Do you find yourself engaging in the same old behaviors even though you want your life to change? You are not alone. Most people continue to do what is familiar without realizing that by “doing what they’ve always done, they get what they’ve always gotten.”
So how do you break free of negative reactionary behavior? For starters, to break an old behavior or pattern you have to create awareness, be willing to respond differently, and do what I refer to as “practice the pause.”
The first step in redirecting any behavior is to gain awareness about what is happening. Although you may be aware of the many ways in which a negative behavior does not serve you, it is important to recognize that the behavior would not continue to exist unless there were some hidden benefit. In fact, the key to change is in realizing WHY you are repeating the same response.
Let’s examine the desire to stop procrastinating. While you may want to stop procrastinating because you feel it has negative consequences–such as, it may create a bad reputation for you or cause you stress–you have to ask yourself what purpose or benefit procrastination does provide for you?
While you may be thinking that it doesn’t provide any benefit, that would not be true. If it didn’t you would easily stop doing it. So what if the following benefits were possible?: What if by waiting long enough, you escape doing the thing you don’t want to do after all? Or what if you are a perfectionist and give yourself less than ample time to create your project so you can better rationalize a less-than-perfect outcome? The key is to more deeply explore what you are gaining by doing that which you want to change!
Be Willing to Respond Differently
Once you have identified what you are gaining, you have to decide whether the benefit of a new choice outweighs the familiarity of the old. If it does, are you willing to change? No matter what has happened (even if throughout an entire lifetime), you can use three simple words to inspire yourself– “up until now” (Remember my YouTube HeartlivingVideo)–knowing that now you can do it differently. Your knowledge is not complete unless you act on what you know.
Practice the Pause
So how do you create a change? How do you hold conscious intent? You decide to “practice the pause.” When you notice you’re about to engage in a maladaptive behavior or when you feel “stuck,” literally pause for at least six seconds (research validates that pausing triggers a different response in your amygdala—a part of the brain) and then respond rather than react. The pause allows you to hold a different consciousness, one more aligned with your new goal.
The pause also allows you to lead from your heart intelligence. With growing awareness and new methods of responding, you can begin to redirect your behaviors to reflect greater peace and understanding.
Above all, know that you are writing the story of your life every breathing moment. You are not trying out for a part in someone else’s drama. You are the author and the director of your own life. As you begin to pause and respond to life circumstances, rather than to react, you will literally change your story and change your life!
Many people express an interest in meditation but feel they don’t have time to meditate. Some say that finding 20 minutes to do “nothing” is not possible in their daily life. Meditating is far from “doing nothing”; when you center your mind and release anxiety, you bring restoration and balance to your whole system. In fact, research shows that meditation:
1. Enhances the immune system.
2. Lowers and/or stabilizes blood pressure.
3. Slows the aging process.
4. Improves learning ability and memory.
5. Develops your willpower.
6. Decreases restless thinking.
7. Brings your body, mind, and spirit into harmony.
You do have to find time to meditate. You should choose a time of day when you are least distracted and are able to be calm. You might want to start with a 5-minute meditation and try different lengths of time as you explore the process.
Also, decide on a comfortable posture. While most teachers suggest sitting positions, I have always found my best meditations occur when I lie down, and surprisingly, I do not fall asleep. Try different postures to find what works best for you.
If you are seated, you might try staring at an icon (religious figure, candle, etc.), and in doing so, allowing yourself to “empty” your mind. If you are lying down, you can stare at the ceiling.
Be patient with yourself, so if many thoughts come racing through your head, simply allow them to clear. You may wish to focus on one word (such as “love”) to center yourself.
You can also practice the simple technique that I call “stopping.” Simply sit for five minutes each day and allow your body to rest. Take a few deep breaths and be still. In that moment, be with whatever comes up, and let your mind slow down until your body, mind, and spirit feel in greater harmony.
Affirmations are statements that can support you in manifesting powerful change. Write or say these statements at any time (some people do so daily) and use them to support a shift in your consciousness or feeling state. It is important that the affirmations you select resonate with you, that is, that they feel natural and appropriate. In order to choose statements that feel right, you may need to change words in the statements listed here, or let these inspire you to create your own.
