and much more…
But, by definition, habits are hard to break. So much of our behavior is motivated by our subconscious. Our minds integrate the firing patterns of habits and we do so much in our days with our presence at half-mast. Maybe we’re driving but we’re also worrying about finances. Perhaps we’re putting our kids to bed but we’re also figuring out what we want to eat for a snack.
Our minds evolved to function on autopilot and multi-task. However, when we’re stuck in painful patterns (depression, relational conflict, etc) we need to be able to make conscious, willful decisions based on how we want things to change. This is made even harder when, under stress, our minds venture into fight-flight-freeze mode.
I think of this tendency towards subconsious action and fight-flight-freeze as our trance tendency. We fall into a trance–swayed by all kinds of neural firing and habitual patterning and we lose the ability to make proactive, conscious choices.
So how do we break the trance?
- Be clear about your motivations: If you’re not really sure you want to start working out more or you’d actually rather have a messy car than cart all those containers and papers and gloves and sweatshirts that collect then admit that to yourself. No judgment please. Not actually wanting to achieve a certain goal that you think you ought to want to achieve actually helps you on the road to figuring out what you DO want to achieve. Better to be honest than to continue to fall short because your heart’s not really in it.
- Take good enough care of yourself so that you maximize your chances for success: Let’s face it. If you don’t get to bed early enough, you’re going to be too tired for morning yoga or morning sex or whatever it is for which you’re aiming. Set yourself up for success as best you can at this point in your life.
- Practice mindfulness meditation: There are a zillion and a half research studies that show how beneficial meditation is. It doesn’t have to be spiritual. It doesn’t have to be for a long time. Mindfulness meditation is exercise for your mind. It increases our self-awareness which gives us a better chance of being proactive rather than reactive.
- Pay close attention to your personal warning signs: Do you get a fuzzy, hot feeling before you snap at your kids? Does your heart start to beat harder? Do you hear a voice in your head that says: “I’ll just pay that bill a little later…”? Use those signals as alarm bells!!! Those are the indications you’re going in the opposite direction from your goals! Take notice!
- Celebrate small successes and forgive mess-ups: You’re not going to be perfect. If you met your goal one more time this week than last week, you’re making progress.
Change is hard AND possible. For all of us. (Yes, you too.)