The First Seven Years

What do the first seven years of your life have to do with the failure of your New Year’s resolutions?

Why, despite your best efforts, is actually doing the stuff you know will make your life better so darn hard?

As a child you learned how to be in the world. You were effectively programmed to operate and survive in society. You learned how to manipulate to get your needs met, and you started piecing together your identity. You, Inc.

This programming isn’t negotiated each day – it boots up when you wake up and start on the “What day is it?” and the “Endless List of Important Stuff To Do”. You don’t leap out of bed with the expectation of New And Exciting  Stuff. Not now that you’re grown up.

It’s the Way You Are, and it consumes an awful lot of brain-power. Identity coherence, matching your behaviour with your programming, requires vigilance. The mental chatter, the endless replaying of scenarios with you as the central character.

Now you want to learn Spanish, or get fit, or write a book. So why do you make every excuse not to? You sabotage your every attempt to do something that you believe will make your life better. Why?

Because you must forge the habit, and remove the option to not do it.

Wanting to do something that requires sustained effort is rationalised as a “Good Idea” ahead of time. It is seen as possible and the outcome is desirable.

But when the time comes to show up and actually do the work, the option of checking email, making coffee, cleaning the house, ANYTHING, suddenly seems a lot more like the thing to do right now.

Until you have forged it into a habit you will have to renegotiate with the committee in your head EVERY SINGLE TIME!! They will wear you down and you will fail.

The dudes on the committee who thought it was a good idea yesterday are the same ones who now think staying in bed is an even better idea. Or watching TV instead of going out to that class. Pizza and beer!!

The only way to win is to separate the decision from the action. Make the decision and set the parameters – what you will do and when. Set yourself a non-negotiable time-frame of thirty days and stick to it. Show up every single day for thirty days without entering into a debate with yourself.

If after thirty days you decide it’s not for you, that’s fine. But by then maybe it’s showing results and you can see how quickly you can make things happen when you stick to it, and that’s when you can decide to continue and a habit will slowly form. The payoff is real and you are becoming someone who can do this thing!

And if you decide “Nah, not for me after all” you can stop investing energy in it and move on without it hanging over your head.

So – for the first seven years you basically didn’t have a vote. Now you do, and apparently more than one. And a veto. 

The flip-side is that all the stuff that makes up You, Inc. is also really just a habit……

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“It is clear from the evolutionary story that consciousness is not, and cannot be, a window on the mind. It is a product of the mind, designed to aid (but subsequently evolved to frustrate) physical survival. Originally associated with a marvellous mechanism for spotting and responding to basic emergencies, it has become, through an interlocking series of evolutionary accidents and coincidences, primarily a mechanism for constructing dubious stories whose purpose is to defend a superfluous and inaccurate sense of self.”  ~ Guy Claxton

 

ImagePhoto credit:  Colleen Parker / Tuscany

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