With the onset of the new year, half of us will consciously make a vow to rehabilitate some part of ourselves that is not deemed satisfactory to self. Within the first week of effort, 25% of the half who make the change effort, will fail and quit. Eventually, the survivors for the year conclude at about 8% winners. We probably think, at least those that tried and failed are better than the 50% who made no attempt.
How we make changes is more determinative of success than just ‘pushing’ for the change and often just relying on willpower. Habits and conditioning do more to stabilize change than believing in goals and intentions.
Wendy Wood, professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California, has researched fact from myth, as far as behavioral change is concerned.
The 5 myths she explicates, underscore the misguidedness of just believing without the testing of reality. For one, she cites the misguided thinking of “insufficient willpower” as a cause of failure when half the tasks we do are habitual, because we do them without thinking. She states self-control is an illusion, self-control is a “bedrock of habitual patterns”.
Secondly, there is no substantive research evidence that clearly suggests that ‘apps’ are effective change agents. Third, researchers have given us 66 days to establish a habit that can endure. The popularized 21 day idea was not substantiated. Less thought and less willpower, were required when we depended on the same location or time of day to establish the new habit.
Fourth, self-help of books and goal setting, was not nearly as successful as having a supportive environment in which change can more easily be accommodated. Illustrating this point, Wendy Wood cites heroin addicted Viet Nam Vets, who upon returning to their home soil, reduced their numbers from 25% addicted to a U.S. statistic of 5% relapsing.
Lastly, more knowledge with intentions pleads an insufficient mass to get past the “long-term memory systems involved in habit formation”. Actual ‘doing’ is the prescription for success.
Conditioning, as cited above, is a determinant in change. However, conditioning cuts both ways. It can be a friend or foe, depending on our relationship with it. Conditioning, the bad kind, often shows up when we may least want it. More importantly, why do we want it, especially given it’s notorious bad timing and contribution to long-term misery?
Why, because we have become the choices that are the cause and sustenance of our suffering. We are being suffocated by fantasy, due to not seeing enough to choose otherwise. How so, we ask ourselves? It boils down to seeing the truth about ourselves. We are not willing to give up what we believe. And we believe in a fiction that rigidly pulls away from Reality. The beliefs keep us herded in a pen where conditioning shows up maintaining the status quo. This has haunted us for too much of our life. We suffer for no other reason than our identification with the addendum of believing in things that are not really present. It’s the stuff that we drag into this Moment, perjuring the Truth of “What Is”.
Take for example, our most severe obvious obnoxious piece of conditioning that is always showing up, day after day, and hour after hour. For example, the belief that we need to be more. It is endlessly there, taunting us. What to do? Less?
The seminal truth is that we have grown, over time, accepting unskillful behaviors, to the point that we seek comfort and definition in their appearance. Additionally, we take the ‘up’ side of unwanted conditioning and play and exaggerate it’s advantages. This is the piece that helps us rationalize it’s defectiveness with the presumed advantages that we would lose, if we don’t ‘believe’. The argument is compelling, though flawed, in that our conditioned behavior carries on year after year, unabated for the most part. We may not even ‘act out’ on the conditioned cues. Despite this, conditioning of belief does appear as dominance and occupies important internal space and precludes the full freedom of expression, when it binds into a little self.
The fact that this destructive conditioning is constantly streaming in, makes the bandwidth less available for our spiritual growth. And with time and no significant internal reflection, we continue to live our life of quiet and not so quiet desperation, stuck in a reactive conditioned idea of self.
To append and upend this wart of existence is to see and acknowledge the allowance we have given, in virtually every moment, to this bad boy. To allow this ‘self’ to stream in freely, is a choice that needs to be unmade in consciousness. When we can honestly say to ourselves that this ‘dysfunction’ is not worth the pittance of temporary and illusory advantage it gives us, because it is not us; only then, can we un-load the identity we have put into this idea. Only then, can this no longer hold and bind us to the conditioned self. Belief is aberrance incarnate when identity is loaded unto it.
Identity can be reunited with the proper stream when seeing the contrast of Space with the objectionable phenomena. We can then move out of the throes of this tireless reaction and move in with whom we really Are. Again the choice has already been made, because that Is whom we Are. It is the clarity of unloading the obstruction and it’s hinge pin that frees our locked-up status with this serial offender.
The example of believing we need to be ‘better’ more, before we can conclude happiness, gets directly in the way of happiness. To conclude the belief, that we have not Now accessed the reality of full abiding happiness, is to virtually guarantee no happiness. Trying to get happiness pushes away from what is perennially always there. The ‘trying’ is pushing. The ‘not trying’ is pushing. ‘Being’ does not have any ‘pushing’. It just Is. Belief throws us out of Reality.
We are complicit as long as we continue to ‘think’ we need this objectionable accomplice for happiness or whatever. Seeing the ‘thinking’ is important because that is what is overplayed. When we stop constantly overplaying our ‘thinking’ and our limited defective self, we can liberate from the conditioning. Not only must the overplayed ‘thinking’ be downsized dramatically, but the ‘allowance’ given for this faux entity to exist (conditioning) must be withdrawn.
Iterating, we, deep inside, have said ‘yes’ to longstanding conditioning, for specious advantages that do not justify the existence of and for this conditioning. Until we are more clear about whom we really Are (no thoughts, ideas, or beliefs) then and only then, can the possibility of relief be real. To believe that a thought (or set of thoughts, e.g. conditioning) can bring fulfillment, is to die painfully a thousand times, in tens of thousands of Moments.
The New Year is the Moment. The Moment is never the same nor can it ever be the same. It Is timeless. Our memory and thinking give pretense to the idea that we are in a rut. Infinite potential to Be and do anything is always possible in any Moment. Limitations we place on ourselves with static beliefs and associated conditioning, are the chains that bind us. In the generosity of infinite space, the Universe gives us everything when we lose the dross.