Have you ever wondered why some people don’t make positive changes in their lives, even when they could? Well, there’s more to it than you might think. Oddly enough, making ANY changes in life isn’t natural. Our brains are wired to resist change which is why we LOVE all things predictable. C’mon, it makes perfect sense! Why else would it take so much time to break a habit? We like routine and are most comfortable in familiar environments doing tasks we understand and around people we already know. We don’t like changes.
When it comes to change, some people are all bark and no bite. Why? Because, they don't actually want to change as much as they they profess. We are bias and want to believe what we already believe to be truth. Right now, YOU may be resisting this notion which actually proves the whole point. Changing thinking patterns needs to happen before a change in behavioral patterns. To slip by your natural resistance, be curious around the idea that people can trick themselves into thinking they want something while staying comfortable by doing what they already know. Don’t believe me? Look around, it's everywhere! “I want to lose weight, I want to have more money, I want to work out more, I’m want move out of my parents house, I want to travel” and the list goes on and on with the same conclusion; after a day, week month or year – life remains the same! I know what you're thinking right now; "Jed, we can't 'will' something to happen when we don't have the actual means. It's silly to think that we can use our arms to FLY if we want it bad enough!" And you're right so instead of thinking of it as 'will-power', think about it as 'want-power'. Did you just try to trick yourself into not giving merit to the information you just read because it requires a change in how you think about things?
Taking the easy way out works...until it doesn’t.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, Not only are human brains wired to get the most from the least amount of effort (go ahead and read that twice), it also releases a bunch of feel good chemicals JUST BY THINKING about doing something new, adventurous, fun, etc. This explains why so many people talk a good game (bark loud) but then don't actually follow through (bite) on plans. Initially, it feels really good to think you're going to do something hard that has a positive effect on life! It's exciting. People like hearing it and you end up being validated on JUST THE THOUGHT! Everything feels so good until the follow through gets uncomfortable...so, you end up not doing it. This probably sounds familiar and it should; we've been doing it for roughly 30,000 years.
Evolution is real and our current version of the brain is much different than the original. Just like everything else alive, the brain has evolved. That pesky old-brain wiring trips us up! It's not all bad, though. In fact, the antiquated part of our brain that steers us toward the path of least resistance is partly how we've survived as a species. The animals that learned to conserve their energy for when they needed it, lived. The ones that didn't, died. To the brain, changing something is a waste of energy and needs to be avoided at all costs, in order to survive.
Change doesn't just happen automatically. It requires creating a new path of thought, so the old brain thinks to itself, "why make a whole new trail when we already have one that we know?" What it doesn't think about are all of the negative aspects of that line of thought. The one you know is full of trip-wires, pitfalls and poison ivy but...it IS already there and it's immediately easier. And who KNOWS how much energy a new trail will spend?! Even the thought of change takes energy that, like it or not, you don't want to give up. What we end up doing is, yep, you guessed it – conserving energy - so we tend to do the same thing we’ve always done.
We trick ourselves into taking the immediate path of least resistance.
We grow the most when we're uncomfortable. It's one of those truths we don't like to think about let along, accept! Let's think about it anyway. IF this were true, it would mean that doing uncomfortable (hard) things made us stronger. Wait, that would mean that taking the easy way...makes us weaker. If this is a troublesome thought, it's probably because we know that life doesn't make exceptions for the weak animals. In fact, it tends to snatch them up in a terribly uncomfortable manner! In the past, only the strong survived but in the 21st century, only the strong-minded, will thrive.
Ever heard the saying, "time waits for no man"? If not, you've been living under a rock because the phrase has been around since the 1300's. It originated from sailors who used the tides to navigate setting sail on their sea journeys. You either sailed with the tide or you waiting until the next tide to come before you could progress. At this point, you might say to yourself, "phew, I've got time!" And you're right, you always have time but the time you have left is inherently connected to the time you've already spent. In other words, you may have to wait prepare for the next tide to come in before you set sail. Things take time. Preparing for a voyage takes time. Growth takes time and humans tend to struggle a lot with being patient when it comes to time.
There’s a dirty little secret that nobody talks about.
Don't kill the messenger! I'm not going to lie, there's a little bit of giddiness that comes with the next part. Believe me, I take extreme pleasure knowing that your awareness will be raised after reading this ONE paragraph. Are you ready? Ready or not - time rolls on and life will happen so lets have some fun. Changing life for the better takes work and...it gets worse. Turns out, that the amount of work actually increases - when we avoid it. This isn't comforting and it's likely being rejected by your thinking right now so lets use an analogy. Sit back, relax and think of a nice big pile of cow manure. It’s heaped there right next to your bed, all nasty-like. The smell is rancid which might be why you're having nightmares anytime you're able to miraculously fall asleep. And when you're awake, life doesn't get any better because getting around the room has become a slippery matter! Plus, there's flies now and they're everywhere. It's gotten out of hand…I mean, they’re a serious nuisance - a hazard even. So much so, that you can barely see through the buzzing haze which makes navigating the heap of dung even more precarious. Of course, we want the whole matter gone but here’s the thing – the longer it takes us to clean up, the bigger that pile of crap gets! The room is your life and the ever increasing mound of maggots is whatever we are avoiding.
Thank you for your patience! I may have gone a little overboard on the analogy. OK, back to the point and if you’re STILL wondering why people stay in a putrid life of stench I’ll break it down into two simple reasons:
Nowadays, humans tend not to respond well to accountability. Modern society seems to value victims which is your thinking pattern if you've resisted the information presented here. In session, it phrases saying “it’s not about me! I'm not the problem! It’s the issue that’s making my life so horrible and I want it to be easier, I can't help my circumstances!” I get it. No unhappy person ever wants to hear that it’s their issues that keeps the reeking pile of funk at the side of the bed. That’s getting personal…it's uncomfortable to hear. Are - you - hearing - it? Making changes in life is the opposite of easy. The best life will be filled with uncomfortable and the unaware and prideful human will very likely be tricked into striving for a life of ease. Are - you - listening?
Ego is easy and requires little humility. Being humble may be the most difficult requirement needed to change in life. Getting honest can be one of the most terrifying things anyone can do. It’s a very...exposed and vulnerable for someone to say, "I messed up and it's to the point that I can't keep avoiding this". Doesn’t that sound just dreadful? Believe me, it is - especially when everyone else seems to have life figured out. Oh, here’s another little secret that isn’t often shared and disbelieved when it is heard – ready? NOBODY HAS LIFE FIGURED OUT! Sure, some life sailors have a bit more awareness and experience around the whole 'life' thing, but nobody gets out without really screwing things up a time or two..or three or four, etc.
We carry regret.
It's easy to beat ourselves up. I like to say, "we ‘should’ on ourselves" mainly because it makes me chuckle seeing peoples initial reaction to the sentence. We SHOULD on ourselves by thinkin we didn’t do it as well as we 'should' have but here’s the thing; people do the best they can with the thinking they’ve got. Read that a thousand times if you haven't heard it before. Our ever evolving brain needs explanation to feel at ease and this...understanding, allows an escape hatch into having compassion for ourselves. It's much easier to address the pile of shite that may or may not represent our current life situation, when we learn to be kind to ourselves.
Find more emotional intelligence information on the website www.meaningtolive.com and be sure to follow all of the Jed Said Therapy social media for almost daily mental health updates.
Till next time - awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC