The Real Reason Change is So Hard
“Where did my time go today?” you ask yourself. You’re exhausted, but you take one more look at your to-do list anyway. You’ve barely made a dent. Frustration and disappointment creep in and your negative self-talk explodes.
“You lazy bones, it says, you’re never going to be successful if you don’t get more done.” Despite your best efforts, you can’t shut off the mental noise and the stress that follows.
There is an adage that says “Change your mind, change your life.”
The wisdom in these words, it surely worth listening to, but why is change so hard?
Simply, you are working against history. The way you speak to yourself isn’t your fault nor is that habit of making long lists that never get accomplished.
Everything that you think, do and believe came from somewhere, whether you were conscious of it or not.
Brain Development 101: How Your Brain is Unconsciously Programmed
Your Family Roots
Your thinking is rooted deeply in your upbringing. The way your first caregivers tended to you forms the basis for your inner voice. The core messages that were your family’s “voice of reason” become yours as well.
How It Manifests for You: Consider what negative habits might be holding you back from accomplishing your goals. For example, some of my clients hold onto a lot of residual fear from their childhood, “Look both ways or you’ll get hit by a car,” or “Wash your hands or you’ll get <insert disease here>.”
Those Close Encounters:
Your mind has also developed from your significant experiences, like the time he dumped you out of the blue and you never learned why. Unknown to you, the primal part of your brain jumped in to protect you from more hurt and wrote a belief around “men.”
How It Manifests for You: If you had an absentee parent, perhaps commitment is too hard (or too easy) for you. In business, maybe you don’t follow through because too many things were done for you in your day-to-day life.
Research is still exploring, but has not proven, this piece of brain development. Some people believe in past lives and the genetic inheritance of traits from another existence or relatives.
How It Manifests for You: The best example may be your ancestry. Native Americans, for example, were kicked off their land and forced into harsh living conditions. Could you be feeling unsettled in your workplace, like anything you build will be taken away from you?
The key takeaway here is that you have a lot of history behind you. It has been programmed into your mind, literally down to the cellular and neural network pathways of your brain.
While this overview only scratches the surface, you should consider how you will move forward in your life or work, and what steps you can take to re-program your mind.
Set Yourself Free: Retrain Your Brain
Your brain didn’t develop overnight, and neither will your new habits. Before you burn yourself out, here are some helpful tips to get started on a process that rewires your brain:
Recognize Why You React
Try to play a little game with yourself over the next few weeks. The goal is to recognize, from the above list, how you developed certain attitudes or habits.
For example, if you get negative feedback from a client, do you dwell on it? Could this be hard for you to let go of because a parent was too harsh with you over your grades as a child? You are actually feeling inadequate because you feel like you got a B on your test.
Embrace Your Emotions
As we become adults, we may need to recognize emotional responses for what they are: messengers. When you feel emotional; nurture that emotion. Instead of reacting to a situation or shaming yourself for feeling the way you do, hit the “pause” button and focus on taking care of yourself. Ask yourself “what am I really needing? How else can I take care of this need?”
Prioritize the learning experience
Romantic relationships, if nothing else, teach us to recognize red flags. Your intuition is very powerful. Trust it.
Just like a personal break up, maybe you need to break up with some of your bad habits. You might need to tell Facebook, “It’s over,” or set boundaries with a client over the use of your time.
Here’s the hard part: your personal development is up to you. And most of us are pretty terrible at doing this by ourselves. It’s just too easy to slip back into old, comfortable habits.
Remember that you can always rely on professional support to help you through the tough part. You do have the ability to change your brain, and change your life.