We all have the same problem: we wake up in the morning, and we have to work out what to do with the hours between waking and falling asleep again.
I have always been fascinated by how different people solve the same problem. Some people are so despairing that they choose to stay horizontal, lying for hours, afraid of the day, not wanting to encounter it for fear of failure, or other people’s judgement, or imperfection. Some people are habitual, eating the same breakfast, at the same time, then catching the same bus or train, to get to the same job, and do the same things, until the same home time.
Whatever we do, we tend to repeat it. You will have your own patterns of behaviour, ways you solve the problem of ‘what shall I do now?’
The thing about our patterns is that we find them easy to follow, but hard to break. I run a five-kilometer run each week with other runners, and each week I think I will be different. I get mentally prepared, I believe this week will be different… and then I run a very similar time to the previous week, meet the same people, get tired at the same spots, sprint finish from the same point. (I do improve a little on average, so it’s not a complete repetition!)
Most of our activities, we perform in the same way as last time. If we have a relationship, we will notice we start in the same way, then reach very similar points of crisis, and respond to those crises in very similar ways to last time.
What does it take to create new patterns? It is extremely hard, and normally takes a lot of self-reflection and training, but it’s perfectly possible. (As a counsellor, I’m an optmist.) After all, enthusiastic puppies, with training, turn into highly disciplined police dogs, so why can’t the same thing happen with us humans?!
Here are a few tips for creating new patterns in your life, if you want to:
Send yourself to school. Whatever you want to be or do, there will be a school or training centre somewhere that makes it your business to help you. Whether you want to take more exercise, learn to cook, learn a language, travel more… there are organisations geared up to make it easier for you, and to support you on your journey. Even for personality and behaviour improvements, there are people and organisations highly motivated to assist you.
Tweak your timetable. If you want to meditate, choose a time each day, however short, and stick to it. Make it something that fits with the rest of your day. It is better to get meditating every single day for ten minutes, than it is to meditate manically for a week and never again. If you want to learn photography, maybe take a picture a day for a month, reflecting on your choice and technique, to get into the habit.
Be honest with yourself. I’ll tell you straight: the therapy clients who make changes, are usually the ones who are ruthlessly honest with themselves and others. If you lie to yourself, and lie to others, then you are dealing with a fake life, and you will have the feeling of slipping and sliding all the time.
Decide on an improvement you want to make in your life. Something you think will make it richer, or better. Then:
Research some organisations that support your new project. It could be a local group, a social media page, a publishing company.
Identify a regular time, ideally every day, when you will pay attention to the project. No matter how small, make a start, and make it a habit.
Be honest with yourself. Don’t hide from yourself. If you are doing terribly, understand that. If you are doing well, appreciate that.
We all have to solve the problem of what to do with our days.
Usually, we do exactly the same thing as yesterday.
It is possible, however, to create new or modified patterns of behaviour.
If you want to try a new project, then ally yourself with a good organisation, create a manageable timetable, and then, once you have started, be honest with yourself about your progress.