Is there a habit you have been participating in for what feels like forever, that you know does not serve you anymore, but you just cannot imagine being able to totally give it up? Of course you do because you are a human with a brain! Today I want to make three points around why I think getting educated and doing a little personal work should come first BEFORE we try to stop or change a habit.
· Learn to Cultivate a Loving and Kind Relationship with Yourself
· Understand the Habit
· Recognize There is No Right Way, There is Only Your Way
Learn to Cultivate a Loving and Kind Relationships with Yourself
It is important to understand and recognize that the relationship we have with ourselves is the foundation for everything in life. Now I could list a million reasons why, but for the purpose of this post, I am going to limit it to two primary reasons. The first is related to the think, act, feel cycle that gives us our results. The second is that we treat other people like we treat ourselves so it would improve our relationships. Let’s dive into both of these reasons and take a closer look at them.
The think, act, feel cycle is the same as thoughts trigger feelings, those lead to actions, and those give us our results. Generally speaking, if we are having negative thoughts that inspire fear, doubt, and anxiety, we are more likely to shut down and stay stuck in the same actions. If we continue to perform the same actions, we cannot get a different result. For example, say I desire the result of no longer wanting to drink. If my primary thought is OMG, this is going to be so hard, that will create fear and doubt and my relationship with alcohol will most likely stay the same. If on the other hand, I think I am going to do this in baby steps and have my back no matter what happens, that can trigger a feeling of hopefulness, or maybe inspiration to make one small change at a time. Now I want to point out that one of the reasons we numb ourselves with food, alcohol, shopping, Netflix, whatever, is because of the way we think about ourselves at both the conscious and subconscious level. So I am not suggesting we have to get this relationship totally figured out before we can change our behavior because that is a lifelong endeavor. I am just endorsing that we make a commitment to be kind and loving to ourselves no matter how we show up before we attempt to get a different result.
To be clear, that does not mean judgmental thoughts about ourselves will stop, it means we become more aware of them, and commit to not buying into them no matter how tempted we might be to do so. It also means that we commit to forgiving ourselves when we make choices we regret and not turn it into a big drama or an all or nothing scenario. We just acknowledge the thought errors or mistakes and get back at the process of changing our relationships with old habits and ourselves like we would if we were learning to ride a bike and we fell off it. We just get back on the proverbial bike and continue to learn how to master our habit with no judgments or negative emotions. If we can lose the self-loathing and stay committed to being kind and loving toward ourselves in the process, we will experience greater success and we will for sure feel a hell of a lot better.
Understand the Habit
So I really thought about the way I ordered my bullets for presenting the information in this blog post and changed them quite a few times before I settled into the sequence you see in front of you. Cultivating a loving relationship with yourself became a no-brainer as the first one because no matter where we are, what we are doing, who we are with, or what is happening, that is the foundation we need to feel peace, joy, and acceptance.
I decided on understanding the habit and why we want to change as the next step because it will enlighten us and help us to uncover hidden thoughts and feelings we did not even realize were there. Since the think, act feel cycle is so important with how we get results, I think our thoughts and beliefs must be explored before we move on to finding a solution. Let me give you a scenario to show you what I mean.
Say you decide you are going to stop the habit of over-eating and commit to lose 20lbs. If you don’t explore why you have been overeating in the first place, you won’t really understand why you have your current results. You also won’t understand how your brain has become wired for the habit and that you taught your brain it will always be rewarded with food when you experience uncomfortable emotions or urges. Adding to the problem, you would get confused about what your actual problem was and why you were experiencing it. You would think for sure that overeating was your problem, and you were overweight because you were weak, flawed or a loser (something along those lines). If you did not take the time to understand habits and urges, you would not know that overeating was not the source of your problem. You would not realize that overeating was just the action you took when you were thinking a particular thought that triggered an emotion. If you learned about the think, act, feel cycle, you would know that the overeating stemmed from thoughts you were having and your inability to feel uncomfortable emotions. I think this is all very valuable information to be aware of when you are trying to figure out how to lose weight and what will work for you.
