Since everyone is still talking about the “New Year/New Me” ideas, I think it might be helpful to discuss a few tricks when it comes to a transformational change.
The truth of the matter is we cling to habits. At least, I do. The truth is most people have a usual routine.
Consider the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Some look at the clock. Some look at their phone. Either way, most people have their morning rituals and daily routines.
We place things in usual spots and put things in usual pockets. We do this for dependability; this way we know where things are. This way we know where to look. We follow certain patterns so we know which way to go and our body can move in auto-pilot without too much challenge.
Ever misplace your keys or wallet or anything of the sort because for some reason, you placed the item somewhere different from your usual spot? Ever put something in a pocket you seldom use or a jacket you rarely wear and then panic when you try and find it?
Think about this for a second.
Consider the feeling that comes to mind. Consider the connection we have to our everyday expectations. Think about the connection we have to our technology. Think about the discomfort people feel when someone else looks at their phone and how personal our devices have become to us. These things have become personal because we have personalized them, and now, to go without them and the shortcuts they offer would almost be unthinkable.
In fact, I used to check my email constantly. I was always looking to see how my writing was doing or to see if my professional network was improving.
And I cannot say that I have stepped away from technology altogether; however, I have made switches to my usage to keep me from disconnecting from the present moments.
There is a science to our habits that honor and satiate a need, thought, want, or a feeling.
Put simply, we are creatures of comfort. We find a path or pattern that we become comfortable with. We create a way of living and thinking that we become accustomed to, which enables us to navigate our life. Eventually, we become so used to our patterns that we can almost do our basic routines nearly blindfolded.
The mind will always look for the path of least resistance. The emotional mind does not want complications. This is where the difficulties arise when it comes to change. The idea of change is to create a different pattern or routine. In some cases, a different pattern or routine is frightening. In some cases the anxiety of anticipation of change and discomfort can be awful and crippling. This is why people remain as they are —because it’s comfortable.
Certain changes are more dramatic and some are simple. I get that; however, other changes are more complex. But rather than judge the severity of anyone’s change or their intention; I will simplify this with our basic daily life.
Change a favorite brand or switch the flavor of something we find comfort in—or wait, changed to flavored coffee when all you drink is black, no milk, no sugar, or better yet, move in a new pattern and use your less dominant hand to do your basic chores, and suddenly, the idea of change becomes a bit more challenging.
There is comfort in our belief system; however, in many cases, our belief system is not always our best nor healthiest option. Hence the reason for transformational change.
The belief in change or better yet, the belief in continuing change without reverting back to old ideas or behaviors is the challenge. Whether the change is diet, opinion or attitude, personal programming, or regardless to the habitual needs or other addictive coping tools we’ve acquired throughout the years regardless to what they may be, —to change any of them is really just a brain trick.
At least it seems so.
Before I go forward, again, in full disclosure; I am not a doctor. I am not someone that sits in an office with degrees on my wall.
I am a man with a past. I am a man of mistakes and sins. like most of the world, I have secrets. I have my fair share of sins. More accurately, I am just as human as anyone else here on Project Earth.
More to the point, I am a person, normal (as much as anyone can be) and common like everyone else. I have ideas. I have dreams. I have obstacles to change into opportunity and problems to turn into possibility. Furthermore, I have the understanding that life is not always so simple. Things happen. Money comes and money goes, —and so will people in our life. I believe in the reality of identity, in which I mean our life hinges upon the way we think, look, and choose to identify ourselves.
Our identity is our value or the lack thereof. This is our pattern of thought and more importantly, when it comes to the plan for transformational change, this is our belief system, which is what needs to be addressed first because this is the change before the change.
I am also someone that has learned my understanding through cognitive lessons; this is where my programmed thinking comes into play.
This is where my assumptions come from and where I store my opinions.
I am like most people in the world. I have my own habits and coping tools —some are less than beneficial and some are simply common.
But let’s keep it simple.
I like food just as much as anyone else. I have my “Go-to” meals for comfort. I like my meals a certain way. I like my gravies and sauces and yes, I wholeheartedly believe that gravies and sauces affects the flavor of our food.
When made differently or poorly or unlike the usual norm which we have become accustomed to, the wrong or different ingredients can alter the flavor of the meal and leave me with a unsatisfied feeling.
I’m not hungry anymore —I’m just not as satisfied because I was awaiting a flavor to make the connection in my brain, which triggers my reward system and connects to my pleasure receptors.
I am a creature of comfort just like most of the world
I have my morning rituals like most people do. I am as real as they come. I have a routine, in which my body can move along in an auto-pilot setting without too much input with my mind.
I know my path towards the coffee machine when I wake up. I know where the bathroom is and where the light switch is located if i feel like turning on the light.
I have the same base emotions as everyone else. I have feelings, needs, wants, questions and concerns. I have created patterns and responses to help cope with life. Throughout my life, I have used these coping skills to assist me with my concerned ideas that trigger crisis thoughts, emergency ideas, and the emotional overloaded worries.
I have a history of my own just like everybody else. We all have history, which is where our lessons come from.
