Friday, September 7, 2012

Change Your Habits: Change Your Life

It is easy to be controlled by habit. Our neural pathways take in far more information than we can analyze and one way the conditioned mind deals with information overload is to look for patterns. Turns out that the mind is so incredibly efficient at finding patterns, that it routinely finds them even when no patterns actually exist.

Patterns become encoded into habits to make it easier to respond to the tsunami of stimuli. The result is that when someone says "food fight," we begin jumping around and waving the hands. Well, it is possible I suppose that it's a different trigger and response for you personally, but you get the idea.

When an intriguing new idea comes along that we would like to try in our lives--it might be that we decide to stop smoking or we might even decide to stop burning--doesn't matter what it is really. The point is that we decide to give it a try but then we run up against habit. The new behavior is not in our repertoire and we find it exceedingly difficult to follow through with our plan.

This idea of habits was discussed recently on Hugh McLeod's blog, which is a location that I strongly recommend. Many good ideas there. You can find it by clicking here:

Hugh's comment perfectly encapsulates the message: "Habits eat good intentions for breakfast." Please remember, all the credit for this comment goes to Hugh, not me.

Habits have both a trigger and a response. A best way to change a habit and make it a useful tool rather than an obstacle is through mindfulness. Why? Because we often aren't even aware of our habits and how they control our lives. Through the art of paying close attention to what is happening in our lives, we shine light on those habits and clearly identify the ones that don't work for us any more--assuming that they once had a good purpose.

When we identify the trigger that leads to the habitual response, we simply replace the old response with the new one. Now when someone says "food fight" we respond with the healthier new behavior.

Over the next few days, we will be discussion specific meditation techniques for retooling those old habits. Watch for the label: Change Your Life.


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