Step 3: Consider Ways to INTEGRATE it into My Life
So far, you have established that better serving thoughts, feelings, and actions, as manifestations of more sustainable values is something you desire. You have also expanded your understanding of the ways in which your choice of thoughts, feelings and actions would be more or less serving if adopted. In other words, if you keep doing what you have always done, you keep getting what you you’ve been getting, which has brought you to this crisis point. Or, by adopting a new set of behaviours, mindset and the way you emote, you could create a totally new life experience, that included; more clarity of mind, improved health and wellbeing, more consistent joy and an engagement in living life with purpose and passion.
If you decide to choose the latter, then you need to understand what it will take to weave this new way of ‘being’ into your life. This is a very pragmatic part of the process, because this is working out how you can have this be real and not just a wish. This same approach will be applied to any aspect of your life that you choose to change. This is the point where more recent research in Neuroscience helps us to understand how important this part of the process is. This is essentially laying the foundation to a new neural pathway, which eventually becomes a more beneficial subconscious state of consciousness otherwise known as a habit.
Several things contribute to having this new neural pathway become a new beneficial habit. Firstly, the pathway (strategy for adopting new thoughts, behaviours and feelings) has to be possible, especially as far as the brain is concerned. The more detailed the strategy, the more the brain is able to recycle/replicate bits of other strategies that are applicable in this context. It also means that if there are missing pieces to the strategy, bite-sized pieces of detail can be created so that the strategy makes sense to the brain. The more that it is ‘possible’ the strategy can be achieved, and the more believable it is, the better the chance that the pathway will become established.
Secondly, when emotion is linked to the development of new neural pathways (joyful or painful) the quicker and more robustly the neural pathway evolves. So in addition to developing a plausible strategy, you will also need to also identify positive emotions, which you would expect to be linked to this new possibility. Obviously, to both identify what the emotional state might include, and what the bite-sized pieces to the strategy would include, you will be relying on the research you did on the Pros and Cons in Step 2.
The third aspect that contributes to the successful development of the new neural pathway is reminding yourself that you will not be expected to use discipline or willpower to put the strategies into action. Instead you will be committing to the practice of being mindful (more about that in Step 4). This is difficult to do if you are a perfectionist or a ‘jump-to-it’ kind of person. When there is an expectation about how difficult it is to change habits, and that in much of your experience your changes weren’t sustainable, there is a tendency to be extra vigilant about making sure you will succeed this time. Both that, and a lack of faith and understanding in the capacity for mindfulness to sustainably create new habits will see you wanting to become wilful.
A detailed, well researched strategy, joy-filled habits (that are better serving), and not being driven to change habits are the key elements needed to create a life in which you are kinder to yourself, to others and to the planet.
For those of you who wake up each morning and your first thought is ‘heck, another day of trying to survive, or trying to make it through unscathed’, this all seems out of reach. It’s hard enough to survive the day, let alone come up with new detailed strategies. And the last thing you want to hear is that you need to do things better. Anyone else tells you that you are faulty and you’ll punch them in the nose! If you have got to the point where you are highly motivated to have things be different, then there is a fourth strategy that you can adopt to help you build your new neural pathways – ask for assistance.
Sometimes it is too difficult to sort this stuff out on your own, and that is when you go and ask for help. Of course that requires a degree of meekness, but there will be someone in your network of friends who you know is good at this stuff, and given how loveable you are (one of your survival strategies) they would be more than delighted to help you. You ask them to help you create a set of strategies, that are unique to you, that will make it possible for you to identify a more self-loving alternate reality, a reality where you get to live a life you love, one that includes waking up fresh each morning, accompanied by a sense of joy of having another day to do what you love doing most.
Sounds impossible? In the majority of cases, new habits are formed in much the same way for almost everyone. There are a few exceptions, but this formula has been successfully applied to people from a variety of circumstances. When change is motivated by love and not fear, it is typically easier to do, and lasts longer.
In our next article, we’ll be looking at how to make your changes sustainable.
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