Is it possible to change from making unconscious mindless choices and decisions most of the time to conscious mindful choices and actions every moment of every day?
My work with clients is all about change. I read about change all the time. Academically I understand that change is possible. Cognitive neuroscientists have shown the different activity in our brains when we can change our minds about the world around us, and subsequently make different choices and take different actions.
I’ve watched clients change their minds and begin to live lives they never dreamed possible, but still I see—both in myself and in my clients—a tendency when life gets tough, or they get tired or sick, to revert back to the unconscious patterns of thinking and beliefs about the world around them that led them to my door in the first instance.
I’m interested today in what else we can do to make positive changes stick in our minds. I know that working largely via the medium of the unconscious mind works because it’s what I do with great success using NLP, hypnotherapy, guided mindful meditations and EFT.
But what about our conscious minds? Can we strengthen our ability to override the unconscious default (long buried but quick to resurface) desire to overeat, retreat, shop, gamble, smoke, drink, have a panic attack, and the list goes on, by building up the muscle that is our conscious desire to choose another path.
Psychologists and scientists, such as, Kelly McGonigal and Richard Davidson are already providing us with evidence to demonstrate that strategies, such as, meditation can help improve the functionality of the pre-frontal cortex, (sometimes known as the “pause and prepare” or “executive function” of our brain). The part that remembers that we promised ourselves we would not have a glass of wine today as we reach into the fridge at 8pm after a hard day at work!
Scientists are beginning to describe willpower as a metaphorical muscle, which we can make stronger with meditative practices. But what if we don’t even have any clear goals to achieve but simply are at that stage where the thought of any change is terrifying? That stage where we have so many unconscious habits and routines inbuilt into our lives that we feel we are stuck in a never-ending groove or “Groundhog Day” like experience. We know something isn’t right but have no idea what to change or where to start.
The hypothesis I’d like to suggest is that in order to get something different in life we need to try something different every day. I don’t mean big changes at all. I mean things like changing what you eat for breakfast, your route to work, what time you eat dinner, where you have your hair cut, when you have your first coffee in the day—the many things we do with no real conscious thought.
I’d like to invite you to join me in really looking at, and carrying out, those actions consciously by changing one of them each day. I’m going to do it for three weeks and interspersed in those three weeks might be a couple of pretty big changes like getting my long hair cut short and starting a new exercise regime. Who knows what this experiment will yield? Will you join me for 21 days? Next Wednesday I will record the different actions I took each day. Join me in asking yourself these questions during the next week:
- How did the time go this week? Faster, slower?
- Did I feel deprived of anything this week?
- Did I notice a difference in my mood each morning? I usually rate about x on a scale of 1- 10 (10 being high).
- How do I feel about the coming seven days? Optimistic, worried, excited, bored?
- Do I want to carry over some of the different things I did this week into next week and why?
So, if you’re going to join me, plan now what you’d like to do differently tomorrow. Take each day as it comes. Be kind and gentle with yourself. This may be harder than you think. So start with something easy like having a different breakfast in the morning.
Remember this experiment is about teaching you to make change a part of your everyday life, to mindfully notice every unconscious action you take in your day—it’s not about setting impossible goals and failing at the first post.
So lets begin….
“And this is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”
~ Libba Bray
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: Wiki Commons