Learning and relearning and learning again

At the start of a new year I ask clients to review what their learnings were from the last year and make commitments to what they will do differently this year. A system that works well is: what worked, what didn’t, what would I like to change and how am I feeling? (You can use this same system at the end of each week also.)

In one of these sessions a client had actually gone beyond this reflection and gone through the last 3 years’ worth of notes and learnings to glean themes that were pertinent and reoccurring. As it turns out this was a really valuable process. Themes became really obvious even if they were masked in different situations. I was openly impressed that the client was able to see what was happening for them so clearly. However, the client felt frustrated. Why were the same things reoccurring over and over again? Why had they not learned this lesson and made a change? I could see their point.

Our minds are amazing things. They require us to put in some pretty intensive work if we are to really change the way they operate. Not only have we been thinking and using our brains in the same way for our entire lives, but chances are, we are getting rewarded and reinforced for the way we think. Society makes this so. Over time we have learned to adapt our perception to what gives us the best result or response, hence we have automatic reactions to certain situations. Over time we’ve learned that this reaction will protect us or stop us from feeling something unpleasant, or conversely, help us to feel something good.

If we want to make lasting change in the way we view things we have to commit to practice. The rewiring of the brain is reasonably simple but it takes time and dedication to the change. Old habits and thought patterns reoccur because although we may have identified them as unhelpful, we have not yet made a practice around changing that pattern. A practice may look like learning to pause between action and response. It may look like asking yourself a question each morning to set your mindset for the day. It may also look like committing to meditation or something similar that requires discipline in remaining still and letting thoughts and feelings move through you, just like we need to mirror in everyday situations.

Whatever the practice, it is in the doing that we learn and change, not just in noticing. This is why we often have to learn and relearn the same lessons until we determine the practice that will help us to truly shift our perspectives on a deeper, subconscious level that drives our automatic responses to daily circumstances.