Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Breaking Free of the Limited You: Isn't it Time?

Tony Robbins, the master teacher of reinventing oneself, said, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten." Ouch, I can see myself in that statement. Can you?

One of the funny things about having a personality is that we each see life through a particular lens, but we don't realize the limitations this creates. You might think that what you're seeing is objective reality, or at least what's indisputably true for you. (nobody appreciates me, there's never enough money, I can't lose weight).

We do the same things, think the same thoughts, eat the same foods, have the same emotional reactions, over and over again, and then we're frustrated when we get the same results, year after year. We might try to change our thoughts or behavior, only to eventually fall back into our old patterns.

We see other people getting more desirable results, and we think they must be luckier than us, or smarter, or more privileged, or have better genes. There may be some truth to that (or a lot of truth to that), but when it comes down to it, their results are better because of what they're doing, thinking, and feeling on a daily basis.

Why do we do what we do?
Our behavior is largely motivated by personal costs and benefits. For instance, consuming alcohol or rich food is fine as long as the benefit we receive from it outweighs the cost. But if we start experiencing health problems or become overly dependent for emotional reasons, then the cost of indulging will begin to outweigh the benefit, which would normally prompt a change in behavior. Unfortunately, habits can turn into addictive behavior, which tends to override our ability to weigh costs and benefits rationally.

Then there are the less obvious traps we fall into. Like when we repeatedly allow ourselves to be treated disrespectfully in order to avoid conflict or confrontation. Or when we habitually oppose authority because we have unresolved parent issues and refuse to play by someone else's rules. Some people even prolong illness or other forms of disability in order to experience secondary gains, such as sympathy or freedom from responsibility.

Patterns like these, if left unexplored, can escalate and eventually take over our lives. But if we're brave enough to face ourselves and do our inner work, we can gain understanding and break free of our limiting beliefs and habits.

This week, I encourage you to take a quick inventory of what's working in your life, and what's not. Being that it's the new year, you may have already done this. For simplicity's sake, let's assume that the areas of your life that are going well are the result of functional thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and habits. This may not be a hundred percent true, but if it ain't broke, there's no need to fix it, right?

Then look at the area that needs most improvement, or is the most chronically irritating to you (it's been on your list of resolutions every year for most of your life!) This is where you need to go within and find out what belief or fear is controlling you. You might access this through journaling, EFT, or talking to a friend; or you might need a coach or therapist to guide you through it. In any event, finding the motive behind the problem thoughts, feelings, and behavior is key. Once you've done this, changing the pattern becomes possible.

Good luck, and have a great week.