I shared this story with one of my clients today, and I saw it had an impact. So I thought I would write it up to share with you too.
A few months ago, I changed a few things around in my kitchen. I moved the glasses to a new spot. What I found amazing to watch, is how many times I went to the old cupboard to get a glass. Often it was when I was on ‘autopilot’, and it wasn’t until I opened the old cupboard that it dawned on me that I had moved them.
After about a week or so, I stopped going back to the old cupboard so often, until one day out the blue a few months down the track, I went back there again. What did that mean? Was I undisciplined, broken, lacking or useless? Of course not. I simply had acted on an old brain pathway because my mind was probably somewhere else, and it took me back to the old cupboard.
This is such a great way to highlight just how our brain works when it comes to ANY habits, and why we should actually expect to go back to the ‘old cupboard’ from time to time, no matter what habit we’re trying to stop doing.
Depending on what the habit is, we simply love to judge it or think it means something way more than it does when we end up back in the ‘old cupboard’. We love to berate ourselves when we end up back there. We think it means something when we do it, that it says something about our character, about who we are, or maybe that we just don’t have it is us to change. But it’s never a problem, unless we think it is. And thinking it is a problem only stems from a misunderstanding of thought.
The truth is, it’s all just habitual thought that has been ingrained in our brain to help us get things done. Then when we don’t want to do that behaviour anymore, our habitual brain doesn’t know that, and it will keep trying to send us there to do the behaviour. Like any well worn path, it doesn’t grow over over night. It takes time, and an understanding that it is just brain junk that we don’t have to pay attention to anymore is super helpful for anyone wanting to create new pathways (or behaviours). Expecting those pathways to grow over over night is unrealistic.
It’s helpful to see that it’s not the urge to do our habit that is the problem, it is our reaction to it.
I often get asked, “when will I not experience urges to eat carbs or sugar?.’ Well, if I knew that I would probably be a very wealthy women. That’s going to depend on how well worn that path is, and how much thought you have tied to doing that behaviour… which in my experience is usually a whole heap!
But why does it matter if we get the urge to do those behaviours we don’t want to do anymore? To me it’s just simply an amazing example of how our brain works. We don’t have to fear it. We don’t have to act on it. We can see it for what it is – a pathway we don’t want to walk on anymore, and let it go. It might be uncomfortable for a while as our brain continues to send out that message, but again… why does that matter? It’s only temporary, it will pass.
It’s never the urges that are the problem, but our reactions to it. Even after years of not eating sugar, I still experiences urges to eat it. But because I know where it’s coming from, I am not frightened by it. I certainly don’t think it means there is something wrong with me for experiencing them!
Our habitual brain (or lizard brain) is where our habit sits. It can’t act, it just sends out messages. But the gift of our conscious brain allows us to see that we have a choice as to whether we act on it or not. Unless of course we head there without even being aware of it, in which case, we are just on autopilot and not focused on the present moment! Which we all do… and no, we’re not defective or broken if we do that. We’re a normal human being having a very normal human experience. The less we judge it, the less we think it means something, the quicker we will move on from it.
Change is an internal job that is made so much easier when we understand how it works. When we see that all that is required is awareness and understanding, it all just starts to look a whole lot different and a lot less scary!
Want to see to a world beyond your thoughts and your habits? I would love to show you where to look. All you need to be is curious.