Written by : Andy Vantrease
Do you ever stop to wonder how you got to where you are? Not in the sense of, “What am I doing standing here in front of the open refrigerator, again?” But to think about everything that you’ve learned, accomplished, experienced – survived, even – for you to be standing here today.
All the choices you’ve made that have altered your life’s path: choosing one school over another, one city over another, one mate over another. Heck, what you had for breakfast this morning affects how you feel at this moment, even if you don’t realize it. Life is a string of choices that are presented in many ways. Some choices are obvious – opening your closet and picking an outfit, for example, is clearly a choice. Others are subconscious, imbedded deep in our minds, perhaps since we were children: relating specific body shapes with beauty or personalities with acceptable and unacceptable or amount of income with superiority.
As a child, our subconscious mind is like a sponge, absorbing every experience and learning at a rate that only occurs within the first several years after birth. Our model of the world is formed by what we witness, how our role models respond to their lives. If I watched my mother stare in the mirror grunting about needing to lose 10 pounds every day, I remember. If I watch my parents slam doors and refuse honest communication each time there is a disagreement, I remember. If I watch my siblings share with others and be kind to strangers, I remember. In the early years of life, we are constantly observing and filing, until these behaviors become our foundation. We learn how to act when we’re happy, angry, and sad, we learn about work and play, and we set expectations for our capabilities and where we fit in society. Think that sounds like a heavy load for a seven year old?
As we move through life, our perceptions change. We are influenced by movies, TV shows, friends, classes, teachers, nature. The list goes on. We experience stress and heartache and love and community and discrimination and rejection. We are thrown into situations day after day and expected to deal with them, in whatever way we know how. And (spoiler alert) some situations, in fact, most tough situations, don’t come with a how-to Youtube video. At some point in your life, you’ll be faced with adversity. What will you do? How will you react? Will you do as those before you or will you forge new patterns for yourself?
Just because you’ve always done something a certain way does not mean you can’t change your behaviors. If your foundation is unstable, or if along the way you’ve become detached from a strong foundation, reprogramming your subconscious mind towards positive change is possible. Start by practicing new thoughts and actions, with feeling, and repeat this throughout the day as though you are learning a new skill or building a new muscle. Visualize the end result you want and do everything in your power to feel and experience reaching this goal. If you’re in chronic pain, imagine day after day what it would feel like to wake up without the ache in your bones. If you’re not happy with the reflection in the mirror, imagine yourself looking in the mirror and being proud of yourself (notice how I didn’t say, “Imagine losing weight, getting Botox, slathering yourself in product of any kind”).
To the subconscious mind, repetition of a feeling is strong enough to change the foundation. Strip your vocabulary of negative words and phrases such as “can’t,” “shouldn’t,” “not ______ enough,” “too ________.” Own your choices, and don’t succumb to external (or internal) pressures that make you feel inadequate in whatever you’re pursuing. Every choice is the opportunity to move in the direction of your dreams. Believe in yourself, commit to yourself, and love yourself, every damn day, and watch your choices manifest in all the ways you have imagined.