It’s been three months and I haven’t written one single article. Before this unintended and undesired break from my most loved literary pursuit, I would easily pen down at least two to three articles in a week. First, it had taken me years to start and when I did, it soon became an essential ritual of my daily life. And then just when I had begun to revel in the fact that I had finally set the ball rolling in the direction of living my long cherished passion and dream of writing blogs that the daily practice came to a halt.
This sudden discontinuance of a good habit happens with so many people. It is a pattern that many of us must have experienced in our lives. First, we are not able to start something and then when we do, we become addicted to doing it everyday. And then some event happens and there is a pause which again goes on indefinitely.
School students were going to schools everyday for so many years and then corona outbreak forced them to stay at home for almost a year and now many of them aren’t ready to leave their current, however unhealthy, routines and go back to the old habit of going to school everyday just like they had done for so many years before the pause.
People after years of resistance start reading books. Then they read a few good ones back to back until a break happens and they stop altogether and again years go by and they remain deprived of the pleasure only reading provides.
Thanks to our busy lives, excessively spending time on gadgets and little differences, we sometimes go adrift in our closest relationships. Despite wishing to spend more time together and doing things the old way, we are not able to make the move and restore love, passion or friendship. The ice that gets set in the once warm bonds doesn’t easily melt or we simply refrain from enough efforts to break the proverbial ice.
Why does this happen to so many of us? Why aren’t we able to start that physical fitness regime that we have been thinking of starting since long and keep wanting yet deferring? Why do the addicts so easily stop living their clean, substance free lives that they had lived for so long before that unfortunate moment and go on using the substance despite knowing and living the harms that they do to them?
Why aren’t we able to break old habits and form new habits easily?
That’s because the things that we start doing on a regular basis become a set pattern in our minds and it is very difficult to break the set patterns. Our brain actually understands and works in patterns or a fixed design. The neurons through their synaptic connections form patterns that our brain finds quick and easy to follow subconsciously.
The complex machine loves working in the loop and prefers following the code that gets embedded with a few days’ repetition of the act. So when I started writing daily it got into the loop and when some circumstances (actually my domestic help took a month’s off) prevented me from writing for a few days the old pattern broke and the new one formed.
In between I did find few times and opportunities but I just couldn’t get the rhythm back. On some days when I tried I couldn’t start, on some I felt I was too tired to think and write and on a few I simply preferred the new habits that had replaced my favorite one.
Now today I am finally able to write this one because I found the answer to my frustration and annoyance of past three months with myself over my disability to restart what I had become so natural and well versed at.
What actually happened to me was that my previous pattern which once took years to form got broken and in its absence a new one got established. I had to spend so much time attending to the chores my help earlier attended to that the writer’s routine got abandoned.
Our brain is such a smart and lazy fellow that once it starts finding some routine difficult to follow it not just stops trying, it also starts giving a hundred excuses why that task can’t be done anymore. This is how procrastination starts and we go on delaying and postponing the once loved task or way of life. We don’t deny it but we also don’t do it.
So how do we come out of the rut and start again?
By simply breaking the pattern. Your brain unlearned the old code in its absence of a few days or weeks and learned a new one. Now you simply make it unlearn this new one and relearn the old one. Sounds easy but you haven’t been able to do it because it requires following some rules.
1. Become conscious to the fact that you really wish to break a pattern. You need to be desperate to go back to the healthier and more useful habits or to acquire completely new ones. There has to be a burning desire to be in that desired state.
Most of the time the pattern doesn’t change because the will to do it is not strong enough. There has to be a strong longing or motivation to be in the craved routine or way of life. If you are too comfortable in your current routine then you simply can’t get out of it. So the realization, self acquired or found through a mentor’s words, that you want to be doing something very different from your present day activities is very essential.
Once the awareness is there, you need to ignite and fire it up everyday, till the time your wish becomes your reality. And for that use the power of your words.
2. Use the power of spoken words. The words that we speak are the instructions that we give to our mind. So start saying it everyday, every few hours that you wish to deviate and depart from this undesired way of living life. Pick up your favorite phrase and say it again and again. My favorite is, “I have to break the pattern.”
At the same time don’t say what you don’t wish to do. Like, “I am not able to write.” “I think I can’t do it anymore.” “It’s too difficult to be like that again.” These negative phrases will never let you break the rut so refrain yourself from using them. Rather tell yourself that it was you who did it earlier also and in case you wish to form a brand new habit speak of your other previous accomplishments.
Speak in affirmations and give an assurance to your mind that it is doable. Don’t scare it by speaking otherwise.
3. Start immediately. When the burning desire to form a new or reacquire an old pattern is so lit up that it starts making you restless and impatient, do not wait for a perfect moment or day but start immediately, then and there.
If you wish to really shatter a bad pattern of complacency and lethargy then do not resist taking an accurate action for another day. If the enlightenment happens at the end of a day then don’t wait for the next morning sun to rise. You can gear up wherever you are and set off on the new path. The neurons inside your brain may take the cue that it must be very important and may work overtime to form the new pattern.
Rather it must be a fact that the more excited and enthusiastic you are in starting something may become a habit more quickly. So the third rule is not to procrastinate again and start then and there.
4. Do extreme and intense action. If you really wish to break the pattern, then little and infrequent effort is not sufficient. Rather the pattern hasn’t been broken yet because you have been investing little, occasional time on the desired activity. Remember that your once moving cycle came to a sudden halt and to restart the stationed wheel you need to be in top gear.
So once you start immediately, go to the extreme. Set some audacious goals and press the pedal. If you wish to stop being lazy, then wear those running shoes that have been lying gathering dust and go out for a long, refreshing walk. Walk long enough to know how much fun and beneficial it is.
You might be thinking that too much action might be taxing. You are right. It might be taxing initially but if the realization to change your current design is strong and you know the benefits, you will endure the initial pain of doing the extreme. So to ensure your endurance, keep repeating the right phrases, just like I have been telling myself that I need to break the pattern of not writing anything.
Once I understood that I had done enough dilly dallying for months I knew I had to go to the extreme and write something immediately. So here I am, almost done with another heartfelt write up that I have managed to finish in record time because I can’t let my distracted neurons to come to play and spoil the pattern I so desire to put back in its place.
My friend, our life is a constant conflict between the subconscious habits that form mostly due to our ignorance or negligence and the conscious choices that we fortunate ones sometimes realize and recognize that we need to make. The first and fast mover wins the war.
If like me you too think that you too need to get back to a once forgotten habit or acquire a new one, then get up and break the pattern.
Just do it!!!