How do I change my behavior?
Awareness In order to change we first have to be aware and realize there is something that needs to be changed, but how many of us actually sit down and take the time to analyze the unconscious conditioned parts of ourselves. Notice I said unconscious conditioned parts of ourselves and not our flaws or shortcomings. I make this distinction because, for me, words have deep meaning. What and how words are used make a difference to me because how I speak outwardly is typically a reflection of how I speak inwardly and vice versa. If I am berating/shaming/guilting myself for whatever reason, that same sentiment is going to be expressed to those around me and most likely to the ones I love most. This is something I learned about myself and began to understand that how I talk to myself was a conditioned thought pattern. It was this conditioned thought pattern that became part of my personality. When I learned this truth about myself, I began to see other patterns that were unconscious and were a product of my environment. I would react to things said or actions taken against me with an almost instinctual quality only it wasn’t instinct. It was unconscious just like an instinct, but the difference is, instinct normally serves a positive purpose and instinct not a learned behavior. My reactions did not serve a positive purpose and was certainly a learned behavior. My reactions hurt other people, my reactions tore others down, my reactions condescended those around me as a defense mechanism to make myself feel better. Now, the above isn’t by any means revelatory. It’s pretty basic insight, yet we pay a professional to tell us this basic information about ourselves, slap a fancy label on it and use it as an excuse to be an ass. Instead, what if we took the time to inventory some characteristics of our lives that were not aligned with who we wanted to be and started to take positive action to make those changes? What if we took 100% responsibility for ourselves, our actions and our words?
Reasoned Choice I believe we all have the answers to who we are and how to improve ourselves. It is a matter of asking the right questions and being completely honest with ourselves. When we are better informed, we make better decisions, especially when the information is wisdom or intuitive knowledge. When we make better decisions, we create a positive feedback loop and we make more good decisions creating positive momentum which opens the doors for success. With that idea of self-discovery, when was the last time you sat down and took an inventory of your life, your personality (the accumulation of thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and habits) and said, “I want to change this”? Questioning our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and habits doesn’t mean we don’t accept ourselves as we are. We do, but we can accept ourselves as we are AND make a reasoned choice to make changes. Recognizing that we are not our thoughts, beliefs, attitude and habits gives us the freedom to change any aspect of our lives that we want. If we don’t like being pissed off and angry at stupid drivers, we have the power to change that. If we don’t like that we are not a “morning person” we have the power to change that. If we don’t like that we procrastinate, we have the power to change that. The issue is we tend to look outside of ourselves for answers without looking within first. We look at other people, places, things and ourselves as we want them to be and not actually as they are. When an event or situation happens, we have certain responses, or reactions more so, that are based on our conditioned mind (old repetitive thought patterns) and we want to “fix” the event or situation or person. The goal would not be to change the external force, but to change ourselves and how we view that person, situation or event. A shift in perspective can and will shift your whole life and lead to joy and happiness.
Execution How Do I do this Inventory? I suggest you make a list of positive/conscious and negative/unconscious attributes of yours that include any resentments or anger you have to towards yourself, other people, places, organizations, institutions, situation and events, guilt, remorse and shame that you feel towards your past actions or words, fears, pride, love and kindness of your present. Then ask yourself why you have that belief or feeling, what personality traits you have that caused this feeling and then what is the motivation behind each feeling/emotion. This does not have to be done in one sitting, but it is worth the time. Here is an example of what it might look like: Let’s start with Fears
I am afraid of
Looking foolish in front of others
They might make fun of me
Self-concious, lack of confidence
If I'm not perfect or good at something, people will judge me or dislike me
Criticism from loved ones
Let’s try shame
I feel shame when:
I yell at my kids
It's not the example I want to set. They deserve better.
Hostility, anger, unforgiving, intolerant, overbearing, conditional love
I want my kids to be better people than me and don't want them to make the same mistakes I did.
It is how I was parented.
How about anger:
I am/get angry when:
People criticize me
I feel less than
Self-conscious, lack of confidence
I don't want to let people down
Heavily criticized as a kid
I show/feel love when:
I practice gratitude
I look for the good in people
Gratitude, Humility, Positivity
I want to be happy
Recognition of abundance
This is a small snippet of an inventory and can be done with any of the attributes mentioned above. It doesn’t have to be complete self-flagellation. Throw in some positive attributes too and see what makes you the good person you are because you are a good person. Remember, these thoughts, actions, beliefs and attitudes are not who you are. They are simply a product of our conditioning that can be changed IF you want to and are willing to put in the work. This is one easy, yet not simple, way to look at yourself in depth and find out why you think the way you do and act the way you do. If you choose to develop yourself using this technique, don’t forget, give yourself some grace and celebrate the little wins. None of us are perfect! Now that we have this information, you understand what the origin of your conditioned thoughts and feelings are, what do we do with them? The goal from here would be to begin to figure out the meaning you have attached to the feelings that are generated by these conditioned thoughts that create these feelings. Once we become aware of the meaning attached to our emotions we have the power to change that meaning. In order to change our default conditioned reactions, we transition to responding with awareness to turn that unconscious energy into conscious, productive energy.
Written by Michael Keane