Most people do the same things based on the same beliefs and habits. We repeat ourselves over and over again and wonder why we end up in the same place. Often we don’t understand what happened. Then we try again, thinking if we only try harder, we’ll succeed.
It’s not true. Trying harder with the same habits is exhausting. We find ourselves in the same situation again and again. Allowing our negative beliefs about ourselves and the world only keeps us stuck in the same position no matter how much energy we throw at it.
On the other hand, self-observation can give us clues to what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, why we’ve done it and what we can do to increase our success. Surprisingly, these kinds of changes are often small. Much smaller than the monumental effort you think you’ll have to take following old patterns and life scripts.
Negative beliefs are spirit killers. They operate on a kind of loop in the back of our brains, saying things we wouldn’t put up from our worst enemy. Everyone has them. They come from our past and are capable of destroying our future. We mentally tell ourselves that we will fail and that we just simply are failures. If you stop and listen, you can hear them whisper to you.
Habit patterns are patterns of behavior that we develop over our lifetime. It’s the way we do things. We don’t concentrate on them anymore. We just operate on autopilot. Some habit patterns are simple, like brushing our teeth. Others are more complex like shopping in a store. Still, others are challenging actions like trying to reach a goal. These all have one thing in common. How we go about them is based on a familiar way of thinking and behaving.
Just a brief word here. People have often told me the things I write are difficult to do. They tell me this before they try them. Just thinking about self-examination gives them the willies.
Even over the computer screen, I can hear their tone of voice.
“That’s too hard,” They exclaim.
“Oooh, you are so strong. I could never do that.”
“It’s just too painful to face,” some report.
They are stuck in an inertia that is bleeding them dry. Mired in mud from the past so strongly it feels hopeless. But it’s not. The opposite is true.
It’s too painful not to do our own work. Face our process. Make changes in our lives. Living in failure and degradation is much more painful than change. It’s exhausting to be unhappy and sit still wishing. Change is worth the effort and pain. Self-awareness is exhilarating.
I created a chart for self-assessment to help you alter that process. Make it more likely you’ll reach your goals. It’s here: What to Do if You Are Stuck in a Familiar Rut.
- The first heading is Incident/Situation.
Think back as far as you can to the first time you tried to solve this problem/reach that goal/do this thing you want to do. Give it any name you wish. List oldest first.
- Describe as clearly as possible what happened.
This is an important aspect of any self-examination. Most people put their feelings about things here. It’s not about feelings. Try to objectively describe what you saw, what people did, said, and so on. Kind of like from a very old television show: “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Said in a very flat, toneless voice.
- What were your hopes and dreams?
This one should be similar throughout the rows. As you write them out for each situation, you may find you have more information. You’ll come up with more specifics. You will remember more.
- Talk about expectations and wants. Compare and contrast
You were trying to reach a goal. You took specific actions. What did you think might happen? What did happen?
- Look for common themes and differences between them.
Each circumstance is the same and it is also different. Getting specific about these similarities and differences can help you make sense of where you are stopping and defeating yourself.
- What inner warnings did you feel/sense?
Sometimes we take actions we know we really shouldn’t take. Other times we don’t take actions we would be better of taking. Usually, somewhere deep inside us, we sense this. Most of the time, when we go to do something to better our lives, we sense the right and wrong of it.
- When did you experience this?
Often, this occurs early on. It’s similar to the maybe I won’t take that trip feelings people who have avoided accidents report. Often people in a rut ignore that feeling.
- How did your ignore your warnings?
We tell ourselves we’re wrong. Maybe we think we’re being big babies. Or just any kind of self-depreciating statements such as too sensitive, too judgmental, etc.
- How does this circumstance benefit you?
This is the most difficult one, I think, to look at. We are stuck in a rut, there is some kind of emotional benefit to us. Benefits can be things like not having to take risks, feeling safe, and so on. Or maybe we think our friends or siblings won’t love us if we succeed. Many of us have some serious false beliefs about success of any kind. We just don’t know it.
For your summary, on a separate page, look at the beliefs you have that have emerged from your charting. Pick apart the habits you see. If you see a habit, you can alter it. Last month I brushed my teeth after I washed my face the way I’ve done my morning routine for 50 years. Today I brush my teeth first, looking to save water as it warms up. My husband explained our septic tank. Now I watch my water usage. That’s a habit change. It took consciousness, examining my actions, and deliberate motions to make such a change.
If we find and examine our beliefs and habits, we can choose to stay where we are or change any one of them. Learning about ourselves means we are no longer stuck. If we want to stay where we are, we can. And if we want to change we can do that too.
I vote for change.
Childe Hassam [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Telephone: (615) 464-3791
Painting by Childe Hassam [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons