3 Steps to Break Negative Personal Patterns

A truly “Cured Life” is an impossible feat. It is a dream, an aspiration, and a dedication to waking up each morning feeling like you’re a bit better than you were the day before because you actively tried to improve.

You can improve by evaluating your faults, shortcomings, negative habits and tendencies – and see them as opportunities, rather than plagues. By dismantling the harmful patterns and cycles seemingly “attached” to you, you reroute away from disasters, towards a more positive place. Improving starts with changing the way you think, then following through with intentional actions.

By recognizing that true “curing” comes from a million tiny choices, decisions, revelations, and actions, you can begin to piece them all together to create a superior version of yourself. Today, I am beginning a series that highlights all the tools I have amassed to proactively cure my life.

First up: 3 Steps to Break Negative Personal Patterns

Have you ever found yourself stuck in the same, self-defeating cycles, unable to reach your larger goals? Of course you have. We all have.

Maybe you’re still struggling through those challenging cycles, feeling like there’s no way out. Maybe you’ve achieved success with certain goals, but with others you have slipped back down the mountain of accomplishment into the wasteland of the dreaded Day 1.

There is a way to grab a firm hold of those big dreams, accomplish them, and stay there, I promise.

For the sake of examples, let’s revisit some of my most infamous cyclical patterns.

Here’s how they used to play out for me:

Identify the goal: I want to lose weight.
Lose all sight of that goal when faced with the decision of what to eat. Binge on food that I know will destroy progress towards my goal. Sometimes purge that food. Immediately feel regret, self-loathing, and defeat. Forget the goal. It’s too hard, and I’m not strong enough to see it through. Recommit to it again, someday.

Identify the goal: Don’t get too drunk.
Drink two drinks, feel pretty good. Drink three or four, feel really good. Forget the pain, anger, and regrets that are constantly hovering around in my mind. Completely forget the original goal. Drink five, or six, or ten drinks. Feel nothing. Say stupid, hurtful things. Do embarrassing, out of character things. Wake up the next morning feeling horrendously, accomplish nothing all day, fall into a pit of regret, self-loathing, and defeat. Vow to never do it again. Do it again.

Identify the goal: Maintain a successful relationship.
Lack the ability to identify the reality of what it takes to achieve a successful relationship. Lack the ability to face my flaws. Fall into the “grass is greener” syndrome. Do something to sabotage the relationship, past the point of no return. Spiral down into a land of regret, self-loathing, loss, and defeat. Learn little from it, but not enough. Repeat.

You can clearly see a theme here: Each cycle ended in regret, self-loathing, and defeat. I knew how each chain of events would end, and yet, I repeated each cycle countless times throughout my life. It was exhausting.

The only part of the cycle I had truly mastered was identifying the goalBut what good is setting a goal if you’re not equipped with the tools to accomplish it?

Step One: IDENTIFY AND ELIMINATE
the self-sabotaging language and excuses.

For a long time, I didn’t realize that I was goal-setting in a completely counterproductive way. I used words like never, always, and forever. I wanted to conquer my goals immediately and felt like I had to tackle them with an all or nothing attitude. Needless to say, the results were usually… nothing. At least nothing that stuck for any length of time.

My language used to look something like this:

  • I will never eat sugar again.
  • I will always stop at two drinks.
  • I will love you forever.

The problem here? Those words assigned impossibility to my goals, and I was setting up a pattern of defeat. Once I realized that it’s impossible to maintain those intentions, I felt like a failure and gave up when I couldn’t stick with them.

It was also pretty easy to come up with excuses for breaking those silly self-imposed absolutes: “Well, it’s my birthday this weekend, and then it’s Labor Day weekend… but after that – NO SUGAR. NO ALCOHOL.” Until Halloween, that is. Or Christmas, or a wedding, or a vacation… you get the picture.

By eliminating those absolute words from my goal-setting language, I had to think about my goals in a new way – one that shined light on what I really wanted behind all those impossible words.

My goals now look something like this:

  • I want to nourish my body with beautiful, plant-based foods.
  • I want to be able to let loose occasionally, through positive avenues.
  • Whether alone or with a partner, I just want to be happy.

It is a lot harder to apply excuses to things that you really want, as opposed to things you’d like to have, but are impossible to attain.

Life is too unpredictable and fluid to assign nevers, always, and forevers to. There will be occasions where I want to eat or drink things I shouldn’t, or times when I won’t feel like my relationships are in the best place. But without the binding language attached to my goals, I can usually strike a balance that works with the natural flow of my life, free of utter failure.

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Step Two: ISOLATE THE FEELINGS associated with your goals.

Once I reworded my biggest goals, I began to break them down into the feelings associated with them that I wanted to achieve. I needed to be realistic with myself about what it takes to achieve those feelings, and what personal obstacles and flaws were getting in the way of them.

My feelings surrounding my goals look something like this:

I want to feel healthier, well-rested, energetic, light, and glowing.
I know that eating lots of sugar, cheese, meat, etc negatively affects my sleep, mood, self-esteem, and compromises the energy I need to accomplish what I want to.
I realize that if I surround myself with foods that are not in line with how I want to feel, I lack the willpower to keep them off my plate. Eliminate the bad choices.

