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Almost all of us have been there.
Finding ourselves in a situation where we ask ourselves, “Why do I keep doing this?”
Whether it’s running a marathon, eating forbidden foods while we’re on a diet, or even staying up late at night to complete a last-minute school assignment, we find ourselves in a continuous, and even perhaps, a self-sabotage pattern of behavior.
Why then do we repeat the cycles of behaviors when we should know better? Is it because of habitual behaviors that are hard to overcome, like addiction? Or maybe it’s because we secretly enjoy doing it again and again? Or is it because it’s our subconscious running the automated program that was instilled into us at such a young age?
Chances are that when you find yourself asking this question, often, it’s in a negative situation. Never have I heard someone say, “Why do I keep doing this?” in a positive and encouraging environment. Hmmm…Food for thought.
So, how do we overcome this fundamental question so that we can move past the self-sabotage and reach new levels of self-discovery?
Here are three questions to reflect on in situations where you find yourself saying, “Why do I keep doing this?”
1. You must recognize the patterns and behaviors.
When we find ourselves in a situation that we know is not ideal, we should take the time to stop and reflect.
What is it about this situation or circumstance that causes you to repeat the same thing again? There’s the famous definition of insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Do you expect different results by doing the same action repeatedly?
Recognition is always the first step in solving any problem. Once you recognize the behavior or patterns present, you are then aware and can change them.
For example, let’s say you started a diet and you have always stuck to your diet for a few weeks. Then one day, temptation pays you a visit, causing you to splurge on McDonalds, sabotaging your diet, which destroys all your hard work. You feel guilty, you mentally beat yourself up for it, you punish yourself with negative self-talk, and then say “screw it” and fall back into your normal eating patterns. Time and time again, you have repeated this behavior. Now that you are aware of this “why do I keep doing this?” behavior, you can set yourself up for success the next time you choose to take on a diet.
When you consciously choose to break a harmful habit, it won’t be easy. You are mentally fighting against what is known to be normal behavior in your brain. Your brain thinks sabotaging your diet with McDonalds is a normal thing.
It’s when you properly set yourself up for success that you can challenge the old programming in your habits. Doing things like changing your driving route where McDonalds is no longer on your way home from work, meal prepping, avoiding opportunities where convenience trumps home cooked meals, and so forth that can make a difference. The more you factor in new habits, the less you may say to yourself, “Why do I keep doing this?”
2. Is this repeated behavior ultimately giving you some secret pleasure?
We can sometimes be gluttons for punishment. We may intentionally seek what is forbidden because we cave into the pleasure it gives us. In some serious situations, this can border on addiction.
On a scientific level, when we indulge in pleasurable experiences, we release dopamine (which is the “feel good” hormone, among other responsibilities that it has). We feel good immediately after a pleasurable experience. That can lead us to ask, “Why do I keep doing this?” To that, it’s obvious. You would keep doing the thing that makes you feel good.
But like I mentioned before, this can be in a situation where you consciously know it’s not ideal, like sexual or drug addictions. Regarding a secret pleasure scenario, it may require additional help from experts or counselors. Understand that it may take outside help to change the behavior patterns that urge you to seek pleasure.
3. Is this a behavior or pattern developed from childhood?
Is it subconscious programming from your childhood environment?
I found myself in a situation where my subconscious programming came to light, and it smacked me over the head. I was dating a guy (we had been seeing each other for two to three months, so it was still fairly new) when I had misinterpreted a text conversation we had and falsely accused him of cheating on me.
I had no proof, no evidence, and no reason to suspect such behavior from him. Needless to say, we spent hours in text conversation—me pleading and apologizing the error of my ways.
I had to take a step back and think to myself, “Why did I display such behavior? Why do I keep doing this? What was it that prompted such an inaccurate assumption?”
Then it hit me—hard. I witnessed such accusations growing up. In my childhood mind, somehow that was okay. It was okay to accuse and question people’s behaviors (in the mind of a child). Now as an adult, I have learned and understood that the behavior of accusations without proof and evidence is not okay. It’s not an acceptable behavior, especially if I want to build a trusting relationship with someone.
As children, we absorb behaviors and patterns shown to us from our parents, our environment, our friends, and our teachers. We form such beliefs at an early age, and they run our programming well into adulthood.
My question to you is when you find yourself asking, “Why do I keep doing this?” is it a behavior that is possibly rooted from childhood? If so, address the behavior, question the validity of it, and shift it into a new programming.
Why you do the things you do is a discovery unto itself.
Sometimes, we do things without thinking them through, and other times, we do so because we’re seeking pleasure.
When you find yourself asking, “Why do I keep doing this?” look at the situation. You might be able to learn more about yourself that you wouldn’t have expected.