Saving Us From Ourselves ~ Published 2017 in Lakeside Sun eMagazine
As we grow older we discover that we can be our own worst enemy. This is mystifying for many that feel that their way of living suits them well… so what’s the deal? A lot of things that drive us crazy come from believing that the habits that have served us well, sometimes for decades, are still serving us well. It just seems like they’ve worked for us so long, why should we bother to change them? But it is valuable, and sanity saving, to examine what causes us irritation and work out what will save us self caused grief.
I can hear you out there saying, “Change my habits now, you have got to be kidding me!” When I got to my 60s I thought the same thing… and I kept misplacing my keys, locking myself out of the house, and forgetting to buy something at the store and paying bills that I really needed to pay. In doing research for my new book, GET WHAT YOU NEED, Skills to Build Your Destiny, I learned a lot about the subconscious mind, its mysterious power, and how it serves and doesn’t serve us well. It turns out that the subconscious is a million times more powerful than the aware mind, and that it’s why we don’t have to consciously be involved in everything we do.
A good illustration of this is doing routine chores. Because your chore routine kicks in, your body accomplishes the job without your conscious thoughts having to guide its every move. The result is your chores get done while you enjoy thinking about whatever you please. A great example is when you drive yourself to the store and you don’t remember the details of it, even though you got there safely. Your habit of driving to the store became so strong that your body did the work and your subconscious mind automatically supervised it.
The dynamics of how this works are pretty straightforward, you applied conscious effort to learn how to operate the car and the route to the store. After repeating this focused attention long enough new neural pathways were created in your brain and your subconscious mind took over the heavy lifting so you could happily ponder your upcoming vacation on the way. Like most of us, you’ve probably found yourself parked in front of the store with very little memory of how you got there. Just imagine if you had to be consciously aware of everything you did all day long–that would be tiring indeed.
The point is, your whole life you’ve been building habits, consciously and subconsciously… some serve you well and others do not. And, like most everything good you have in your life, Personal Protocols are the result of using conscious effort and focused attention. I hear you out there saying you’d rather walk across red hot embers than change your habits. At this point in your life maybe you can’t imagine it being worthwhile to apply mindful effort to change anything. This may sound familiar to you, so let’s use me as an example. I am in my 60s now and I believe that I will live into my 90s, because I have family longevity, and a healthy diet and lifestyle. If I never change the things I do that cause me irritability, anxiousness, or anger I would have a much less enjoyable life for potentially the next 30 years. If this angst is daily, my Sympathetic Nervous System will override my Parasympathetic Nervous System’s rest, digest and repair job to redirect its energy to my fight or flight response, keeping me in a heightened state of anxiety, whether I realize it or not.
If this doesn’t sound terrible to you, let me point out that not only is this state fatiguing, it’s silently undermining your Immune System’s health, 80% of which is in the same gut that is under assault from your stress. This is believed to be the main cause of long term illness, disease, and premature death–these in turn are the causes of most of the suffering we experience as we age.
The point here is that there is a real connection between our habits and our emotional, mental and physical health and well-being. If you believe that you are worthy of feeling better and doing better, then that is all you need to see that developing new Personal Protocols is worthwhile. We have the power to improve most aspects that make our lives difficult. I read over 300 books to change my miserable existence into the life I yearned for. I did it one conscious effort at a time, based on my better priorities, using focused attention. I just had to decide what in my life needed to improve.
These new habits enabled me to stop misplacing my keys by keeping them only in my purse, and I made extra sets in case I forgot, and to hide in the yard. I stopped locking myself out of my house when the wind blew the door shut by dead bolting it open every time I stepped across the threshold, even for a second. Now if I leave my shopping list behind my sight and hearing assist my memory to remember practically everything on it because I say it out loud as I write it down. And, I look at my computer spreadsheet everyday to keep my bills paid and my money spending current.
These four things that used to cause me anxiety, agitation and anger are no longer issues, because one day I just got fed up with being my own worst enemy. Through repetition I created new neural pathways that replaced the old habits that were causing me misery with new Personal Protocols. The book that helped my efforts the most is: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Don't worry, it usually takes about 4 weeks to replace an old bad habit with a new habit that serves you well. To make this effort worth it too you just ask yourself, "Do I really want to keep sabotaging myself anymore?"