Often we see ourselves engaging in dysfunctional behavioural patterns and know that they are not good for us, but we still struggle to break out of them. Why is it so difficult to implement positive change?
We have practiced some of these behaviours over many years, again and again. This repetition strengthens the corresponding pathway in our brains, making the behaviour easier to access and perform. Practice makes perfect, right? Changing our behaviours can feel clumsy and uncomfortable at the start – much like the first time playing a new instrument or speaking a new language. Luckily, our brains are fantastic learners and with persistence, new pathways are formed.
Another challenge for behavioural change? Many of our behaviours were adaptive at some point in the past. For example, smoking may have been a way to self-soothe ourselves in stressful situations; anger may have been a way to protect ourselves from threat as children; anxiety may have driven us to perform better at our work. Now these behaviours may no longer be functional and are rather causing us unnecessary distress, guilt or other issues. However, as they have kept us safe or calm in the past, it can be difficult to let them go. Letting them go may make us feel vulnerable.
This is why it is important to find new behaviours to replace the undesirable ones, rather than just trying to “stop” doing something. Trying out alternative behaviours can be both scary and exciting – but almost certainly you will discover something new about yourself and develop healthier patterns in your life. This can improve your quality of balance, career, health, relationships, finances, and overall wellbeing.