The key to reprogramming your nervous system and stimulating neuroplastic changes is repetition. There has been much research done on why it is so difficult to change behavior. We all know how difficult it is to keep New Year’s resolutions. Why is that? We are often quite serious about it at the time. There is a proverbial quote, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It has attributed to a 12th century monk, Bernard of Clairvaux.
Success is not enough
In one weight loss study the participants who were successful in losing the desired amount of weight were likely to revert back to old patterns of behavior and regain the weight. Even tasting success and feeling better was not enough to sustain change. Behavioral patterns usually win out unless you learn tools to steadily chip away at them. Instead of having a general goal to, “Get my life back”, just commit to something that is eminently doable realizing that you are still going to frequently fail.
Keep it simple
It is much easier to teach the material I am presenting than to practice it. I am right in there with everyone else in frequently failing. I have learned to commit to small daily practices that have made a significant difference over time. I am able to do my expressive writing for at least one minute once or twice per day. I engage in active meditation as often as I can remember to do so. I am successful 5 to 10 times per day. There are several small inspirational books I look at for a couple of minutes three or four times per week. I am committed to becoming aware of when I dive into my creative ways of remaining a victim and just the awareness helps me to re-direct my energies. I am becoming truly grateful for what I do have. I look at art, read the paper, or watch a historical movie to really drive it home. Choosing to be grateful for small things is important and I will often write them down. Working on improving my sleep habits is doable and is turning out to be a major factor in the quality my of day-to-day life.
By sticking with simple strategies I have watched my behavioral patterns change and I have been able to layer on more complex activities such as play, creativity and giving back. If I quit my expressive writing (why would I do that?), some of my historical physical symptoms will reliably return within a couple of weeks. My feet burn, my ears ring, I can’t sleep well, I become more reactive, small skin rashes appear on both of my wrists, and I will wake up with a headache. This is just the beginning and the other symptoms emerge quickly. When I finally wake up and re-engage and I will better within a week. This pattern of behavior and physical response has been consistent.
I am steadily becoming more proactive. I know this cycle will always exist. If I make the resolution of, “This is never going to happen again” then I have a much higher chance of failing. I not only have failed but I am now angry at myself for failing. Then I really jump into the victim mode, which is always self-destructive. I lived in a deep abyss for over 15 years and I still know what the bottom feels like.
The Power of commitment
When I think of commitment, one particular event comes to mind. On Christmas Day, 2008, I went skiing with my son Nick and his friend Holt. Around noon the three of us were standing on top of a cornice at Snowbird, Utah. For you non-skiers, a cornice is a snow formation that occurs at the top of a mountain ridge. As the wind blows the snow up the mountain, a drop-off of ten to twenty feet is formed. Most skiers make a diagonal trail down the cornice, which is fairly simple and safe. However, US- level ski team skiers (like Nick and Holt) usually jump straight off of them. Additionally, they would be jumping into a chute that was approximately twenty feet wide at the top but only about six feet wide two-thirds of the way down. About a hundred feet below us on the left there was an outcropping of rocks that stretched for two hundred feet. The thought of even side-stepping off of this cornice did not enter my mind. All of a sudden I was startled to see both Nick and Holt getting ready to jump into what looked like a ravine.
“Holt, I don’t think your coaches would be thrilled with the idea of you skiing down this.” He looked at me and without a word, immediately jumped into the chute. He skied about seventy-five feet straight down, made a gentle turn to the right, another gentle turn to the left and ended up in a large bowl. Nick went off to the right and then jumped from a fifteen-foot cliff into the same chute, making the same turns. They were each traveling forty or fifty miles an hour when they reached the open bowl. This was simply an undoable chute for most human beings. It was clear that if they’d hesitated midway—if they hadn’t remained committed to their decisions—they would’ve run the risk of serious injury.
Mind you, Nick’s and Holt’s certainty came from hours upon hours of practice over many years. They each knew they could make that jump because they were supremely confident skiers and had done tough jumps before. Visualization – Holt’s Winning Run
Commit to scheduling time daily with doable tasks that will stimulate your brain to change. Eventually, with repetition, these more functional behavioral patterns will become your baseline and you will be able to transform your life into one that you want. Don’t hesitate in your pursuit of your new life—commit to yourself and your new reality. Life is short.