Why Change Can Be So Challenging
Why Change Can Be So Challenging
by Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak
As we enter again into the Holiday Season that perennial date of January 1, the date of resolutions, looms nearer. Each year countless throngs of people resolve to change something in their lives or about themselves that they have put off until the New Year. If we have been putting something off for awhile there is a good possibility that our heart and soul are really not into it. If we were that motivated to change something, we would probably have done it at an earlier date. While there are many factors involved in change perhaps one, which is often overlooked, is how repetitive the human brain is programmed to be.
Have you ever considered what a creature of habit humans are? More specifically how habitual you may be? We are all very habitual in everything we do; even our thought processes can be very habitual.
Virtually everything we do on an on- going basis are done in the same way each time. Our brains love it because we don’t have to think about what we are doing. It is memorized and we simply re-enact the same scenario. An example is getting up in the morning. From the moment we get out of bed we have the same set pattern of how we get ready each morning, even down to which foot the first sock goes on, to the which leg is first into our pants (if we are wearing pants that day). If we do not do our routine as we have memorized it in the morning, most people feel out of sorts as they struggle to get out the door.
Perhaps instead of using the word habit another word is ritual. How we approach most things we repeat, we have a ritual to go with it. These rituals are from getting up, showering and dressing, to the route we take to work and home and then going to bed at day’s end. If you would like to challenge yourself as to your ability to see how adaptable you are, try to change your ritual for just one thing you do on a daily basis. You will feel probably feel awkward or uncomfortable until you either go back to your proven ritual or you finally use the new ritual you are creating by doing something different.
An exercise- if you wear a watch, which is always going to be on the same arm, move the watch to your other arm and see how that feels. You will now become very aware that the watch is there, which would not occur if it was where it usually is. The longer you leave the watch in the new position the less you will become aware of it. Our brain adapts very easily when given the chance.
The point here is unless we are willing to risk feeling uncomfortable and awkward it will always be very difficult to change anything in our life. In order to change we need to be very aware of what our rituals are and be willing to consciously challenge them until we create a new way of doing or thinking something. If we do not force awareness, our brain always repeats what we have always done.
As mentioned earlier most everything is programmed into our brain as a repetitive ritual. This is good on the one hand as we really do not have to concentrate on simple tasks and can free up our brain for other things, multitasking at its best. The other side of this is our ritual behaviours become so unconscious we may not even be aware of them anymore.
Getting up in the morning is very ritualistic.
Driving- is almost robotic allowing us to risk many other behaviours while behind the wheel such as texting.
Eating-Most of us are very habitual what and when we eat. Most will refer to our favourite foods as comfort food. So there is a strong emotional element to things we call comfort foods and usually use when emotionally out of sorts. Rarely are comfort foods nutritious but inner feelings will propel us to consume them.
Emotions- Many of us get caught in repetitive cycles of thinking and feeling the same things. We feel lost if we do not have this cycle happening internally and will find ways to return to it quickly. Example would be creating stress, being angry with someone, trying to make sense of something that you will never make sense of. We all have our emotional internal dramas that repeat themselves. However becoming aware of them will help us to move towards breaking them and replacing them with something much more calming.
There is nothing wrong with habits or rituals; it is how the human brain operates. It is a problem when we are not aware of them and they can be harming us, others or impeding our ability to change and move forward. If you would like to create new rituals or habits in your life you need to stay very aware. It is harder to stay aware than to create anything new. We create new things all the time, start exercising, again, changing our diet but in a blink of eye we are right back to where we are enacting our old ritual. New things only become new rituals after we have repeated them enough times that the brain is willing to adopt the newness as the ongoing way of being. If we have repeated it enough and the brain understands that this is what is supposed to happen, then our brain fully co-operates and sets the new ritual as our default file. These ideas are applicable to all things in our life. If you want to change anything, and we all do, start small and work your way up. This New Year don’t resolve to change your entire life in one fell swoop. It is a set up to fail and send us right back to where we were. Pick one important thing and concentrate on just that, you have lots of time building on your success to move to change the next thing. Too much too soon causes us to revert back to what we are most comfortable with, healthy or not.