It’s that moment when you realize you’ve had enough. You are done! You are ready to make a change. Change begins with a vision of how you want things to be: a new job, better physical or emotional health, more money in savings, better relationships, or taking a hold of life and finally doing the things for yourself you have always wanted. The only problem is that if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.
Next, change involves comparing what your vision of a better or ideal situation is with the one you have currently. How does it feel to be in the rat race – the unfulfilling job (or career!), to feel sluggish and depressed, to be in debt or barely scraping by, to keep enabling dysfunctional relationships or living day to day with unresolved guilt or anger? It feels far better to envision the dream than it does to look at your current reality, doesn’t it? So, what do you do? How does change happen? How do you bridge this gap?
Pathways. Wait, what? Yes, pathways. Our brains are essentially computers that run off of scripts that develop and then get reinforced daily thereafter. These scripts are neurological pathways and they are responsible for our “autopilot” scenarios where we find ourselves doing the same things over and over again, seemingly without effort, yet either leading us to fulfillment or despair. Let’s start with a simple example of your morning routine. Many people wake up, shower, make coffee, get breakfast, etc. in a certain order in a certain way. This is a routine. Routines are made up of scripts. Pathways are relational and behavioral routines that we follow daily without thinking. “Just lay in bed for another hour, don’t get up and jog or go to the gym,” they tell you. “Just deal with it later,” or “he’ll change – eventually,” and “If I work someplace else, I’ll be dealing with the same stuff.” In order to change you have to change the pathways, the self-defeating thoughts, and the dysfunctional habits in the way of your happiness.
When I was a boy I played in the woods with other kids a lot! We would explore, build forts, and entertain ourselves simply with nature. I think about the well-worn dirt trails on the way to the fort we built that led us everyday after school. The well-worn path was solid, hard dirt surrounded by grass, bushes, thicket, and fallen branches. You could always find the path. Imagine trying to create a new path, though. Let’s look at what it would take. First, you’d have to stop using the old path. Daily walking on dirt keeps the dirt hard and compact and prevents weeds and grasses from covering over the path again. Our routines are embedded, that’s why they are difficult to change. While you are avoiding the old path you’d also have to start walking through and clearing a new path. You have to immediately start in a new direction with new behaviors and thoughts. This doesn’t happen overnight, however. Walking the new path helps harden the dirt and kill the grass and weeds but you may need to clear some things out of the way first. Maybe cut through some thicket. Move some fallen branches. It takes work to make the new path more accessible. What are the big things in your life that are blocking your new path that you need to start dealing with? Now the most boring and most difficult part – repetition. Now you have to daily work at this new path. So, the point is you have to focus on the new path while forgetting the old path. Seems simple in thought but difficult in practice.
So, what are the things you need to clear, change, and fix in order for you to start a new path? Is it to stop shopping whenever you “feel like it” so you can save money? Is it going to sleep 30 minutes earlier and getting up 30 minutes earlier to go exercise? Is it finally saying, “Enough is enough” and stop putting up with dysfunctional behaviors in your relationships? These changes can be easier when you recognize that the path you are currently on is getting you nowhere and that YOU have the power to create a new path. Are you ready?