After the break up of my eighteen-year marriage and the end of a subsequent three-year relationship, I found myself in the dark, confusing chasm between knowing and doing. Goodness knows I’d read enough books to confidently label myself a co-dependent, over-reactive, passive-aggressive, people pleaser with low self-esteem, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. But, knowing all of this didn’t help — yet.
I was a self-help junkie, always searching for my next fix and seeing myself in every book I read. Yet I was never quite able to take the wise words from the pages and work them into my day-to-day life. While I could easily diagnose my deficits and wanted to do better, really changing anything was beyond me.
Because of this predicament, I found myself in a most uncomfortable place, the space between knowing how to do better and actually doing it. When I didn’t know any better, I was blissfully ignorant. I could be all justified and smug in my victim role and right-ness. Everything was always someone else’s fault.
However, once I knew better, I had to look at myself, question my behaviors, and see how I contributed to situations. I had to start taking responsibility for myself and my life. When you are used to blaming everyone else, believe me, this is not any fun! But, it is a necessary first step to doing things differently.
Byron Katie writes in Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life:
If you begin by pointing the finger of blame outward, then the focus isn’t on you. You can just let loose and be uncensored. We’re often quite sure about what other people need to do, how they should live, whom they should be with. We have 20/20 vision about other people, but not ourselves.
…Eventually you come to see that everything outside you is a reflection of your own thinking. You are the storyteller, the projector of all stories, and the world is a projected image of your thoughts.”
I knew that I wanted to tell a different story. I knew that I wanted to think and act differently and create a very different reality and future for myself. My motto at the time was an Einstein paraphrase: “If you want different results, you have to do something different.” The problem was in the doing.
For a while, I existed in an uncomfortable place between knowing and doing and sometimes was harsh and critical of myself for not doing like I knew I wanted to. At these times, I knee-jerk reacted back to my old fear-based behaviors. At other times, I extended understanding and compassion to myself while measuring my progress in one-sixteenths of an inch.
Over time (and I mean years) with dogged determination, I did adopt new behaviors which became my go-to responses. Because of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to physically change structure and operation based on stimuli, behaviors, and thoughts, new neuronal connections were made which became the main pathways in my brain.
Neuroplasticity is the superpower we all have to change ourselves and our lives for the better and to close the gap between knowing and doing. By consciously acting with mindful intent over years and continually encouraging and forgiving myself, all those micro measurements added up.
I still don’t always do as I know that I should, but I’m happy to say it’s more often than not these days
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sfuk/