Are you aware that most of your behavior is incredibly repetitive?
Your brain has an innate drive to find what works and to stick with it. This ability is more efficient and saves time with all the information that is coming in. This repetition can be useful as in knowing the quickest route to work, putting your keys in the same place, preparing meals on Sundays, etc. On the flip side, this repetition can become incredibly destructive as seen in addictions to substances, behaviors, or relationships.
Repetition allows for automaticity. You don’t have to think about what you’re doing. The process uses less energy. As mentioned earlier, this is very efficient for day to day activities. The problem is that automaticity doesn’t promote an intentional life. If you want to be in the driver’s seat in your life (which I’m assuming you do since you’re reading this), then practicing an awareness of the way your brain seeks habit through repetition will benefit you tremendously.
Your brain is constantly monitoring your behavior. It then creates meaning about you based on how it perceived that behavior and the meaning that it makes is largely emotional. All emotions are designed to drive behavior that is either toward satisfaction or away from dissatisfaction. The pitfall is when you either choose to or don’t know how to listen to your emotions and continue to behave in ways that generate bad feelings and, therefore, rehearse a negative perception of yourself.
What this means is that if you behave in positive ways that generate positive emotions, your brain will perceive itself (you) from a more positive perspective and you will feel better about yourself and the world around you. Since your brain is more efficient with habit, the tendency is for it to resist new ways of behaving. That takes new thinking, and therefore, more energy. So there tends to be a bit of an uphill battle when it comes to behavior change, but, if the end result is feeling better and having a better self-concept, then why not take the climb?
Please don’t think that I am side stepping the effects of traumatic experiences and the expression of depression, anxiety, rage, terror, or shame. Those are very real and very powerful. But, here we have another snag. There are many sources and studies that indicate that the behavior that is promoted by those emotions fuels the emotions, not alleviates them. Staying home and alone when you’re feeling depressed tends to make it worse. Avoiding and silencing yourself when you’re feeling anxiety, just rehearses the anxiety. Remember, your brain is constantly watching your behavior and if it continues to observe behavior in ways that reinforces a negative feeling, then the narration of your inner world continues in the same negative way. Then you start telling yourself that you are a “depressed person” or an “anxious person.” Your world view gets skewed in this way and your behavior will follow in order to support that world view. That world view becomes habituated.
Behavior change takes discipline.
That might sound intimidating, but we have an element of beauty that can be implemented here. This beauty is our ability to use our values. Values guide us. Valuing honesty promotes truth telling. Valuing equality promotes non-judgment. Valuing joy promotes laughter.
I say value kindness. If you wake up each morning and move through your day with kindness as a guiding principle, then choose behavior to support that perspective. Is it kinder to yourself to eat fresh fruit and eggs for breakfast than coffee and a donut? Then do it. Is it kinder for you to let a car in front of you on the freeway onramp? Then go for it. Is it a kind option to act out like you did yesterday? Of course not. All that will do is generate more chaos, isolation, and shame. Stop behaving in ways that rehearse habituated negativity. You’re wasting your time.
I know that this type of perspective isn’t always possible. In fact, it doesn’t make any sense at all in some cases. If you become aware that your daughter has been getting chronically bullied at school, your initial impulse is not going to want to come from a place of kindness toward that bully. However, I think you will see that it is much more possible than you may think. The more you do it, the kinder you will feel and the more kindness you will see in the possibilities of the decisions before you. You will continue to unfold into a deepening awareness that a kinder option will most likely be the better option. As your behavior continues in this way, your world perspective will follow. Decisions that lay before you will become much easier to maneuver around and problems won’t seem so bad because your perspective will be searching for a kind solution. You will be able to trust yourself more because your choices will be guided by a much different and gentler perspective. Your life will become much more peaceful and your body will reward you by feeling better. Your activities will serve you and those around you by promoting well-being and abundance.
Imagine what this world would look like if we all behaved from this perspective.
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