As we wrap up the first week of 2019, I can’t help but wonder how the resolution hopefuls are doing. You know, the ‘new year, new me’, the ‘this year I’m not tolerating any of y’alls’ bs’, and the ‘don’t be surprised if you ain’t got my new number’ crowd.
Don’t get me wrong, ambitions of self-improvement are encouraged and I employ everyone to go out and become the individual they’ve always wanted to become but in my experience, it’s the ones quick to announce their plans that end up not changing at all.
That could be because they’ve yet to fully understand how hard it is to keep from repeated behavior.
How often do you see people doing the very thing they said they wouldn’t? How common is it that we ourselves end up doing what we know deep down we shouldn’t do? Sometimes it can feel as if we’re stuck in a bad episode of the Twilight Zone, fighting the same battles and slipping to the bottom of the same hill.
Sigmund Freud label’s this concept “repetition compulsion” — which is basically a coping mechanism for dealing with a past that’s unresolved.
Freud believed we are compelled to repeat until we remember. Whether it’s a habit of picking poor significant others, mistreating people or bad dieting, Freud’s studies state that we’ll continue to do a thing until we acknowledge the origin of the behavior.
As long as it remains hidden, an unwanted cycle of behavior and the associated emotional distress it evokes will persist. It’s not until the hidden meaning is revealed that we can have greater control over unwanted behavior.
So if there is a behavioral pattern you’re having trouble breaking, chances are there’s a larger issue the said behavior is addressing.
Don’t allow yourself to burn out one week into the new year. Here are three ways to make sure you’re keeping your old habits behind.
Journal without judgment
It’s hard to curtail learned behavior cold turkey especially when you’re unaware of its repercussions or even why you’re doing it in the first place.
But when you personally record your successes and failures, it allows you to speak to yourself uncensored and without judgment from the outside world. This permits you to facilitate whatever discoveries you have about yourself throughout the process in an unfiltered way.
If you find yourself continuing to do something you know you shouldn’t, start journaling the process of quitting that behavior and watch what deeper issue that unearths in the process.
Delay acting when emotionally distressed
Another reason we find ourselves repeatedly doing things we know we shouldn’t is because we often act out of emotion. It’s hard to demand character change from ourselves when we don’t allow the proper space for that to happen.
A huge reason we may find ourselves falling into the same patterns over and over again is not that we don’t want to change, but because when situations arise where there’s an opportunity to, we’re not in positions to present our best selves.
If our resolution is to not yell at our significant other or roll our eyes at our parents, we should probably be better managers of our feelings. Our rationale goes out the window when we’re overcome with emotion.
That’s why when we pause, breathe or do anything but impulsively act, we bridge ourselves to clearer thinking and we divert confrontational situations.
If the only things keeping you from the individual you’ve always wanted to be is a couple of deep breaths, make sure you do that!
Engage in physical activity
You’d be surprised how beneficial letting out steam is for emotional distress. It also could be that the reason you keep reverting back to the same behavior you know is no good for you.
When we don’t give ourselves a release it makes us revert to other channels — sometimes bad habits — to cope with stress. It’s when we’re giving ourselves an outlet to healthily process stress that we’re less likely lean on the behaviors we know to be as bad.
Instead of being discouraged at the shortcomings you may have already faced this new year, try to evaluate how you’re handling these new mandates on yourself.
Maybe you need to journal to find the root of this unwanted behavior; maybe you need to take deep breaths before making decisions, or possibly you just gotta work out a little this year.
It’s our job to make sure we continue to grow and evolve; if not, we’ll have the same resolutions every year, wishing the same things for ourselves, with no one believing us, and we don’t want that.