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Creating Sustainable Change - Part 3

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Step 2: LEARN More About the Pros and Cons


In ignorance, most people aren’t aware of any better serving alternatives for how they live their life. If they have been made aware, they typically disregard the alternatives because they feel too much effort is required to adopt the new practices (avoidance). However, if their suffering is sufficient, they do end up trying to adopt a new approach to life, but they find the changes unsustainable (attachment). Ignorance, attachment and avoidance equate to Buddha’s Three Poisons, the things that cause our suffering and ultimately our death.

Learning more about the pros and cons is really all about becoming more aware, which is the remedy to the Three Poisons. Awareness is about having more knowledge and understanding. Let’s use exercise as a context for understanding awareness. In ignorance you relate to exercise based on your programming. If your childhood programming saw you exposed to role models (parents primarily) who actively participated in exercise, then you will most likely adopt that as part of your approach to life. If your parents were couch potatoes, there is a good chance you will become one too. As you progress through adulthood, you will typically align with your programming.

In either scenario, your choice about exercise is subconscious, you are not aware of one stance or the other. Typically you do what you have always done, resulting in you experiencing what you have always experienced, that is until natural justice, time (ageing) or misfortune cause discomfort or suffering. Finding yourself in a place of pain and suffering you are now motivated to seek more knowledge and understanding about your predicament. In the majority of cases your motive to research is finding the least difficult way to stop your pain and suffering, which for many of us is about finding the quickest remedy. After consulting Dr Goggle, we visit our actual doctor, where we are presented with a medical choice; rest, medication, maybe physical therapy, or even surgery.

Resolving the problem in this way, typically sees us resort to our old habits, since we have done nothing to replace these habits. All we have done is ‘treated’ the symptoms. We seem to rationalise that we can create a different result even though we are doing what we have always done. Einstein explained, it is insanity to think that by doing the same thing we will get a different result. So needless to say, in a matter of time a new bout of suffering or pain arises, that is either the same as the last experience or is the last experience compounded. This is enough to motivate us to seek more knowledge and understanding, which expands our options. We might go and see a specialist, of natural therapist or a TCM practitioner. We may even expand our research online.

Having found a way to approach our recovery, we now are in a position to better understand not only the benefits of exercise, but also the type of exercise that is best suited to our personal idiosyncrasies; age, state of wellbeing, time limits, location etc. It takes effort to become more aware. The more aware you become, the more choices you have. But knowledge and choice aren’t sufficient to bring lasting changes to our habits. How many times have you personally, or “someone you know”, signed up to the gym, or began an exercise routine, only to have it all fall in a heap a few days, weeks or months later? These people drop-out knowing they need to exercise, since they don’t want a repeat of their previous pain and suffering, but even with that awareness, they can’t maintain their commitment.

As explained, just knowledge and understanding of the pros and cons aren’t enough to change habits (irrespective of whether they are habitual behaviours, thoughts and emotions). In part one, I discussed that being motivated by self-love instead of fear meant there was a greater chance of sustainability. So in addition to researching the pros and cons of exercise, or whatever the habit is that needs to change, we also need to understand the pros and cons of the different motives for change. Becoming aware of fear vs love based motives and their pros and cons is a whole new ball game. This may be the point where we learn how mindfulness can bring about lasting change. Most of us are aware of the power of fear to bring change, but we also know that many times that is not sustainable.

When our desire to change our habits is in response to wanting to be more self-loving, any new behaviours, thoughts and feelings that we adopt, are mostly more sustainable. Becoming more aware of the difference between fear and self-loving motives means that our choices expand to include a commitment to self-nurture and wellbeing, which would include more prevention, and safer and less dramatic remedies. The other aspect of this step is that the commitment to awareness is ongoing. Once we are committed to being mindful of better serving (self-loving) choices, our radar is constantly looking out for more current or more accurate information that expands the quality of our choices. Remember, this information is being gathered not so we will go out and change our habits, but to provide us with the capacity to remember that there is a more self-loving alternative for which we can be mindful.

This is what builds the new neural pathways that eventually becomes our preferred way of being. Understanding the pros and cons makes creating new neural pathways a reality.

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