The process of self improvement can be tricky. One minute you are excited for what you have discovered about yourself and recognize the changes you've made, the next minute you are doing the same negative patterns that made you seek help in the first place. Continuing to grow and evolve is often hard, long work. I recently found myself engaging in old negative patterns that might have jeopardized my chances of having something that I always desired. Furthermore, I realized how much I wanted it, when presented with the reality that I might have lost it forever. Unfortunately, only time will tell what the outcome of the current events will be. And while what patterns I engaged in are important, they are not the focus of this writing. It is the cycle of bad behaviour that haunts my mind. After experiencing my "Aha" moment (a moment of sudden insight), I was consumed with wanting to break all of the bad cycles I had acquired. Most of what I was doing, was so ingrained in me that it took a second person to point out how my actions could be perceived. This got me thinking. If you are stuck in unfavorable patterns, how do you break the cycle?
Cycles in and of themselves are not bad. A cycle is a repeating process that yields the same results. For our example, it would be repeating behavioral patterns that produce the same conclusions. There are three different types of cycles: positive which yield positive outcomes, negative cycles which result in negative or unwanted outcomes, and neutral which have neither negative or positive outcomes. If you want to move your life into your desired direction, then it is key to learn how to turn negative or neutral patterns into positive cycles.
All of the problems that we face in our life, are attributed to negative cycles. In order to stop these cycles, one must first understand where they began. They are often short term actions that may bring gratification in the moment but hurt us in the long run. Because humans are creatures of habit, the more we do something, the easier it becomes to justify the action. This is what creates cycles.
How to Break A Negative Cycle
In the book The Power of Habit, New York Times investigative reporter, Charles Duhigg states that habits or cycles have three fundamental elements.
1. An external cue or trigger
2. A routine which arises
3. A deep-rooted reward for the behavior
Even negative behaviour offers rewards. According to Duhigg, the only way to adjust the cycle is to identify the cue, the routine, and the reward they bring. Identifying your negative cycles is already half the battle. Knowing that you have patterns you need to change opens up the opportunity to change them.
1. Forgive Yourself. We harbor so much emotion about the things we don't do correctly. We can live for a long time not realizing our bad patterns, but when they finally show themselves, we are often left thinking we are crazy. Beating ourselves up for experiencing the problem over and over again; thinking we must deserve what we are going through. Realize that it is not your fault. That along the way, your subconscious picked up a habit that does not ultimately serve you. So much of what we do is controlled by our subconscious minds. Often times we don't even know that a subconscious thought is holding us back and influencing our actions.
2. Understand Where The Pattern Comes From. Because cycles are repetitive patterns, you can start to identify common traits, characteristics, and events. Go over them, write them down, and analyze what is commonplace. Understanding where the cycle comes from will be an important step to breaking it.
3. Be Clear About How You Want to Live Your Life. Being clear about what result you want from your actions can be a big motivator in breaking cycles that aren't productive. The clearer you are the better and easier it is to stay on track. You can always ask yourself, "is this activity compatible with my overall goal?"
4. Don't Be Afraid to Change. Try new behaviours that will alter the bad cycles you have experienced. Rely on habits that are positive because they will lead to positive results. Disrupt the cycle by disrupting the pattern. If you cannot identify your triggers, try changing your routine. It could give you insight into what has caused the cycle to begin with.
5. Move On. Ultimately, you have to trust the work you have done to break your negative cycles. It will take hard work but it is worth it to have a healthier, happy life. You have to forgive yourself for what you have been doing and trust in the process to do better.
When you uncover a negative cycle that is holding you back, it can be devastating. Don't spend too much time beating yourself up for what you could not see. Be appreciative that you have brought to light a old behaviour or negative cycle that you need to break. Do the work to change it, the sooner you get to work, the sooner you can break the cycle. Just like working out, maintaining a positive perspective takes continuous effort. You will be a better person for it.