I want to feel in control of my body and my emotions in a safe environment.
I know
that drinking too much leads to mistakes, regrets, and the deterioration of feeling optimally.
I realize that my personality is an addictive one. If I am going to drink, I need to stay 10 steps ahead of myself and maintain focus on my larger goals. Seek help and support when needed.

I want to feel love, trust, happiness, excitement, and support.
I know that realistically, these things are not present in a relationship 100% of the time.
I realize that if I don’t love myself first, I won’t be any good at loving someone else. I also need to channel my creative energies into something positive, or that energy will manifest itself negatively in my relationships, sabotaging them. When you get that crawling-in-your-skin/there’s-more-to-life feelings, jam that jumpy energy into a long lost hobby, a piece of writing, a long, pavement-pounding run… Anywhere that isn’t going to wreck your relationship, just because you’re having a personal crisis.

In summation:
WANT to achieve my goals.
KNOW that certain realities and obstacles will get in the way.
REALIZE that there are alternatives to those realities, even if they are challenging.

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Step Three: OVERCOME ALL OBSTACLES, FAILures & setbacks.

Once you have reworded your biggest goals, and evaluated the positive and negative feelings associated with them, it’s time to focus on actionable steps towards achieving those goals.

Before we get there, remember: Self-improvement and goal-achieving is damn hard work that requires commitment, fortitude, and dedication. I cannot give you any magic formula, secret, or product that will fix your negative cycles, as much as I used to wish that was the case.

But, by being realistic about your capabilities, constantly revisiting the intention and feelings driving your goals, and by creating a personal arsenal of goal-achieving strategies, it is possible to BREAK THE CYCLE and overcome negative patterns.

My personal goal-achieving strategies look something like this:

Write down every single goal, and goal-furthering piece of inspiration.
Whether I want to feel more happy, see a certain a number on the scale, eat a certain ratio of green vegetables in a week, stick to a bed time, a wakeup time, or have a message to tell someone I love – I LOG IT ALL. I pepper my goals with inspiring quotes and artwork. I revisit, rework, revise, and edit them – constantly on a quest for the best.

Harness a personal “pause” button.
After repeating my negative cycles so many times, it became very clear which actions caused which results. But even knowing that certain actions would produce negative results, I still went through with them. I skipped over the part where I truly paused and thought through each decision, giving myself the time to figure out if it was worth it to go through with it. Now, I try to think about my future self, and be as good to her as I can be. I ponder what life will look like in 24 hours, and usually it’s not worth it to go through with whatever impulse is tempting me.

Have an exit strategy.
Find yourself in a situation where you’re feeling tempted? Morals compromised? Loss of control? Get out. Remove yourself from an environment that is not fostering who you want to be. I know it sounds easy enough, but in the moment it can be incredibly challenging to walk away. Be strong enough to recognize that nothing good will be on the other side of a bad situation.

Remove any elements or people from your life that aren’t serving your biggest goals.
Similar to the last point, but instead of situations, evaluate the people in your life and the elements that can be changed. Certain people dragging you down? Trying to dim your light? Or is it a job, perhaps? If you’re able to, eliminate them from your life. The relief will open up so much more energy to channel into positivity.

Challenge yourself to replace all negatives with positives.
This one I learned in Yoga Teacher Training. We were tasked with switching up every negative thought for a positive one, for one week straight. I’ve tried to keep it as a permanent habit. This applies to negative thoughts about myself, as well as negative habits. It’s a challenge, but one that rewires your brain to “trade up” in most situations, so that your mindset veers towards the positive end of the spectrum.

Evaluate how genuine you feel in every thought, word, and action.
For a long time, the person on the outside did not match the person I was on the inside. It was a projection, an idea of who I saw myself as, or who I wanted everyone else to see me as. Ultimately it was completely self-defeating because it lacked authenticity. If I have learned anything through all my trials and tribulations, it’s this: DISHONESTY ALWAYS CATCHES UP WITH YOU. Whether you’re dishonest with yourself or with others, it can only last so long. Give yourself the relief of always acting from a foundation of integrity.

Get back on track after mistakes and fails.
I still mess up. Not as big as I used to, but there are days when I eat too much, drink too much, or partake in something I am not terribly proud of. The difference now, however, is being fully aware of those mistakes and failures, and knowing what I need to do to set myself straight again. I don’t give up completely. I do what I need to do to tip the scales back into a state of positivity, happiness, and growth. I reevaluate my body and my mind and give them what they need: quiet, rest, water, vegetables, fresh air, a chat with someone I love and trust, etc.

Accept that there is no pinnacle to goal achieving.
This is the most the most exciting realization of all. For every benchmark I hit in terms of goals, an opportunity opens to set another one. And then another one. There’s always time to pick up a new goal, hobby, interest, etc. I pride myself on being ever-changing, ever-evolving, and I look forward to who I will be in the future, and what I will set my sights on.

 

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In closing:

Curing your life can start today: Identify what’s holding you back from your biggest goals, isolate the true feelings and intentions behind those goals, and overcome the obstacles that will undoubtedly get in your way by empowering yourself with tools, inspiration, and support.

 


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