Let me give you an example to really bring home my point. If you did not take time for the first two steps I mentioned above before you attempted to lose weight, you would not be fully informed as to what program or plan might be the best one for you. You most likely would be pretty self-critical because you never cultivated that loving relationship with yourself, and you totally bought into all or nothing thinking. You would probably focus a lot on the diet you would be eating, keep track of counting calories and completely overlook the thoughts that triggered feelings that inspired you to eat and become overweight in the first place. You would choose to rely on willpower and discipline to help you lose weight and then beat yourself up when you had mishaps…and you would fur sure have mishaps because willpower has a cap and is not sustainable long term. My main point here is that in order to create a new relationship with your habits and yourselves in the process, you have to understand the way you are thinking at both the conscious and subconscious level. This is where we find the solution!
There is No One Way, There is Only Your Way
Okay, let’s face it there are a lot of so-called experts our there telling us how to do anything and everything. In fact, you might even think that is what I am doing here but hear me out because I actually think I have a different take than most experts. I want to offer you that it is your responsibility to figure out the best way for you to change your relationship with a habit that is no longer serving you. You might say well if I knew how to do that, I would just do it and not need to read blogs or listen to podcasts and join support groups, etc. I want to explore this concept and illustrate how differently your life plays out depending on the way you are thinking.
Let’s first look at the thought that it is our responsibility to find out what way is going to work for us when it comes to changing or breaking our habits. When we look at the situation like this, it sort of feels empowering doesn’t it? It might even inspire us or trigger curiosity, which is what we need to discover all the options available to us in the age of the internet. I mean come on now, it is not like the old days where we had to go to a library to look up books to find the answers we were searching for. You can pretty much Google anything these days and get your questions answered immediately.
Alright, now let’s look at the thought that I need somebody else to tell me what to do so I make sure I do it the right way. This is not only disempowering, it is also total bullshit because there is no right way that works for everybody. For example, let’s look at AA. Many people are not up for labeling themselves an alcoholic and they do not want to have to commit to not drinking for the rest of their lives when they are just beginning to make changes. As a result of this and being conditioned that AA is the only way, they just keep putting off making changes to create new relationships with their drinking habit. They would rather just keep drinking than make such radical acclamations and commit to giving up alcohol forever. So you see what I mean? If they don’t take responsibility for their recovery and are not willing to experiment and find out what works for them, they will not be successful long term. In fact, they will probably stay exactly the same.
Another point I want to make regarding finding your way, is that your way might include the only way from three different sources. What I am saying is that three separate experts can claim their way is the only way for you to achieve whatever it is you desire, but that it is total BS. We do not have to buy into everything somebody says. In fact, it is our job to pick and choose what we want to accept from each expert as a solution to our problems. We find what resonates with us, discard whatever does not sit well with us, and we slowly discover our solution and what works for us. Because we are feeling curious instead of defeated, we can play with different options and experiment a bit until we find the path for us. I don’t know what your particular path will look like, but I promise you it does not have to be like anybody else’s and it will probably be a combination of ideas and approaches from various sources.
Before we determine we are ready to actually change a habit or stop it all together, I believe it would be beneficial to do some pre-work and prepare in advance. The first thing I would is to work on cultivating a loving and kind relationship with yourself so that when you come up short and display your imperfections, it does not have to be a big deal. In fact, it can be an opportunity to tap into love and compassion for yourself, which you can then share with others. The next step is to take the time to understand the habit, how you have trained your brain to expect external rewards, and that all change begins with the way you are thinking. Lastly, I want you to realize that there is no right way to change or stop a habit, there is only your way and it is your responsibility to figure out what that might be. It will require you to do some research and learn about all the options that are available to you. You will have to determine what resonates with you from various experts so that you can create a new relationship with an old habit, and in the process improve your relationship with yourself.