The reason you feel stuck and what to do about it.
I used to feel perpetually stuck.
I spun out thinking I needed to change 27 zillion things about my life.
I got overwhelmed about what to change and how to get and stay motivated.
I doubted myself because I repeatedly tried and failed to make positive changes.
And this happened over and over again.
Yeah, spinning out, being overwhelmed, and doubting myself never worked. Instead, I felt stuck and ashamed of myself.
Until I committed to figuring out a simple and effective way to make positive changes happen and stick. Pun is fully intended.
In this video, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about the reason you feel stuck and what to do about it.
The first thing I learned was that thinking I was stuck was a sign I believed my experiences were out of my control. Now, if you had asked me if I believed that, I would’ve said, hell no. But the truth is, I was spending a lot of time on autopilot.
You see, we all have ways of thinking and feeling, and doing that we repeat. And as we do, these patterns get stronger and more automatic.
As this happens, it can be easy to forget that you have a choice about all of it because our brains are wired to find and follow patterns. This makes our brain more efficient and also, prevents it from having to be enormous.
Here’s an example of how our brains find and follow patterns.
Remember the first time you drove a car? It was a lot for your brain to manage the steering wheel, the gas and brake pedals, and all the mirrors, and to maneuver the car and stay on the road, turn when necessary, stop at red lights, and avoid other cars.
As you practiced driving, your brain created specific connections, called neural pathways, to process the information it needed to drive a car and these connections strengthened, and driving got easier. At some point, you went from learning how to drive to knowing how to drive.
Now, the truth is, you can drive and barely pay attention at all. Amiright? Please be careful.
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. (Is that a pun?)
This happens in our lives a lot.
There are patterns in the way we use our body, like how we 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.
Which may feel like something that happens without a conscious choice.
The second thing I learned is that our brain’s ability to put patterns on auto-pilot is helpful when it comes to things like driving, getting dressed, reading, and using technology, but we also have automatic patterns that make life harder.
A few of my, ummm, detrimental patterns have been/are: pulling out my eyebrows and eyelashes, being self-critical, ignoring my feelings, over-drinking, distracting myself, playing small, avoiding confrontation, and I could go on.
Maybe you relate to mine and/or perhaps you slouch, are impatient, judge yourself, jump to conclusions, assume the worst, believe that stress is bad, doom scroll, watch violent movies, pick fights with your partner, deny your needs, bite your nails, say yes to too much, or numb out.
Patterns reinforced by repetition become automatic in your brain, which feels like something you do unconsciously.
The next thing I learned was that I am in charge of my brain.
I realized I can consciously choose my routines, habits, thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes so that the patterns that make my life harder change for the better.
I also learned that changing a pattern is surprisingly simple, there are only 2 steps:
Step 1 is to clarify the pattern to change.
The most important thing I learned about this is to identify one very specific pattern to change at a time. A few examples of patterns I’ve changed or am working on changing are picking up my phone at red lights, procrastinating on work projects, and worrying about money.
Step 2 is to take opportunities to change it.
When the pattern you identified in Step 1 is happening, practice deliberately choosing to do something differently. Our automatic patterns are opportunities to interrupt those established neural pathways and create new patterns, new connections in our brain one choice at a time.
Here are the ways I take charge of my brain with the patterns I just mentioned:
- Instead of picking up my phone at a red light, I choose to focus on my breath.
- When I’m procrastinating on work projects, I choose to take the smallest possible action.
- When I find myself worrying about money, I choose to think about the best-case scenario.
Getting unstuck from and changing well-established patterns will not be easy at first, but it will get easier 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!