When it comes to change, I think just about everyone can agree that change is not always easy. Sometimes it is just downright painful. There can be many factors that affect the ease with which change occurs and why it sometimes just doesn’t work.
Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution only to abandon ship after a couple of weeks, maybe even days? Why is that? What do you believe happened that made the resolution fail? It could, honestly, be a myriad of things. Oftentimes, it comes down to where the change is centered in us.
Unconscious versus Conscious
There are layers to our mind. There is the conscious mind that we use when following directions or writing a report and there is the unconscious mind which is in charge of our habits and beliefs about who we are.
Typically, when an individual tries to enact a change in their life (weight loss or quit smoking, for example), that individual tries to create that change from the conscious mind. They are going to try to use will power and changes in routine, for instance, to achieve their goal. Conscious mind change only goes so far, though.
In order to generate real, lasting change, it has to take place in the unconscious mind. That is where habits and beliefs and values are stored.
Let’s look at an example: George has been a smoker for 30 years. When his friend calls to go to dinner, George always asks if the restaurant has a smoking area “because,” he tells them, “I am a smoker.” He’s heard all the bad news about smoking and knows that it’s not good for him. He’s even tried to quit a few times but it never works. He’s tried taking a different route to work so he doesn’t pass the gas station where he usually buys cigarettes. He tried doing something else first thing in the morning instead of smoking right away. He tried drinking more water because he heard that would help. He even tried patches…he just smoked with them on. George struggles with simple tasks because he loses his breath easily and he knows it’s because he’s a smoker.
Everything that George tried in this story was all conscious mind. He tried changing his behavior and his environment. The one thing George hasn’t tried is changing his identity. No, not like an alias. George identifies himself as a smoker. He says things like, “I’m a smoker.”
Your identity is the list of things you believe you are. They are identified by the words “I am” followed by the identifying characteristic.
I am a doctor.
I am a coach.
I am a husband.
I am a daughter.
I am lazy.
I am a dad.
I am a son.
I am a wife.
I am a loser.
I am fat.
I am a teacher.
I am ugly.
I am a mom.
I am fulfilled.
As you can imagine, there are dozens and dozens of other “I am” statements. Some are uplifting. Some do not serve you at all.
Since George identifies as a smoker, making changes in his behavior and his environment will not get him anywhere in the long run. A smoker smokes. A smoker buys cigarettes to smoke. A smoker requires a smoking area to smoke.
How does one change their identity? You have to tap into your unconscious mind. There are a couple of ways that people commonly do that. Some use visualization or meditation. Another way can be journaling and write whatever comes to mind or spending time in nature. The fastest way I’ve found is through hypnosis. All of these techniques can help you tap into your unconscious mind and they often take lots of practice. Hypnosis can work in as little as one session.
Once George changes his identity from “I am a smoker” to something like “I am a non-smoker” then it becomes easy to just not smoke. Non-smokers do not smoke. So, if George is a non-smoker, why would he stop to buy cigarettes or smoke when he wakes up in the morning or need a smoking area? By changing his identity, George also changes his behaviors and his environments.
Identity and Harmony
Here’s where we get tricky. George identified himself as a smoker for years. Was that who he really is? Was that identity in harmony with his inner self?
Let’s take a closer look. Did George’s identity as a smoker make him feel good? Did his choices around smoking make him feel good? Or did he feel guilt? Maybe shame? Frustration perhaps?
What about you?
I’m going to invite you to do an exercise. It may be uncomfortable. If you want to get to the bottom of discord, it will be worth it.
Grab a pen and some paper. Sit somewhere where you will not be interrupted. Quiet your mind. At the top of your paper, write I am and then begin to write everything that you can think of. Once you’ve finished writing what you can think of, continue writing anything else that comes up. No matter how ridiculous it seems. Do not dismiss any of it. Write it down.
Once you’ve written down everything and you’ve actually run out of things to write, ask yourself how those identities make you feel. Each one. The ones that give you feelings of eagerness or joy or satisfaction are the ones that are in harmony with your inner self. Those that generate feelings of distress or anger, guilt or shame are in discord with your inner self.
That is where you begin the work. Those are the identities you want to change. When you bring those identities into harmony, life will begin to shift in dramatic ways.