This is where our patterns come from. This is where we build our taste and our personal customs. This is where our heritage is learned and our opinions are formed.
This is why we think how we think, believe as we believe, and act the way we do.
To change this is a trick!
This is a trick of the mind because we have been trained a certain way to think, see, believe, and do.
We are a series of thought patterns that travel through the usual (comfortable) pathways—and to think, feel, act, or live differently for a long-term period seems unthinkable (at least in some regards,) as well as unlikely, or otherwise impossible.
But why is this?
Well, the truth is we have all be trained. We have trained ourselves to live a certain way —to change this means we literally have to retrain our thought pathways to travel along a different avenue, which is unfamiliar, and also uncomfortable.
Removing the opinion of pronouns of good or bad, habit becomes comfortable even when the habit comes with uncomfortable events. Changing this in some regard seems as unthinkable as retraining the mind to switch from right-handed to left.
This does not mean change is impossible. This only means change can be uncomfortable. This means the we need to train the hemispheres in our mind to connect differently. The idea is to allow the hemispheres of our brain to communicate from a different or opposite perspective.
Don’t believe me?
Okay, so let’s remove us from our usual comfort zone for a second.
The following exercises will show us about the way our brain operates and how we process information. Improve our brain activity and the ideas of overcoming habit or changing patterns become likely and possible.
Please understand the tasks are simple and certainly not as intense as say, overcoming tragic habits. However, I place them here to show the way our mind works and they way we have been trained.
- Hold up two fingers as if to make a peace sign with your right hand.
- Once this is done, now switch to the “Okay” symbol with your pointing finger tucked like a circle beneath your thumb and the remaining fingers standing straight up.
- Switch these symbols back and forth from a peace sign to the okay sign.
- Repeat this process with the opposite hand.
- Next, hold up both right and left hand.
Make the peace symbol in your right hand and the okay symbol in the left. Now, change them simultaneously to counter-match the opposite hand’s gesture.
- repeat this action as many times as you can
Take a few seconds to try this. Notice any difficulty. Notice the brain function? It’s not easy to do is it?
- Point your right finger to the left side of your body.
- Next, point your left finger directly at your right finger.
- Now, circle your right finger away from your body
- And next, circle your left finger towards your body
- Then switch if you can with either finger circling in the opposite direction of the opposing hand.
Either exercise is unnatural to most people. The simple task is almost uncomfortable. This is silly and the exercise is definitely funny when I do this in a classroom setting. But nonetheless, this is change.
Changing usual comforts and routines is no different from training us to alternate symbols from peace to okay or spinning our fingers in different directions.
The question comes down to this: How do we change the pathways and the avenues of our thinking to break patterns and/or habitual behavior?
How do we become comfortable with the discomfits of awkwardness?
The first thing that needs convincing is our belief system, which needs proof that our new pathway and our new routine will be both beneficial and equally rewarding.
Our mind wants proof that if we change, we will have a fallback system in place. This is not different from a little kid and their security blanket. We need this just in case of an emergency or discomfort. And keep in mind, the last thing the mind wants is discomfort. Everybody wants comfort.
I know I do.
Hell, if I could have anything right now; I think I’d have Mom’s fried chicken cutlets with a side of her special mashed potatoes, which I have learned to master; however, no one can duplicate Mom’s chicken cutlets and mashed potatoes.
When we are cold, we want to feel warm and when we are too warm we want to be cooled. Our mind will always seek comfort.
Our habits are formed to create this comfort. However, some of our habits are what leads to some of our downfalls and some of our downfalls is what cause us to say things like “New Year/New Me.”
First, we need to change our patterns. Change simple things. Alter your morning path.
Challenge assumptions and usual physical patterns by creating a new patterns and new events. This might be awkward at first Be mindful of reservations to hold your spot in your old seat (just in case things don’t work as planned.) And keep in mind, we need more than simple replacement; we need distraction to lead our thoughts away from the same neural pathways.
New year/New Me only works with a new plan and the training of new events until the events become customary, almost like muscle memory, which happens automatically; therefore in order to create the new you, we need to create a new default setting. Otherwise, we just go back to old comforts.
The struggle to change is the same struggle we find when alternating a peace sign to the okay sign—or, if that’s not enough proof for you, get two sheets of paper. Put a pen in your right hand and hold a pen in your left. Write the letter A in your right hand and then the letter B in with your left. See how your brain does with this one.
The truth is when it comes to change, we have to overcome our programmed belief system. We have to overcome the emotional and physical awkwardness of acts that were previously unnatural to us.
It all starts with training.
Not right or wrong, this way or that way, or abstinence per se, but more importantly, change occurs with consistent effort and persistent dedication. This change will eventually help alter the hemispheres in our brain to communicate differently with each other.
Change is always possible.
Change might not always be easy but it is always possible.
Change is achievable. depending upon our willingness to endure the discomforts of awkwardness.
This is so with any change. First, identify the change and then second, identify what you are willing to do because above all things; the depth of your commitment is what equals the strength of your success.
New Year, new me, new thinking —
I think that says it best!