Have you ever had a hard time changing an unhealthy pattern? Maybe made some forward progress a few times but then got sucked back down?
In this, you are not alone. Almost everyone struggles to make permanent change. It becomes much easier once you understand the on-going nature of temptation – it is like a gift that keeps on giving.
Not only do you need to make an initial choice to change, until your new pattern is firmly established, you will need to decide in every deciding moment to continue to keep making that same choice. Here’s what typically happens: a person who wants to change behavior of overeating may say, “From now on, I am only having one serving of food instead of two.” That night at dinner, he will say ‘no’ to seconds. He may successfully say ‘no’ to seconds for a week or two, and then one night, there will be a special holiday dinner or a favorite meal. The platter of temptation will come on a little stronger and say, “Are you sure you don’t want another helping? It’s your favorite… Come on, it’s going to taste so good. Just this once…” This is the personality’s way of attempting to pull the person back into the old, fear-base comfort zone. If he has not yet claimed the power of his free will, he may give into the temptation and fall back into the old pattern of overeating. He will end up feeling bad about himself, saying self-defeating things like, “I have no will-power. I can’t do it.” And his commitment to change will be broken.
Free will choice can be likened to laundry or dirty dishes – they are both never-ending! I recall how bewildered I felt when I first lived alone in college. How did those dirty dishes appear when I had just washed them, I wondered? And the laundry just continued to grow, seemingly no matter how many times I did another load. It was mystifying. I thought these things were done, yet I quickly discovered that they were part of an ongoing process that needed my constant and repeated attention. At first, I tried to ration my attention by saying to myself, “I will clean and do laundry once a week – every Sunday.” My apartment was a disaster zone by Tuesday, by Wednesday there were no clean dishes and on Thursday I had no clean clothes to wear. I soon came to see that a little bit of attention, frequently applied, was actually much easier to maintain than doing mountains of work once a week. By committing to do the dishes and the laundry regularly, and resisting the temptation to let them slide, I learned the process of personal upkeep.
Using the tool of free will to resist the temptation to settle and instead follow the will of your soul takes constant, on-going attention and upkeep. Just like deciding to do the dishes or laundry only once a week takes more work and effort than deciding to do the dishes once a day, or after each meal, so does deciding to do just about anything infrequently require more effort than doing it habitually. Let’s look a few examples. Take an easy one – tooth brushing. Brushing and flossing your teeth several times a day makes the upkeep of teeth-cleaning much easier. People who only brush occasionally have to go through torture at the dentist’s office to get all of that built-up gunk scraped off.
How about exercising? You may be able to relate to this. A few years ago, I became determined to get fit. I would do yoga and be panting within the first 15 minutes. The next day, I’d be sore all over; giving into temptation to skip my new workout plan was easy. I could think up a dozen good excuses. The following day, I’d skip it again, telling myself I’d make up for it tomorrow. Suddenly, two weeks would fly by, and I’d realize I hadn’t kept my commitment. I’d renew my resolve, go to yoga class the next day, start panting, get sore, and repeat the whole cycle all over again. Because I didn’t stick it out long enough, each time I exercised felt as hard as the last. I had to repeat this pattern for several months before I could find the strength to decide to ignore the temptation to skip and really get committed to building my level of physical fitness. Once I got committed to a regular routine, it became easier to make the choice each time to exercise.
Think about it; the word ‘pattern’ implies something that repeats itself over and over again – the pattern of wallpaper, the pattern on the tile, the pattern of numbers… So, to create a new pattern of behavior, we first must be willing to repeat the new behavior a few dozen times in a row before a regular pattern can become established. This requires saying ‘no’ to the temptation to continue to repeat the old pattern and a level of commitment and resolve towards cultivating the new one. You can do it. Trust me, your will is stronger than you may think.
The tricky thing about temptation is that if you give into it just once, allowing it to sabotage your intention to change, it will be on to you and get even stronger the next day and the next. Sometimes people just give up on their goals because they feel worn down by the on-going struggle.
Understand this: you are not your tempting thoughts! You are not the parts of your ego-based personality that are still residing in fear and wish to hold you back or keep you small. You are a divine Being, and temptation actually holds no power over your free will choice. You are absolutely strong enough to say ‘no’ to temptation, to say ‘no’ to fear every time. You have the full power of free will to choose to say ‘yes’ to your soul, to grow and evolve in your own highest good.
Temptation is merely testing your resolve; your freedom to choose commitment to your soul’s goal is way stronger than any fear-based urgings. Begin to laugh at temptation and say ‘No thanks!’ The lighter you can be about it, the easier it will become to stick with your commitment. Once you’ve fully established a new pattern, your ego will adapt to the higher altitude, and a new, healthier comfort zone will become your norm – at which point that particular temptation will naturally fall away.
Get committed to yourself! Say, “I am stronger than I think. I have the ability to make and keep an on-going commitment to myself.”
Many Blessings of Joy and Vibrant freedom
Action Step ~ Be aware of the on-going nature of temptation, and repeatedly choose to stick to your resolve to change for the better. Declaration: “I have free will choice. I have the power to choose my commitment over ego-based temptation, again and again, however long it takes for me to create a healthier pattern of behavior. I can do it. I am so worth the on-going attention.”
Additional Support: Listen to this 7-minute closed-eye process on the on-going nature of temptation and the need for on-going commitment to change; please refrain from driving while listening.