Tension and stress has become natural part of modern life. You may have a number of addictions and compulsive behaviors which you consider as normal, but which may chain your potential and prevent you from walking into the terrains of freedom and celebration of God’s goodness. Years of repetition and immobility in some areas of life may have eroded your faith in your own capacity to change. Learned helplessness is one of the major causes of self-impoverishment. In this module you are invited to look into your belief system pertaining to change and improvement in life.
Part three- Self Discipline Module 12
Address your Belief system and develop a power tool
“I Can’t Change”& Relaxation
- “I Can’t Change”
- “Some people just can’t change,”
- “I’m just lazy.”
- “This is just the kind of person I am.”
- “I’m just like my mom (or dad).”
How often have you heard these types of statements? Probably quite often. But no matter how often you have heard them, they are as full of holes as a screen door. People do change—constantly. However, there is a catch. Maybe you remember the old joke that says, “How many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one—but the light bulb has to really want to change.” Therein lies the rub.
No one can make another person want to change; the desire for change must come from within. In short, if a person is to change, then that person first needs to choose, consciously and subconsciously, to change. And increasing one’s self-discipline easily qualifies as a change. This applies regardless of whether the self-discipline will be put to use with a small task or a big project.
About choosing to change:Our behavior, emotions, intellect, and just about everything else about us, other than biological considerations, are the result of a series of choices. Many of these choices are made on a daily basis. Moreover, we decide daily whether to continue honoring certain past choices; sometimes this process is conscious, other times subconscious. Indeed, choice is what links our current behavior to our past decisions, experiences, and influences.
We are chained to our past only so long as we choose to be. “I’ve been this way for so long, I can’t change.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “I was raised to believe…” Such statements reflect an unwillingness to accept responsibility for one’s present life. Of course, who we are and what we do today is related to yesterday.
But to allow our yesterdays to determine and dictate our todays and tomorrows is a choice. The part of you that does not want change wants you to believe that the past is a steel trap. If human beings were incapable of breaking free of the past we would still be living in cold, damp caves, and hunting for our food with a club. As a species we escaped being trapped in the past. We invented houses, automobiles, and supermarkets.
Likewise, we as individuals can reinvent ourselves by realizing that “I don’t have to be who I was yesterday. Furthermore, I do not have to do what I did yesterday.” By replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk, and by using visualization to replace undesirable subconscious messages with desirable conscious messages, you will find yourself enjoying the many fruits of self-discipline.
Remember:While a positive attitude can create positive actions, the reverse is also true. Positive actions can create a positive attitude. They feed and support each other. You are now gaining the information, techniques, and tools to strengthen them simultaneously.
Also, this is a good time to alert you about the positive aspects of taking personal responsibility for your actions. Consider Shakespeare’s observation that our faults lie not in the stars but in ourselves. Yet only a few of us ever accept responsibility for our predicaments.
We are not talking here about accepting responsibility for situations that are genuinely beyond our control; rather, we are talking about our refusing to accept responsibility for the situations that are well within our range of influence. And if we don’t accept responsibility for our own influence on our lives, then we will subconsciously make all sorts of excuses that free us of the responsibility to take action toward our goals.
Moreover, if we rely on fate and luck to somehow deliver our goals to us, then we’d better pack a large lunch because we’re in for a long wait. Good luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.
As Dick Motta, one of the winningest coaches in professional basketball’s history used to say, “I’m a firm believer in luck. The harder I work the luckier I get.”
Your ability to develop, employ, and sustain self-discipline is directly related to your readiness to accept responsibility for creating your own circumstances.
Power Tool: Relaxation
By using some sort of relaxation system you can immediately increase your ability to think, feel, and do whatever you choose to think, feel, and do. Why? Any decrease in tension, anxiety, and fear, creates an immediate increase in self-discipline. And situational relaxation will immediately decrease the tension, anxiety, or fear that occurs when you are confronted with a task that a part of you does not want to do.
Now, in addition to learning a few basic ways that situational relaxation will boost your self-discipline, you will learn a quick relaxation technique that is tailor-made for use with self-discipline.
But first, let’s quickly review how Hyde keeps you from applying self-discipline. By now you know that Hyde creates subconscious anxieties and fears whenever you decide to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. When Hyde begins to use the poisons, roadblocks, and self-defeating beliefs that you learned about earlier, you begin to feel stress. Then the part of you that wants to apply self-discipline begins to turn away from whatever task is at hand. In other words, you begin the Avoidance Process: You begin to move away from the stress that Hyde connects to the task.
In this type of situation, avoiding the task at hand feels natural. Why? The Avoidance Process goes like this: First, you decide to begin a task that requires self-discipline. Next, Hyde uses various tricks to keep you from doing it. Then, because of the inner conflict that is beginning to go from simmer to boil, your stress level begins to rise. When your stress level rises, so does your anxiety level. Then, as your anxiety level rises, your motivation drops. Then you say to yourself, “I don’t want to do this now.” Then, because psychological stress causes a physiological reaction, suddenly you don’t physically feel like
doing the task.
In fact, the closer you move toward the task, the more you think and feel like avoiding it. As the Avoidance Process unfolds, you find yourself putting off, avoiding, or escaping a task that you need to do in order to reach whatever goal you’ve chosen. Then, when you start doing some sort of avoidance activity, you feel immediate emotional and physical relief. This false feeling of relief occurs even though you know that the consequences of your escapism and delayism will create problems later. What to do?
