It can happen to any of us, anywhere, anytime. It could happen at work. It could happen in bed. It could even happen while writing an article like this one. What? We could get stuck. Stuck for ideas on ways forward. Or worse, stuck in ways of thinking, working, doing and being, which are driven by habits that are hardened so firmly that we fail to even recognize that these habits of stuckness were instilled in our minds usually without our volition. Let me illustrate this with a sample conversation.
“Oh God, my head feels so heavy today, I shouldn’t have mixed drinks last night.”
“But sweetheart, you have to go to work today. Lalaji is on vacation.”
“Yes, I’ll pop in an aspirin.”
“Good, god-willing you will be able to retire soon.”
“What will happen then?”
“Maybe we will also take a holiday, get up when we feel like…”
Sounds like a normal couple in their late-40s? Here are 8 things wrong with this conversation:
- The guy knew how to drink responsibly. Wasn’t it the social environment or some conditioning that led him into a stuck space the night before? Did he HAVE TO mix drinks?
- The lady closes all flanks to get the day’s work done, except the daily routine of getting up and going to the job. Aren’t telecommutes possible in today’s world?
- The Lalaji (the business owner) is vacationing while the guy has to fill in. At that level of responsibility, shouldn’t he have more discretion?
- The guy’s immediate recourse is to an aspirin. The concepts of energy healing or alternative medicine have probably never entered his mind. Isn’t this pharmaceutical conditioning – literally home-based socially-validated drug-abuse with consequent chemical repercussions?
- God-willing; why leave it to God? Can’t mature 40 year olds have a plan about their life? What is retirement after all? An age? Or a bank balance?
- Further, what is the need to wait to retire from Lalaji? Aren’t there “jobs” that suit one’s own life purpose, which can be unraveled and developed side by side?
- Doesn’t a response like “what will happen then” indicate a habit pattern that puts blinkers on the guy so he eliminates any possibility of seeing options?
- In the last line the lady is voicing common dreams we all have. However can she see that everything that inhibits them is interlinked with the way they think and consequently behave?
Whether it be an extra drink, random self-medication, option-less job-dependency or an inability to plan, it converges on a stuckness in one or more of the 6 dimensions of life. This stuckness arises from a conditioning, ingrained through one’s social circle, education or upbringing. And in turn the conditioning results in involuntary habits.
Now the good news is that habits can be changed and thus everything can change with a domino effect. The bad news is that to change habits one must voluntarily replace old ones (which don’t serve our ends) with new ones (which do). And here’s the catch. A 3 letter word. W-H-Y.
Human beings are adept at change when we know why, and have an emotional connect with the why. For instance, rationally we change our clothes after a bath because we would smell bad if we didn’t. But actually that might not be too bothersome, except when we sit next to someone they might look at us with disgust. That face of disgust is our emotional reason to change – embedded deep in our subconscious.
So the real trick is to delve into the WHY of everything you need to change. Ideally you would do this with a coach/guide, but here’s a 5-step formula to adopt yourself:
- Identify a habit that doesn’t serve you and its current outcome
- Visualize a new habit and its potential outcome
- Ask yourself why you would want to drop the habit
- Continue asking why for each answer you give yourself, till you find something emotionally connected in your response. This could take 5 whys or sometimes more
- Replace the habit with the new one for the reason you have finally arrived at
Let us illustrate this with a dialog. Let’s say the habit the guy above identifies is his propensity to pop a pill and get going. The current outcome is immediate relief but it has long-term health hazards. A better option is to build himself up energetically with meditation and exercise.
“Why do I want to break my habit of popping a pill?
Because I must use healthier options to get better quickly.”
Why (do I want to adopt healthier options)?
“Because I want to stay healthy in future as well.”
Why (do I want to stay healthy)?
“Because my falling sick will be a burden on my family.”
Why (do I bother about the family)?
“Because my first commitment in life is to provide for them.”
Why (is that my first commitment)?
“Because when we married I promised my wife I will take care of her, not the other way round”
Now a simple aspirin has to fight against a wedding vow to win. Do you think this guy is likely to soak up basics of qigong and other such information and take a course or two? I’d bet, yes.
An important thing to realize in this 5-WHY process is that we often have an obsession with our habits. We lose flexibility when we challenge them and pop back into a ‘justification framework’ or a ‘victimized framework’. This happens especially if we ask “Why don’t” rather than “Why do” questions. For example, in the above, if Q2 was “Why don’t I adopt healthier options” we could easily slip into a negative endless spiral of not having time, priority, guts and eventually challenge our self-worthiness. “Why don’ts” are not the way to go.
In conclusion therefore, everything is unstuckable once we learn to make the ‘why’ bigger than the habit that applies the glue. Every activity we undertake as a matter of routine can be analyzed and broken down into constituent small habits and each habit can be further analyzed for its glue quality. Is it a sticky glue that’s holding us away from a better prospect or is it a handy glue that is keeping us attached to the bigger goal we are flying towards?
Complex matrices that we get stuck into, such as having a job to do, are nothing but compound habits. Limitless Living is about recognizing them and replacing them – to move on a more desirable trajectory for ones future.