Changes, Pt. II
Not long ago I wrote about changes. Actually, I've written about changes and making them quite a bit. But I've seriously been thinking about it.
I came home for a bit to spend time with family, and my environment is so very different to what it has been for nearly 20 years. But what strikes me is how much I've been talking about change, but I can see how difficult that it is for people.
I mean, I know change is intimidating, especially when it's foisted on us. But what about all the times we say we want to change and we don't? What gets in our way then?
A lot of it is how our brain is wired; quite simply, our brains are wired to protect us. And this means keeping us in the safe zone, which also means often staying in autopilot, which means questioning change.
But what about those of us who acknowledge this, and say we want change, but still don't make it happen?
It's got me to thinking that not only is our lack of change-making action linked to our brains’ hard-wiring, but it is also intrinsically linked to our identities.
So, you know me, I kinda diagrammed it.
- We find something we like [a route to work, a job, a cutie patootie partner, helping people, a favourite meal]
- We like it so much, we stick with it. We order it every single time we go to our favourite Italian restaurant. Hell, it's why it's our favourite Italian restaruant. We drive the same way to work every single day, half the time arriving without remembering any detail of how we actually got there. We get to be the go-to-person when anyone in our family needs anything, and we are known as the kind one.
- We are comfortable. We have a pleasant routine. We are always busy accommodating other people.
- We put on a few pounds, decide we want to stop smoking... and we blame will-power when it doesn't work. We get fed up when all these people we are helping don't make any change and still need our help with the same old things.
- We decide we need more change and we learn this thing about how our brains work. We watch Mel Robbins. We try out the 5-second rule. And, two years later, we're still in the same job, having smoke breaks in the same place, and driving home the same way, frustrated at that same person who needs help. Yet again.
I've been watching some version of this unfold with nearly everyone I am close to since I've been home. And, the other day when I was on the phone with someone in my family that I'm very close to, it hit me.
She doesn't WANT to change because she's afraid of what it will or may say about her as a person, her SELF, her ego and identity.
Changing means not only wanting something to be different, but also confronting what that change means intrinsically to us.
Take this example: I smoked for years. I started when I was about 13, stealing cigarettes from my grandmother with my cousin and hiding in the park down the road on Sunday afternoons. Then I quit after college - I just didn't like it anymore and it was easy. And, then, I turned 30. And started again. I mean, who in their right mind decides at 30 to START smoking??? For the next 15 years, off and on, I would decide to quit. And it was inevitably more and more difficult. And then, I realised: I was a smoker. I used cigarettes as part of my bad-ass identity. I saw them as a social prop, giving me confidence and something to do when I was on my own. And, I mistakenly thought smoking made me look cool. If you asked me, I could have told you just how unhealthy smoking is, but I could also justify smoking with a laissez-faire attitude: I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, and all that.
Deciding to change forced me to get to the root of my identity. And, once I had this realisation that I was struggling to stop in part because my identity was being challenged by the prospect, I decided to embrace the real identity of ME.
And, it's the same for any change we decide we want to take. We may want it to happen, but facing what that change really means for US and the root of our being can keep us from getting to what it is that we want the most.
What a freaking conundrum!
Want significant change? First, you need to know what is actually getting in the way within your identity. And, understand that the thing you want to change probably doesn't define you. That person who helps all the people? She is incredibly kind and sympathetic. And that won't change, even if she makes other changes in her life.