More and more, I’m seeing people realizing that they’ve been working their butts off, running as fast as they can down a road, and not really knowing where they’re going or why? Society, parents, bosses, peers all push checklists at us, filled with what we should do, but often pretty light on the why. This accounts for just as much conflict and identity crisis in the business world. The easy answers are the material ones; it’s all to acquire stuff, and/or the money for stuff. The problem there, is that this isn’t a long-term motivator. There’s always something missing, and just acquiring more stuff doesn’t fill the hole.
We often forget that we’re at the heart of everything we’re doing. We’re the pebble hitting the water, sending ripples outward in all directions. Somehow we get into patterns where we’re expecting the ripples we see all around us to shape who we are. That’s backwards. The pebble shapes the ripples, the ripples don’t shape the pebble. If we want specific ripples, we’d better know the size, weight, and shape of the pebble.
We need to know ourselves in a deeper way.
When we look at our identity, how do we decide what that is? There are labels and roles we can assume, but others can assume those labels and roles, so would they be us? What isn’t interchangeable, and can’t be taken away from us? Our Values and the beliefs and interpretations those Values create. This opens the next can of worms, because as important as they are, when you ask the average person about their deepest held Values, the answer doesn’t come quickly.
There are lots of ways I help people uncover and identify their Values, and one of the easiest is to come at them from the other side. Think of something that really bothers you. Chances are, it’s stepping on some of your Values. Let’s look at hypocrisy. It usually bothers a lot of people, and for many reasons; almost all Values related. It steps on truthfulness, correctness, predictability and thus security, and more; all Values. How about family? For some that brings up security, love, and connection, where for others it brings up the lack of them. Still Values. When something makes you feel anything strongly, it likely touches on Values, and that’s why they’re so powerful.
Once we’ve established our Values, and what we believe strongly in, we’ve determined the size, weight, and shape of the pebble. Now it’s time to look at what kind of ripples you can make.
Building Habits; Trailblazing
We’re almost always the ones in our own way. We have a ton of bad habits and ways of avoiding. And as the saying goes, doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity. We have to make some changes, and that means doing some neural trailblazing. You’ve probably also heard that neurons that fire together wire together, and that’s really the basis for most of our habits. We do dumb things mostly because we’ve been doing them for a long time.
Habits come in many flavors, and while some are overt, some hide in the shadows doing plenty of damage. In the overt camp we have bad habits around food, health, phones, and so on. In the covert camp we have bad habits like fixed and skewed interpretations of events and internal narratives. These cause easily as much conflict and stress as the external habits, and need to be changed just as much. Without going all physics on you, we can all agree that minimizing the amount of energy you have to expend is a good thing. That said, breaking habits is much harder than shifting habits toward something that serves you. If you think of a football player running downfield with the ball as the bad habit, it’s really hard to come straight at him and stop him cold. It’s much easier to bump him out of bounds from the side. It’s the same with habits.
By identifying the habit, we can come up with something that’s very close in what parts of your brain are being activated, and insert a replacement habit. Then by sheer repetition of catching yourself and introducing the new habit we create a new neural path. It’s just like trailblazing in the wilderness. We head down the well-worn path because it’s easier. We just need to catch ourselves, stop, and head into the tall grass toward where we want to go. Over time, the old path will become overgrown, and we’ll wear down the new path.
Hard to Lift Without Weights
What we really need to achieve this is a structure and a process that works reliably and predictably. Coming up with replacement habits isn’t always easy, and even identifying the habits we have can be tricky. How many of us habitually either put ourselves down, self-criticize, or self-judge? Those aren’t easy habits to shift, but it can be done.
Linguistic habits are some of our trickiest, because they’re the covert ones that hide in our normal way of going about life. We rarely think about the narratives that we repeat over and over, and are often at the core of our issues. Enough repetition, and they disappear from our top of mind awareness, and become like software applications we blindly follow. This is why I developed the Essential 10 Minutes™ practice. We need something that’s fast, easy, and does as many things as possible in the whole neural re-wiring game.
Using this practice, we can reinforce our deepest held Values, reinforce who we are beyond the roles, labels, and expectations of others, plan for a future that excites us, determine the actions necessary, shift our minds from scarcity to sufficiency, and even have some open exploration of what we’re thinking about or processing. We can identify narratives that don’t serve us, like bugs in a program, replace those narratives with ones that do serve us, and using the practice, iron them into our brains using neuroplasticity.
Of course, there’s our greatest challenge. Do we want to escape the prisons of our own narratives enough to dedicate 10 minutes a day to Mindfulness Calisthenics? If we do almost anything for 10 minutes a day every day for 21 to 28 days, it’s going to become a habit. If we can develop a habit that increases our sense of self, increases our resilience, gives us direction, and increases our effectiveness in everything we do for the rest of the day, it sounds worth it to me.