You're not stuck. Here's why and what to do.

How many times have you decided to change your life? 

It may be the new year, a birthday, or Monday, but you decide today's the day!

And you set out to improve things: eating healthier, being more organized, exercising every day, reducing your screen time, going to bed earlier, or all of the above and then some, all at once.

You may start off strong and even do really well for a while but then, something happens. 

Something legitimate can thwart your efforts like getting sick or injured, or a bad mood or a rough day derails you, but the next thing you know, you've lost all momentum and are back to square one.

Then some time goes by until you decide, once again, to change your life.

I know it might feel like you’re stuck, especially if you’ve repeatedly tried to make changes in your life that you haven’t been able to stick to. (Pun intended!)

It’s not your fault you feel stuck and changing your life is surprisingly simple,

These are bold statements, I know, but they're backed by neuroscience, and once you understand why you feel stuck, and how to actually make a change, you will be able to do so in your life with relative ease. 

First, let me explain why it’s not your fault you feel stuck:

Your brain is wired to find and follow patterns so that it can be efficient.

Here's an example. The first time you drove a car, it took a lot of your brain's energy to learn how to use everything like the steering wheel, gas, and brake pedals, all the mirrors, etc., and to maneuver the car and stay on the road, turn when necessary, stop at red lights, avoid other cars, etc.

As you learned, your brain created specific connections, called neural pathways, to process the information it needed to drive the car, and, with practice, these connections strengthened, and driving got easier. At some point, you went from learning how to drive to knowing how to drive. 

Now, you can drive and barely pay attention at all. Your brain works this way with anything you do repeatedly. It finds patterns and creates strong neural pathways so that routine tasks like driving can be done on auto-pilot. (No pun intended this time.) And this happens a lot.

There are patterns in the way you use your body, like how you sit, stand, walk, get in and out of bed, get dressed, exercise, or not. Habits like drinking coffee every morning, biting your nails, picking up your phone at red lights, eating fast, procrastinating, taking vitamins, and worrying are patterns. And there are patterns in how you think, like your political views, your likes, and dislikes, being indecisive or jumping to conclusions, and seeing the glass as half-full or half-empty.

Just about anything you do over and over again physically, mentally, and even emotionally, becomes automatic in your brain, something that seems to happen without a conscious choice.


Your brain’s ability to put patterns on auto-pilot is helpful when it comes to things like driving, getting dressed, reading, using technology, etc., but you also have automatic patterns that make your life harder. Perhaps you slouch, are impatient, judge yourself, ignore your feelings, jump to conclusions, assume the worst, or believe that stress is bad for your health. 

Like any pattern reinforced by repetition, these become automatic in your brain, which feels like something you do unconsciously. So, because of the way your brain works, it’s easy to feel stuck and unable to change, but it’s not a character flaw and it’s not your fault. 

That said, the truth is that you are in charge of your brain! You can consciously choose your routines, habits, thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes so that you change the patterns that are making your life harder, you just have to take charge of it.  


Changing any pattern that’s not working for you is surprisingly simple, there are only 2 steps:

  1. Clarify the pattern you want to change.
    As your yoga therapist, I highly recommend that you identify one very specific pattern to change at a time, like picking up your phone at red lights or procrastinating on a certain task you avoid, or worrying about a particular situation in your life right now. 
  2. Take charge of opportunities to choose.
    When the pattern you identified in Step 1 is happening, practice taking charge of your brain and deliberately choosing to do something different. What would otherwise be an automatic pattern is now a chance to create a new pattern one choice at a time.

Here are some unhelpful patterns and simple positive shifts you can choose to practice: 

  • Instead of picking up your phone at a red light, choose to focus on your breath.
  • Instead of procrastinating on a task, choose to take the smallest possible action.
  • Instead of worrying about a situation, choose to think about the best-case scenario.

Getting unstuck from and changing a well-established pattern may not be easy at first, but it will be with practice. You know why, right? Because your brain is wired to find and follow patterns. So, every time you deliberately choose your behavior, thought, or attitude, it creates and then strengthens new neural pathways. As that happens, the pattern you’re changing stops being reinforced by repetition weakens in your brain, and becomes less and less automatic. 

This ability of your brain to change is called neuroplasticity. It happens one choice at a time and is possible for your entire life! 



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