It’s a New Year, and its time to refresh our list of New Year resolutions, a list of changes which probably has not changed since last year, but again, neither did we.
Before we scrabble down our resolutions and announce that we are going to change this year, let me ask: Are changes possible? Aren’t we made of a multitude of actions and reactions stemming from social, biological and emotional experiences? Are not our behaviors imprinted and our characters carved by now? Is not it easier to hold on to what we are used to than go through the hard work of giving up thoughts which support our self definition? Most of us go around carrying a bunch of tags to describe ourselves (I am shy, I am slow…etc.) or to hide behind familiar responses (anger, worry….etc.) than risk admitting that there is something which needs to be changed.
But before we get into what needs to be changed, I am not indicating that we change like an Iguana to please a spouse or suit a boss or a friend, we should always take pride in who we are and what we do. I am talking about having a temper that destroys a relationship, being trapped by guilt, gripe or worry, being too shy to claim a right or speak your mind, or being too nervous that you work yourself to an ulcer. I am talking about behaviors that deprive us of something precious in our lives and having the courage to face them and really try to change. As teenagers or during our college years, we were happily gliding through life, but right after our graduation and when the real world started to unfold, responsibilities, decisions and real relationships began to take a serious turn, the gliding personalities and the bubbling characters faced harsh and brutal bumps. The cute little faults become unbearable in the eyes of a spouse or a boss, the anger is perceived as aggressive, the shyness is translated as withdrawal and the quietness is considered lack of communication. The cost becomes too high when accompanied by loss. Some people are smart enough to take a deeper look at recurrent situations and try to change them, while other people are too rigid to admit that something is wrong, or are they scared?
For almost two decades now, many books appeared on shelves which covered topics like how to be happy, how to start over or how to change into a better person. Sure, we all want to be better, we vow and we hope and we go through books and read as many self-help articles but it’s easier said than done, because as humans, we all tend to go for easier than the risky, it’s a human trait. Yes, trying to change is hard, because every fiber in our being got used to something and our minds set our accustomed behaviors as the "default". As I said earlier, it’s more comfortable to keep the familiar than the uncertain. For example, it’s easier to declare that a relationship has ended because you are the "jealous" type rather than dwell into the reason for jealousy. It’s easier to take a pill to control high blood pressure than control a "temper". It’s easier to feel sorry for yourself that you lost someone precious because you are too "shy" rather than reveal your feelings and tell them how much you need them. It’s easier to hang our mistakes on ready made self-tags and familiar reactions than to go through the uncertainty associated with change. Most societies encourage caution at the expense of curiosity, so we were taught at an early age to play it safe and avoid the unknown, be it in choosing partners, universities or trading, let alone feelings. That is why it’s hard to let go and open up to an adventurous exploration of ourselves when we could hand out a handful of justifications for a bad behavior.
What do we do to start this change plan? And again, is it possible to change?
I read in one of the books covering this topic that, and I quote, "we don’t need a professional background in counseling or a doctorate in the helping professions to understand the principles of effective living." So, it is possible!
Effective living is eliminating whatever it is that is standing between us and our happiness. The first step is to pinpoint the bad behavior, then, look for underlying reasons, the most common hidden motives are low-self esteem, fear of rejection, fear of failure, the need for approval from others, and above all, it’s the weakness to stop the negativity and take control of our lives. Once we know the hidden cause, we mentally disengage this behavior, because we acknowledge that we don’t need to hide behind it for support and we are ready to embrace the new without fear. This step is the toughest as it needs practice, awareness and determination, but it’s worth it. Think back to the time when you started to learn to drive a manual car, first it was too difficult to remember which foot on which pedal while you had one hand moving the gear stick and the other on the wheel, but later as you master driving, you just pop in and the car moves gracefully. It is the same thing, at the beginning we have to spend time to give positive signals to our brain to defer from the usual behavior, but as we practice and insist on the change, it becomes second to nature. Some professionals say that writing down how we feel and how we react, help us see the problem and look for answers, some say that writing down positive notes and sticking them on your mirror, dashboard or computer would help as a constant positive reminder that you could change. Some say yoga, meditation or turning on your intuition (possible, but needs lots of practice) would help in understanding our motives and finding the solution.
Whatever it is you chose to be your method to change, when a certain behavior costs you a relationship, a job or even your health (cramps, headaches, backaches…hello!), then its time to put a full stop, turn the page and opt for a fresh start and there is no better way to start than believing that you deserve to be happy, after all, it is your choice to be happy.