Okay, with a topic like this, we could go in a hundred different directions, right? I could sound like I’m trying to get you to be a critical thinker towards things of the world at large. But before we get too broad, let me quickly give you a focal point. I’m merely suggesting that you question everything about yourself. We know that our belief system is founded on what we learned in our family unit, the culture we grew up in, our ancestry, our education, our religion, and messages we received from peers or social media, to name a few. Add to the fact that our brains are trying to make sense of our world and the experiences we have in it, and where there is a gap in information in understanding, the brain will just make up stuff. Usually, it’s based on something similar that happened in our past or something we experienced before. The brain says, “Ah, I recognize this. This is like that other thing. So, I know exactly how we should act and think about THIS thing.” And it just doesn’t give you any other option to consider. It’s not going to say to you, “Hey, this is like that old thing and old way of behaving. Do you want to do it that way again? Or would you like to consider a new way of thinking and behaving?” No, the brain is not going to do that for two reasons. The motivations of the brain – the reason it directs us in any direction – is to avoid pain and conserve energy by not working any harder than is necessary. So if it sees a pattern, it jumps right on it and does that thing. With no alternative suggested. This is how brains work. All brains. Now, you can train it to do something different. That’s the goal. But this is its factory default. This is how we get it. Lazy and not super reliable. Great, huh? But again, you CAN train your brain to do something different. And I want to show you how to do that by questioning everything.
Now, lest you think your brain is always working for you and not against you, let me tell you a personal story. Now, keep in mind that I’ve been very intentional about retraining my brain for a couple of years now. And I’ve made it my life’s work. I’m that serious about it. But even when you’re aware of what thoughts need your attention and you’re intentional about making changes, your brain can still be tricky.
Here’s what happened. Not long ago, I was whining to my friend, who also happens to be a coach, telling her my sad, pity-party story of how I’ll never get to drive a cute, small sports car ever again. See, when the kids were growing up, I drove them and their friends around in a pretty good-sized Suburban. Then, when my youngest finally got his license and a car, I got rid of that Suburban and got myself a small sporty sedan. But I didn’t actually get rid of the Suburban. I convinced my husband that we needed to keep it in the family so that we could still use it for trips and family outings. So, bless his heart, he drove around that monster of a Suburban while I sported around in my cute little car. Such a good man. I drove that cute car until I HAD to get something bigger for my flower business. I really thought that was temporary, and in just a few years I’d get back into a smaller car. But when Brian passed away, I sold the Suburban. And because now I didn’t have a bigger vehicle or someone else to pawn the bigger vehicle on, I was stuck with my mid-sized SUV. And here’s where that pitiful story comes in that I told my friend. I said, “I’ll always have to have this size car because I have two dogs that sleep in crates at night time. And if I ever travel to see my kids, I usually bring my dogs, and those metal crates are huge and take up so much space. I have to have at least a mid-sized SUV to carry those darn crates around.” She said, “When you travel in your car, do your dogs stay locked in their crates?” I said, “Heavens no. The sit in the backseat with all their cozy blankets.” And then she said something that literally blew my mind. Like literally I was so confused for a minute, and it felt like my whole world exploded. Here’s what she said: “Then why don’t you just get those canvas travel crates that fold down and you can just tuck them into the trunk of your cute, sporty car?” What? Wait, what? What? Literally, I my mind was blown. Now, let me stop here and tell you: I’ve been a widow now for six years. In these six years, I’ve figured out or learned how to do things I’ve never never done before because my husband just took care of it for 30 years. Listen, pro-tip, YouTube can teach you how to do anything. I feel like a boss when it comes to using a compressor and nail gun to repair a gate. I’m smart, capable, and very resourceful. BUT. But my brain did not want to offer me the simple suggestion that there are canvas travel crates for dogs out there that could be the solution to my pity-party problem. It didn’t even cross my mind to do a search online for another solution. And why didn’t it? Because in my mind, there wasn’t another solution.
For all these years that we’ve had dogs – and they’ve been many – they’ve always slept in those clunky, metal crates and we’ve always traveled with those big, heavy crates everywhere we went. It’s what we’ve always done. This is how it’s done. And if this is how we’ve always done it, then the brain sees no reason at all to break that pattern of thinking; to offer any other solution. Listen, the brain is just lazy and doesn’t want to work very hard. And if you’re not careful, you could end up living a lot of your life with “Dog crate” like thinking. You could be missing out on an adventure of a lifetime, a new sense of peace and contentment, a personal strength that tells you you’re not a victim of your circumstances. You could be missing out of having a satisfying and fulfilling life. A life full of choices. That is until someone kind enough blows your mind wide open with a new perspective and offer new possibilities to your current thinking. All because your brain is stuck in a rut of “it’s always been this way, so why would we want to change it?” So lazy. And horrible. Especially if you that change would bring you freedom and peace and open up a world of possibilities! But this is what the brain does.
