We have all heard the expression; “I’m in two minds,” and can relate to that feeling of turmoil when we feel pulled in two directions and can’t make a decision. We ‘um and ah’ and express thoughts that seems to edge us in one direction only to replace them a moment later with an opposing view, we sigh and wonder why we feel so torn.
Whilst it is easy to recognise and feel frustrated by this process, it can actually show us a great deal about how the human mind works and we can use this to our advantage to help us achieve our goals.
When it comes to breaking bad habits or working towards life goals- we often mull over the idea of change inside our own heads, silently considering the options and weighing up the pro’s and con’s before we share our decision.
Its rare to hear anyone declare “um, I’m not sure if I want to stop smoking, I think I do, but then again I also want to smoke forever, ah, I just don’t know what to do”.
So, if we are certain about what we want (to stop smoking, lose weight, exercise more etc.) – why do we often end up sabotaging our own plans?
As a Hypnotherapist I know that beneath our level of awareness it is common to have beliefs that don’t match up to our desires. These sub-conscious thoughts tell us at a very deep level that the very thing we are striving for is something that will cause us problems in some way and it is these ideas that drive us to take actions that are in opposition to our goal.
Hypnotherapy is a quick and easy way of bringing all our different thoughts and beliefs into alignment so that we can reach our desired outcome. If you want to do some exploration yourself, the following exercise is a good way to understand some of the mixed messages you hold on a conscious level, which is a great start.
Step 1 – answer the following questions. Be really honest, don’t sensor anything – if it pops into your mind, its part of your thought process and it will influence you in some way so write it down. I have used the goal of ‘giving up smoking’ and given a few examples, so you see how it works in practice.
What will I gain if I make this change?
Improve health – be able to breath better
Have more money – almost £3,000 per year
Clothes won’t smell of smoke
Kids will stop nagging me
Weight – last time I tried I ate loads more
What will I lose if I make this change?
My way of coping with stress – I get way more irritable
One of my only pleasures
My terrible cough
My breaks in work – I’ll have no reason to go out
What will I gain if I don’t make this change?
I’ll still get to have banter with my colleagues – its really helps me cope with the stress
I’ll still get to smoke with my cup of coffee, I really enjoy that combination
What will I lose if I don’t make this change?
Ultimately my life – I don’t like to think about it but 1 in 2 people die from smoking.
What information or beliefs do I have that few other people understand?
My Grandad smoked and lived until he was 95
I really don’t think that smoking causes as many health problems as they say it does.
Step 2 – transfer the answers into a pro’s and cons list – again I am using the smoking example above.
|Reasons to stop smoking||Reasons not to stop smoking|
Step 3 – review the Pro’s and Con’s list – its not the amount of reasons you have listed in each column that is important, as each reason will have its own very personal value to you. Put each of the reasons in order of importance, this may not look logical to someone else but it is your list so listen to your feelings on this one.
Step 4 – Looking at your top reasons for changing and not changing, ask yourself the impact these things have on the most important areas of your life. For most people the important things are the ones relates to security: relationships, family, finances etc.
In this example the smoker’s main reason for giving up is the extra £3,000 they will have each year, money they could use for a family holiday. In order to get this they will need to give up the banter and connection to their work colleagues, they fear that the stress of work will become overwhelming which could impact on their ability to do their job and may upset their relationships at home.
The health benefits don’t factor highly on this persons list, the human mind is great at molding the way we receive information so that it suit us.
Step 5 – Once you acknowledge the things that were previously out of your awareness, it will be easier to understand why you have not already achieved the changes you want to make . You are now ready to challenge these beliefs, put new supportive actions in place and change your perspective.
In the example of the smoker they could now:
- Start to practice other stress reducing techniques both in work and at home. Commit to work breaks even when they give up smoking so they keep their connection with their colleagues.
- Find ways to challenge the belief that smoking is not really bad for their health, research consistently shows it is, they feel it in their limited breathing.
- Take the high value they place on work and view it from a health point of view, if they get a smoking related illness what impact will this have on their ability to work.