Well, you already know the poisons, roadblocks, and self-defeating beliefs that short-circuit your self-discipline. But general knowledge is not enough to overcome Hyde’s resistance. You need to know which specific tricks are being used against you. Then you can usually pinpoint why they are being used. Armed with why, you can work out a quick deal with Hyde to relax the inner conflict that occurs when a part of you wants to do something that another part of you does not want to do. When the inner conflict relaxes, the roadblocks will begin to shrink, eventually becoming so small that you will be able to exercise your desired behavior. So how do you find out what Hyde is up to? Easy. All you have to do is relax.
Then you can ask yourself the “Why” questions: “Why do I want to eat something instead of writing this report?” “Why do I want to watch mindless television right now?” “Why do I think that filling out this form will be so painful?” “Why am I responding this way?” And although the specific questions that you ask yourself will change according to the task you are facing, the nature of the questions will remain the same. You will need to ask yourself “Why”questions.
These questions will help you quickly determine the real reasons for your avoidance behavior. These real reasons will inevitably be related to one or more of Hyde’s various poisons or roadblocks.
Your recognition of these mind tricks will immediately diminish their power. Relaxation is what gives you an opportunity to shift your behavior decisions from the subconscious into the conscious part of your mind. In other words, when you become quiet and systematically relax, even for just a couple of minutes, you can suddenly hear yourself think. Then, by using your new tools and techniques, you can quickly transform your hidden negative thoughts into positive self-discipline support.
Important: If you relax for a minute before beginning an avoidance behavior, then you will become aware of rationalizing, minimizing, and justifying the avoidance behavior. This insight alone will give your self-discipline a gigantic boost. So how do you do situational relaxation?
A Quick and Easy Situational Relaxation Technique…
What is situational relaxation? As the name implies, it means that whenever you find yourself beginning to avoid a task that needs to be done, the situation calls for relaxation. Regardless of the nature of the task, whether you are about to write a report or start a cleaning project, a systematic relaxation effort will move you toward self-discipline. Physical relaxation will automatically create the psychological state that allows you to put your self-discipline tools and techniques to work. So, whenever you feel Hyde pulling you away from the task you want to do, take two or three minutes to go through the following steps. The more you do it, the faster and easier it becomes.
- 1.Take a few deep breaths, slow your breathing, and say to yourself, “I am completely relaxed.” It doesn’t really matter whether you are standing, sitting, or lying down. Simply try to be as physically comfortable as the situation will allow.
- 2.Then as you continue to slow your breathing say to yourself: “I am tightening my forehead, then relaxing it. I am tightening all my facial muscles, then relaxing them. I am tightening my jaw, then relaxing it. I am tightening my neck muscles, then relaxing them.” Continue to go through your major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, hands, back, stomach, etc.) first tightening then relaxing them.
- 3.Take a minute to really give your body a chance to feel relaxed. Control your breathing. Use your self-talk to support your physical relaxation. Use visualization to see yourself easily doing the task that is at hand.
- 4.Quickly ask and answer a few “Why” questions. Listen to what Hyde is saying to you. Become aware of how Hyde is trying to trick you into avoiding the task. Then counteract Hyde’s influence by telling yourself the other side of the story. Be convincing, be forceful, but be relaxed. Focus on a specific immediate reward for completing the task. Use visualization, self-talk, or any other tools that feel useful.
- 5.Begin to take a small action step toward the task. As you get closer to the room, table, tools, or wherever you need to be to start the task, continue to control your breathing and physical state. Remind your muscles to relax. Every time you feel or hear an avoidance message from Hyde, use your self-discipline tools and techniques to replace that message with a flood of self-discipline messages. Pour it on thick.
- 6.Actually start the first step of your task. Once again, remind yourself to relax. Control your breathing. And, I repeat, every time you feel or hear an avoidance message from Hyde, use your self-discipline tools and techniques to replace that message with a flood of self-discipline messages.
Getting started is the toughest part of the self-discipline process. While this is true with daily tasks like exercises, diets, and skill development, it is also true with one time projects. Situational relaxation, more than any other tool or technique, will help you start, no matter what type of project or task is at hand. Use this quick relaxation technique every day, throughout the day, and watch yourself sail through the self-discipline process over and over. Yes, situational relaxation becomes easier and easier with regular use. And, yes, you will complete more tasks when you systematically relax and stop fighting with yourself.
Note:Situational relaxation is especially effective in dealing with self-discipline challenges that involve consumptive behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and overeating. These behaviors become habits when we automatically react to a situation without first thinking about our actions; without really hearing ourselves give the order to act, without consciously knowing why we are choosing to act in a self-defeating way. Moreover, because consumptive behaviors seem to descend upon you spontaneously from out of nowhere, you naturally feel that this behavior is beyond your control. No so, not by a long shot. You actually are in control of your behavior, or more accurately, the Hyde side of you is in control.
Remember:Hyde is a part of you and is therefore subject to your influence. Relax and listen to what Hyde says, your behavior will then begin to make sense to you. And you can then come up with ways that will have you doing what you really want to do rather that what Hyde wants you to do. Remember also that consumptive behaviors need to be replaced with some other behavior or you will feel a void where the consumptive behavior used to be. This void will affect your self-discipline negatively. So whenever you attempt to stop a behavior, always replace it with another behavior that you would rather have.
For prayer and Reflection: Mt 11.28-30: Mk 1.35: “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there”. “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’;
Mk 6. 31-32 “And he said to them, ‘Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’… So they went off in the boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves”. How do you organize yourself to be with the Lord and relax with your problems?