Not feeling confident enough? Good enough? Questioning your decisions as you go through the same loops of thought and emotion? Do you often feel like history is repeating itself and find yourself doubting that things can be different? Maybe you believe that things would have been different if you had more support from the people around you? If the circumstances you live in had been different? I know how it feels.
Sometimes we walk through life like we are powerless. Or we get into a habit of needing someone to hold our hand before making those big decisions. It may be hard to believe, but being powerless is something we have learnt along the way. We have learnt to wait for someone else’s approval. We have learnt to focus on failures, setbacks, obstacles. Maybe even to such an extent this is all we can focus on even before it actually happens!
How to see challenges as opportunities
The truth is, we cannot predict what the future has in store. However, we can learn to see challenges as opportunities to explore our own beliefs, and to redefine them, if necessary. So even if you think someone owes it to you, or that life has not been fair, it might be time to ask yourself why you feel like that in the first place. What part of you has given away the power?
The thing is, although we tend to define ourselves according to our current circumstances, it is useful to know that every change actually starts within. Understanding how our brain works is crucial here. Once we start to understand the reasons why we behave in a certain way and realise that we have the power to change this it’s possible to switch the polarity around.
The keys to building and breaking habits
Our brain has two main priorities: safety and efficiency. As it is naturally wired to keep us away from anything that might threaten us. It steers us away from new experiences that require more conscious engagement. Our brain also operates on the basis of pattern matching. So when we encounter a new situation our brain looks to identify patterns associated with what it already understands. The thing is, we spend most of our time responding to daily situations on autopilot. The problem arises when certain patterns or beliefs we have grown up with prove to be unhelpful. So if we are not consciously paying attention to what is happening, then the habitual, primitive part of the brain automatically plays its existing, familiar programme.
The brain’s need for efficiency is evident when we operate instinctively. This is particularly the case when we encounter danger. In these situations, it happens automatically for the sake of self-preservation. We all have experienced reacting to something before we actually had time to think about it, like stepping on a break or catching an object before it hits the ground. The same thing happens when we respond angrily to someone over and over again or follow other negative patterns of behaviour, expecting the results to be different.
The science behind making a change
Logically, if we keep on doing the same thing then we feel the same way and we think the same way. Before we even realise it, these habits become so entrenched that our future starts paying for our past. Luckily, there are ways to override this.
Although it was thought that our subconscious mind controls everything, we now know that our conscious mind can also be in control. The best example to illustrate this are yogis who, with their conscious intention, are able to control the working of the autonomous vegetative system, which means their breathing, temperature or heart pressure. Another example are sports psychologists known for encouraging athletes to rehearse their success in their mind as it activates the same neural pathways as the actual exercise.
Although the amount of tasks you can consciously be aware of at the same time is relatively low, the good news is that when we are aware – we can control our responses. This means you can change the way you’ve been thinking, feeling and behaving by focusing your attention on desired outcome. Despite being bombarded by a vast amount of information on a daily basis and sometimes maybe even feeling overwhelmed, you can learn to train your brain to be as specific and as selective as possible. If you’d like to know more about how to do this in practice please get in touch.
Want to know more? Try this – It’s okay to be afraid