A friend of mine called last night to tell me about a promising new relationship. I was happy for her until she told me that her new guy might not be over his ex.
Here we go again.
I saw her entire new relationship laid out in front of me from the questionable beginnings through the distrust to self-doubt to the inevitable break up.
If I could see it, why couldn’t she?
Another acquaintance is forever on the prowl for a healthy long-term relationship. Still, when we go out, she zeros in on Mr. Wrong bypassing possible good choices. Eventually she calls me to lament the lack of available men.
We all have friends like these. They are like broken records - forever stuck in the same groove never moving forward.
These scenarios raise two questions: why does this happen and what can we do to avoid the trap ourselves?
There are many possible reasons we get stuck such as habit, conditioning, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, or fear. However, a particularly powerful reason has to do with perspective.
Perspective is the lens through which we each see, filter, and interpret our world. Unfortunately, after a lifetime of ups and downs, along with our genetics, most of us have a distorted lens. That distortion magnifies the familiar which pulls us toward it causing us to create patterns of behavior. To top it all off, the distorted lens camouflages the new and different therefore shielding it from our view.
Whether or not we are aware of the distortion or our patterns, indentifying them can be difficult because they look normal to us. Therefore we go about life seeing the "same-old" and identifying it as something good and filled with potential.
With our distorted lens in place, can we ever get off the treadmill? I honestly think so. While it's true that some peoples’ lives are destined to be lived out on a hamster wheel – going around and around without ever moving forward, the vast majority of us have the capacity to change.
It may not happen overnight. It may not be easy. But once motivated, I think we can adjust the lens by making more thoughtful and empowered choices. The very act of seeking out new experiences that enhance our lives slowly begins to reshape our lens and create new patterns and habits. Consider the following steps to begin creating new healthy patterns.
- Find the pattern. Patterns take hold from constant unconscious reinforcement. How can you fix what you don’t know is broken? Take a moment and be honest with yourself. Do you repeat complaints or arguments? Do you blame others for your own shortcomings? Do you find yourself repeatedly in the same circumstance, just with different people? If you do, these could be patterns. And guess what? Pattern awareness is the first step toward change.
- Ask yourself new, empowering questions that lead to healthier ways of seeing the world. Instead of asking why bad things always happen to you, try asking yourself how you contribute to your current situation. Questions like, 'What can I do to change? In what way do I contribute to my current situation? What can I do to change my part? Is there something I can do to improve how I feel?" There are countless questions that you can ask that will propel change in your life. Also, don't force an answer. It will come. Our minds are like computers that figure out the right answers to questions we ask. Ask questions that empower and lead to new and fulfilling experiences.
- Take charge. Take ownership of your own happiness. Don't wait for someone else to do it for you or you may be waiting a long time. The moment you decide to look at your life as a series of decisions that you control, you become more powerful.
- Find reasons to change. Become results-oriented. Find reasons why you want to make changes. For example, "I want to lose weight because I want to live a healthy life." "I want to get along better with my mother because I feel terrible each time we argue." "I want save money because I feel more secure knowing I have money in the bank, rather than being overwhelmed by a pile of debt." Remind yourself of your reasons every day. Think about how good you will feel when you've made the change.
Nobody is perfect. We are all a work in progress All we can ask of ourselves is to give it our best effort. Sometimes it takes a while, but in the end it’s always worth it.