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Creating Self-Sustaining Change September 11, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Health & Wellness, Mindfulness, Nature, People.

Who you are now is a collection of unconscious implicit memories developed over time as the result of choices you made and repeated so often that they became hard-wired habits.

On the road from “who you are” to “who you want to be” . . .

Goofy-Riding-A-BikeExpect a few stumbles and tumbles.

Replacing a “bad habit” (e.g., getting anxious) with a “good habit” (e.g., remaining calm) is like acquiring any other skill.

Most people learn to walk or ride a bike only after a few stumbles and tumbles.  If we collapse and give up the first time we fall, we never reach the finish line.

We must keep coming back to the task . . . like Dianne Nyad, who took 35 years to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Key West.

It’s all about getting out of the way!

Each time you reach for the keyboard or a pencil, synapses fire and transmit messages from mind to muscle at 250 mph.  They are able to transmit data at miraculous speeds because . . . YOU are not getting in the way.


Once you learn how to type, write, or ride a bike, you create implicit memories that tell your body how to move and what to do without you having to spell it out on a conscious level each time.

After you’ve mastered a skill, you need only create an intention and your body takes care of pulling the necessary strings to accomplish the designated task.

Creating new habits feels uncomfortable.  

Each time you consciously choose to learn something new, or to do something that doesn’t follow your habitual patterns, your body will be telling your mind that something is NOT RIGHT.

Pluto-RollerskatingThat doesn’t mean that you can’t change . . . you can. First, at a conscious level. Then, with enough repetition, at an unconscious automatic level.

But it takes TIME and EFFORT.  And lots and lots of practice.

Let’s play “Simon Says” . . .

Simon says, “Cross your arms.”

Simon says, “Uncross your arms and cross them the OTHER way.”

Donald-Duck-BaseballThe first time you crossed your arms, you didn’t have to consciously choose HOW to cross your arms . . . because you relied on a habitual intrinsic memory.

The second time you crossed your arms, you had to THINK about it.  And it took longer.  And it felt uncomfortable.  Because you didn’t have an intrinsic memory in place to do your “thinking” for you.

Self-Sustaining Change

Once we learn to walk, ride a bike, or play a musical instrument, continuing to do so becomes easier because we are relying on an intrinsic memory rather than conscious effort.

In process, me move from Unconsciously Unskilled (not knowing we don’t know how to “tie our shoe”) to Consciously Unskilled (knowing we don’t know how to “tie our shoe”) to Consciously Skilled (able to “tie our shoe” with conscious effort) to Unconscious Skilled (able to “tie our shoes” without even thinking about it).

Once we reach the last level (Unconscious Skilled), the change we’re after becomes self-sustaining because we’ve created neural pathways and intrinsic memories.  New wiring has replaced the old.

The same process applies when we change the way we think, act, and re-act to the world around us.  What starts out feeling “AWKWARD” becomes increasingly comfortable until, one day, we see the world from our new perspective “without even thinking about it.”

Aah . . . that’s better!

Tomorrow ~> Re-Wiring The Brain

* * * * *

Our brain, which controls virtually every aspect of our lives, is as amazing a piece of equipment as you are ever likely to encounter.

Reading this post is akin to reading the Cliff Notes for a beloved classic ~ you’ll get the gist of the plot-line and learn about a few of the major characters, but many delightful nuances and well-turned phrases are missing.

To learn more about our miraculous bundle of synaptic intelligence, consider reading Evolve Your Brain ~ The Science of Changing Your Mind, by Joe Dispenza.

Changing your mind will change your life.

Related posts:  Good Habits Bad Habits (Patricia’s Place) * The Serenity Principle


1. Pix Under the Oaks - September 11, 2013

I am enjoying this series of posts. Just reading them gets me moving and keeps me moving in the right direction. Also keeps me aware!

nrhatch - September 11, 2013

Yay! That’s the key . . . becoming more conscious of what we are doing NOW and more aware of infinite possibilities for the FUTURE. Then can we make informed decisions for ourselves.