Those stories that we have in our brain can also keep us from doing things. When I was growing up in my family and in my strict Baptist church, I heard that only the trashy people had tattoos. Now, I know a lot of people my age who had the same “story” so maybe it wasn’t from a religious perspective and more like a generational conjecture. Anyway, when I was immersed in the music industry, lots of people had tattoos. They were mostly younger than me, and I had no problem loving and accepting their tatted selves. But it wasn’t for me. My brain just kept telling me I’d be trashy if I got it. Not anyone else, just me. Then my adult children got tattoos. That did not go over well with my parents, as you could imagine, and as a Momma Bear, I came to the defense of my cubs. I remember questioning their stance and saying, “When they got that tattoo, they weren’t any different in that moment than they were the minute before they had it. That tattoo didn’t change who they were.” There it was. A “break” in my brain’s pattern of thinking. And as a nod to my kiddos and a constant reminder to not judge others or myself, I got a tattoo on the inside of my right wrist. That one thing has literally changed my life in such an enormous way.
But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to wait for someone else or an external circumstance to “break your brain open”. You can do this for yourself. And the way you begin is by questioning everything. When you get up in the morning, what is your routine and why do you do it that way? Why do you do anything that you do? Why do you sleep on that side of the bed? Why do you sit in that chair? Why do you eat that kind of food? Why do you go to that kind of church?
They say we’re creatures of habit. But do you even know why you have that habit? Why do you do or not do some things? Where did it come from? Was it learned, taught? By whom and why? Did you just adopt it because your parents did it? Did your Mom plaster her refrigerator with pictures and little magnets from every state you ever visited, and because she did that, that’s what you do now? Ask yourself, is this what I want? Is the way I live or act or think keeping me from something better or bigger, more open and free? Do I even like it? It’s easy to get into the “this is just how it’s done” mentality because if that’s the way it was done when we grew up and we didn’t know any different way of doing it, of course our brains are going to conclude that there’s just no other way. This is how it is. Why even consider that there may be an alternative or different perspective.
Now, the exercise of questioning everything is not to get you to change everything, but to let you see where your thinking is rigid and limited, keeping you from living a more free and abundant life. This is the point of awareness where you get to decide if you like why you do what you do and if you want to keep doing it or consider an alternative. And here’s the beauty of our neuroplastic brains: they are malleable to change. Wired for it. And happy to do it if we just tell it what to do. It’s going to be lazy until you make it get to work. The most powerful thing you could ever understand is that God has given you the ability to get your brain to work for you, not against you. It’s just going to continue to do what it does – being lazy, stuck in ruts without any new ways of thinking – unless and until you decide you’ve had enough and you want to experience something more.
Here's the funniest thing about my car story. When it came time – after my mind blowing conversation with my friend - and I was able to buy a new car, you might be surprised to hear that I didn’t buy that cute, sports car I had wanted. Nope. I bought another mid-sized SUV. My friend laughed at that saying, “All that and you didn’t even get what you wanted.” And here’s what I realized. It wasn’t that I wanted the small sports car. What I actually wanted was to not be hammer locked into a “I have to” situation. I wanted the freedom to choose. And when it came down to it, I chose the car I wanted. And yes, you bet I immediately when online and ordered two light weight, folding, canvas dog crates. And I took those two metal crates to Goodwill for someone else to enjoy. And hopefully when they pick up those crates, they too are questioning everything.
Yes, Life Coaches break open the brain that’s stuck in neural ruts. It’s what we do, and I’d love to help you challenge yours by questioning everything. I’ve put a link in the show notes to book a free 30-minute call at your convenience if you’d like to chat about it.
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Have a wonderful week, friends. See you next Wednesday for the next episode of Another Beautiful Life.
Why do you do what you do? Why do you sleep on that side of the bed? Why do you drive that car? And why don’t you do some things? Are you aware of the ways family, culture, religion, education, and just plain ‘ole habit influences how you live? Join me today as we “break open the brain” to new possibilities of thinking.
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