In our society, and perhaps in many others, it is customary when a new year arrives, to create new beginnings. This custom deals with changing some of the patterns that we have been practicing which we have determined needs changing because of the deleterious effects that it might be having on our lifestyle. Deciding to make these changes can be exciting, exhilarating and dynamic and it tends to provide a “fresh start” to the New Year and to our lives.
However, “the best made plans of mice and men” do not always hold up over the course of time necessary in order for the changes to take place. Usually, the changes are difficult because we are accustomed to the “old way” of living our lives. There is usually a trial and error period where there may be three steps forward while experiencing two steps back … otherwise known as regression. It is easy to become discouraged darning this process and for many, the attempts at change are abandoned because of the pain that it causes.
Is it true that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Partially, yes, there is some truth to the saying. The problem, though, may lay in the lack of understanding that most people experience that taxes their expectations of what they can and cannot achieve. As a result, they might tend to become discouraged to the point of feeling depressed or at least being overly self-critical because of their lack of achievement. Changing old patterns needs to be perceived from the vantage point of understanding that what we had been doing was not a conscious “doing.” It was something that we did or didn’t do without any conscious awareness … otherwise called a habit. When you drive your car and switch lanes or when you breathe in and out, there is no conscious awareness. You just do those things without thinking because they are an integral part of your makeup.
Changing a pattern like smoking or eating the wrong foods means that you are messing around with unconscious patterns that have been with you for some while and are well entrenched in your makeup. Although it is necessary to make conscious attempts at changing those patterns, those changes will not become unconscious to replace the old ones until there is sufficient conscious practice. It is a very gradual process and one that should not be considered to become successful after only a short time of making those attempts. Approaching the change should include the awareness that small steps need to be taken without trying to overdraw ourselves. For instance, starving ourselves while trying to lose weight will usually end up in failure and frustration. In other words, we need to be kind to ourselves by not expecting too much and being satisfied with small goals being achieved instead of having the expectation that we are going to accomplish our final goal immediately.
Now, may I say a word about regression? Most people consider regression or going back to the old pattern as being a failure. Actually, regression serves the purpose of reminding us of the progress that we’ve made. This shouldn’t be viewed as negative. We can get back on the horse and continue with the desired change without having to place ourselves into a negative light. Now, once the small, conscious steps begin to add up to becoming more and more unconscious without having to consciously try to make an effort, that is our indicator that the changes we desire are becoming as much of an integral part of ourselves as the old patterns had previously been. It does take some time but it is well worth the effort to improve our lives.
(25 July 2012)
Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at www.charlesmbonasera.com.