And when we enter the realm of “Conscious Choosing” we are FREE to be who we WANT to be (instead of being a slave to old habits and habitual thought patterns).

2. kateshrewsday - September 11, 2013

Lovely, thought provoking post, Nancy. We are gifted with the ability to change our way of living and approach to life.

nrhatch - September 11, 2013

I am noticing a distinct difference in my thought processes since starting the book . . . all for the good! 😀

3. Three Well Beings - September 11, 2013

I am so glad you referenced Dianne Nyad as an excellent example for so many things–including how to age! I was so pleased with her success and found her inspirational. I have many habits that continually show me that I need more practice! I am definitely a work in progress, but I’m at peace with that. It gives me a goal. 🙂

nrhatch - September 11, 2013

Thanks, Debra. I agree. She’s a great example of living life in forward motion.

Anytime we look around and decide that there are “no more hills to climb” . . . we need to open our eyes a bit wider. 😯

4. Patricia - September 11, 2013

When we are children and everything is a new adventure we don’t even think about not doing something because we don’t know how all we know is that we will learn. Somewhere along the way we start to over-think things and then we worry about the time and effort it will take and that we might fail and waste all that time and effort. Silly adults missing out on the adventures

nrhatch - September 11, 2013

That’s exactly why I used learn to tie our shoes as an example, Patrica, because when we were kids we just wanted to reach the milestone of tying our shoes by ourselves.

We BELIEVED that we would reach that point . . . and we kept trying until we had the tying down pat. Same thing when we wanted to learn to walk, talk, read, write, swim, ride a bike, etc.

We didn’t worry that we would fail . . . we knew if “they” could do it than so could we.

5. sufilight - September 11, 2013

I am enjoying these posts as it adds more clarity to what I read in Dr. Joe’s book. I still have habits that need to be let go of.

nrhatch - September 11, 2013

Thanks, Marie. As soon as I finished reading his book, I created these “talking points” to apply the science of neuroplasticity in my life to create new neural pathways in the brain.

In the past, I went from Unconscious unskilled -> Conscious unskilled -> Conscious skilled . . . but I stopped just shy of the self sustaining change we enjoy when our new skills become something we don’t even have to think about.

That’s what I’m working on now. I’m noticing a difference already.

6. lindalitebeing - September 11, 2013

He would make an excellent guest blogger! I am enjoying this series.

nrhatch - September 11, 2013

Yay! I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I’m tying together a few loose wires in tomorrow’s post ~> Re-Wiring Your Brain.

I don’t know if he’d be interested in guest blogging here on SLTW. But you can find him in several clips on youtube. He’s a FUN speaker with a warm presentation style. 😀

7. Grannymar - September 12, 2013

These days I need a few loose wires tied up to stop me falling, what do you think? 😆

nrhatch - September 12, 2013

People have used these tools to improve their golf game and their tennis swing, so you might give it a go.

If you fell because you weren’t paying attention to where you were walking, you might benefit from mindfulness exercises which increase your present moment awareness.

8. shreejacob - September 12, 2013

True, true….I find that I have to consciously be aware that I should be aware…lol…but soon it will be unconsciously being aware ..if you know what I mean 😉

nrhatch - September 12, 2013

Yes. After reading this book, I’m convinced that many of us “stall” when we reach “consciously skilled.” We don’t realize that we need to take IT (whatever “IT” is) one step farther if we want IT to be as simple as tying our shoes, or typing, or brushing our teeth, or walking, or talking, or reading a book.

Here’s to being unconsciously aware of that! 😛

9. jannatwrites - September 13, 2013

Change is hard because it feels foreign in the beginning. It was a long time ago, but in one of my classes, they said it takes twenty-one days to change a habit. I think it depends on the habit, though.

nrhatch - September 13, 2013

21 days is probably a good “rule of thumb” ~ we should aim to keep at it for at least 21 days before throwing up our hands and giving up. But some habits are more hard-wired than others and probably take longer to eliminate. They might take 28 days or 35 days.

Or, in the case of patience, we might have to be patient even longer than that. 😛

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