Observing our Patterns
People are creatures of habit. When you practice something enough times, you get good at doing it. You might not like what you are doing, but your brain has grown accustomed to a certain neurological pattern of reacting and it’s just easier to continue doing it, because it takes less energy!
By being conscious of this pattern of behavior, you can choose to override your habitual way of doing things, and do something else. When you do something else, you get a different result, and surprisingly your energy is higher as well ! Your human will power can break any habit pattern, but you have to practice breaking habitual behavior to get good at it.
Have you ever observed your friends and relatives year after year doing the same things over and over and getting the same unfavorable results and complaining about the same unfavorable things happening in their lives? Being outside their lives, it’s easier for you to see how they keep themselves where they are, but they can never see it?! Sometimes they even show an unmindful pride in keeping themselves a certain way, by saying, “I always do such and such when such and such happens. I’ll never change.” They don’t seem to realize that they can change the unfavorable results they get by changing the behavior that leads to such results! Perhaps you too have gotten stuck in certain behavioral patterns that keep you where you are right now! Maybe you have never learned to consider alternatives, or to think critically about your situations and the alternatives that you can choose for yourself at any time in your life.
When is the last time that you took a look at yourself and the choices you are making in your life? Have you learned from the choices you’ve made? Are you learning from these choices now? Oftentimes when we get accustomed to a pattern of behavior, we repeat that pattern over and over without thinking about it. We don’t have to like what we’re doing. It’s just that our brain circuitry keeps us reacting the same way, and it seems easier, like a needle stuck on a record stays stuck on the record, and it goes round and round the same way until you bump the needle off the stuck spot. If the result we get from our behavior is not what we want, the logical choice would be to change our pattern of behavior to get a better result, but we don’t often do so! We sometimes stay stuck in a situation, regardless of how unhappy we are and we feel totally helpless to change it?! Remember, if we do the same thing over and over, we’ll get the same result over and over. If we change what we do, we change the result we get, right?
You have to mindfully bump yourself off the stuck groove in the record to enjoy the rest of the music, which can be likened unto a happier life. Such a simple axiom eludes us when we do not lead a mindful existence. Now let’s look at how to go about the process of making better choices and unsticking ourselves from unfavorable patterns of behavior.
The first step in getting unstuck is recognizing that we ARE stuck in some ways. Look over your daily activities and see yourself as others might see you. Do you see any set patterns that you go through that vary very little from day to day? If you have trouble with this, ask someone close to you what they think your stuck patterns are. Examine the way you react or respond to people, both verbally, emotionally and in an active way. Write down what you see in yourself, so you can look at the details. Are the results that you get from your behavior, the results you want to get? If not, do you see that doing the same thing will always get the same results?
Here are some typical stuck behavioral patterns you might recognize:
1) Going to the same restaurant, grocery store or filling station. 2) Driving the same way to work every day. 3) Reacting the same emotional way when someone says or does a certain thing. 4) Buying the same brand name products or a car from the same manufacturer. 5) Eating at a specific hour every day or eating only certain things. 6) Making love the same way. 7) Thinking that only women do the cooking or that only men do manual labor.
Now you might say, “I’m comfortable with how I’m doing things, why should I change my routines?” There’s a difference between being comfortable and being accustomed to something. You might not like what you are doing or you might not like where you are going or the results you are getting in life, but because your neural circuitry has gotten you accustomed to doing it, it takes less energy to continue doing it the same way than to try something new or different which requires more energy!
Being mindful of what you say, think and do is only the first step in altering your behavior to obtain better results. The next step is the willingness to get unstuck from such behavior. You can know the right nutrition, the right exercise, the right emotions to have and the right environment to enshroud yourself in, but unless you have the will, desire, incentive or motivation to act on what you know, the knowledge cannot get you to a better place. You can have low energy or have various aches and pains or be ill or have a low self-esteem, but you can overcome all of these obstacles with your human will power! So how do you activate that volitional part of yourself that can make better choices? Through practice. To get unstuck from set patterns, practice doing things differently for a change. You have to be willing to experiment with yourself for this exercise to work. Whatever your set behavior is, do exactly the opposite of what you normally would do. That’s not such a big deal, since it’s only an experiment anyway. Just try it for 24 hours and see what happens.
Try simple things first. For instance, if you normally have to have a cup of coffee in the morning, try a juice instead or nothing at all. If you normally go to bed late and get up late, go to bed early and get up early. If you normally get angry with a certain person, be pleasant instead. Move things around in the house, but change things in your life!
You’re not helpless about your actions, but you must be mindful of them in order to change them. Take the trouble and experiment with yourself in this way. Most people are so locked into their behavioral patterns, that the mere suggestion of doing something different like this is utterly ridiculous or they’ll come up with some reason why they can’t or won’t initiate a change. But if you “take the trouble” to do something totally different with yourself every day in your various set patterns of behavior, you’re on your way to getting unstuck from patterns of behavior that have kept you from getting the results you want in life.
Get into the habit of recognizing recurring behavior in your life that brings about unfavorable results, and give yourself a gentle bump from the stuck groove in the record. Vary your food and drink choices and try different dishes from different countries. If you brush your teeth with your right hand, brush them with your left hand. Instead of the bathroom, brush them in the kitchen. When you keep varying your routines, it gets you in the habit of being more mindful of your actions. You’ll also begin to see better results in your life, but you must practice this exercise to get good at breaking out of your stuck conditions.
One way to loosen yourself up in switching to new behavioral patterns is to play act with yourself. Actors and actresses know that in order to truly act out a new role properly, they must FEEL and BE this new person internally, and they practice, practice, practice their new role over and over. You can do the same thing in your own life. If you recognize an admirable trait in someone that you would like to adopt, observe closely how they move, their posture and their breathing pattern & muscle tension. Notice what they say and how they say it. Then, take action, and move in an enthusiastic way with an effective strategy toward replicating the characteristics of the person that you've observed. You can also create an internal visual image of this model person and step into it in a fully associated way and become that person you wish to emulate.
In conclusion, remember also that gratitude, trust and acceptance can allow you to flow better in the world, and learning those qualities can relieve many stuck conditions. Also, when you act in the spirit of service to others, all other thoughts are irrelevant. Then you are truly loving thy neighbor as thyself and life is complete.