- I relax knowing all in my life is well.
- I know that I count and act as if I do.
- I let go and trust that everything is happening perfectly.
- I peacefully allow my life to unfold.
- Every day I expand my comfort zone by allowing for risks.
- Whatever happens in any situation, I know I can handle it.
- I live my life to the fullest.
- I expect good things to come to me.
- I focus on my many blessings and have every expectation that my good will be met.
- I create meaning and purpose with whatever life hands me.
- I release all doubt and fear and move into a state of positive flow.
- I accept myself as I am and create peace in my heart.
- I am loved and safe.
- I find value in all aspects of my life.
- My faith lifts me above all fears.
Affirmations are used in hypnotherapy in order to reprogram the subconscious mind. By using them in your “awake” state, you are also accessing their power by allowing yourself to “hear” a new way to be. The purpose of using affirmations is to open to allow something healthy to become. In addition, they can help us shift our attention from less empowering actions such as “getting” or “taking,” to more freeing concepts, such as “receiving,” “accepting,” and “allowing.”
As you work more and more with affirmations, you can make them part of your daily life. Remember, you are already using statements or affirmations every time you think or speak. If your current thoughts are less helpful, you can intentionally change them to ones that will help you shift into a more meaningful life!
Early in life you had two primary motivations: to survive and not to be abandoned. Primarily, you learned to be acceptable and to wear an “adaptive” mask in order to manage your fears. Hence, the result can be a lifetime dance with fear and faith.
If you accept that your thoughts create your reality, then one of the major problems with unconscious fear (anxiety below the surface) is that the brain can be dancing in a state of constant anticipation of negative experiences, reacting to life rather than responding to it.
From a standpoint of evolution, this act was probably designed to protect you, yet holding on to a low-grade fever of fear can certainly undermine the quality of your life.
Here are some steps to practice thinking differently and coming from faith rather than fear:
1. Holding awareness is the key to escaping cycles of fear. Pay attention to your “inner voice” and release any negative thoughts by reminding yourself that all is well. Recognize that constantly anticipating the worst case scenario is not helpful, but rather is harmful.
2. Recognize when you are reacting rather than responding and check to see whether or not any of your thoughts about potential outcome are really warranted.
3. Ask a person you trust to help you look at your expectations while teasing out what is real and not real.
4. A coach or supportive friend can help you to have a safe environment in which to explore being you and to shift your perceptions.
5. Decide that you can handle life and you will be able to.
6. Decide what positive things you DO want to create in your life and give energy to that vision.
7. Hold a positive outlook overall (“like attracts like”), and remember that while fear disrupts your focus, hope enhances and focuses your attention.
8. Imagine a positive outcome in all your situations.
9. Spend at least five minutes per day daydreaming about the great life you desire as you bring it into being!
10. Re-frame your fear by looking through the lens of FAITH!
Your soul’s essence is connectedness, and it thrives on relationship. Ancient people knew this instinctively and recognized that their survival depended upon each other—-they needed to cooperate to thrive in their world.
When we understand that we are related to every form of life on this planet and we become a partner with the Universe, we can then begin to act on behalf of our world.
So whether it is your co-worker, partner, or relative–or the stranger in another country–you will respond differently to others when you feel a sense of connectedness rather than separation. In fact, when I teach in Japan, I have learned that it is believed that “all pain is a result of separation”–whether that separation occurs in your community, family, or in your body.
When we remember the value of oneness and cooperation, we begin to look at one another differently. We find that our lives become calmer, and we are less attached to specific outcomes.
As a result, we can decide to give up arguing—-one argument at a time.
We can choose to be peaceful rather than right.
Today, I was reminded of one of my favorite Native American legends and wanted to share it with you:
One evening an old Cherokee chief told his grandson about life.
He said, “My son, a fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.”
“One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.”
“The other is good–he is joy, peace, love, hope,
serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
“This same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”
-A Cherokee Legend-