Do you ever wonder why you make a Bee-line for the first McDonald’s or head to the local liquor store when the crap hits the fan? If you’re wondering how to stop being a creature of habit, read on.
When we’re hit with stress or an unwelcome surprise, we tend to engage with what we know will make us feel better as quickly as possible.
We will run to what we know will make us feel better, even though it may be harmful to us. We seek an instant fix that will set us back to feeling “normal”. It’s like the horse running into the burning barn. Why would a horse do that? They run into the burning barn because it’s known, familiar, and their consistent safe space. The habit overshadows the danger.
Our strongest memories and personality traits are formed through feelings and habits.
The “burning barn” habit (dangerously safe) is what keeps us doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result. That’s not insanity, it’s our brain, hooked on a feeling.
Why do we behave in ways that are not good for us?
How many times have you said, “Why does this keep happening to me or why do I keep doing that?” It’s familiarity and habit.
Step back and really look at what was familiar in that scenario that you can relate to several other similar scenarios in our life.
- What feeling was familiar? What emotions or senses are being triggered (sights, smells, sounds, words, anchor points on the body….)?
- Notice the sameness; was it a scenario with a specific gender, age group, location, position of power, or lack thereof?
- Notice the red flags leading up to the habit trigger.
- What can you learn from those red flag warnings and why they were ignored? Where the red flags so “normal” to you, that you didn’t notice them?
The brain learns what’s helped us feel normal, safe, and in control.
Our brain is set up to be efficient and get us out of perceived dangers, stressors, and pain as instantly as possible. That worked on the Savanna when a lion jumped from the brush to make a meal of us. Stopping to think things through wasn’t an option. We survived by instant thoughtless learned habitual behavior.
Those days on the Savanna are still with us in the way our brain wires to handle dangers, stressors, and pain. It’s our job and modern-day luxury to be empowered with the ability to assist our brain in wiring for those situations in a different and healthy way. Depending on the depths of the triggers and reactions, we may need help working through those systems.
Here’s How To Stop Being A Creature Of Habit
Burn The Burning Barn Habit
- Start telling your brain who’s boss and change your awareness and reactions from the familiar to the novel.
- Practice pause in your decisions in business, relationships, and life (if at all possible).
- Step away from situations for a moment to ask yourself, “do I really want to go there again?”
- Remind yourself that you’re a work in progress. If you slip into an old habit, you can stop yourself and reroute to new and healthier behavior.
- Ask yourself if what you’re running toward in that moment of stress is out of familiar feelings or if it’s the best choice for you.
- Keep an awareness of the separation between reaction and what feels comfortable.
- Humor helps break a stress response. You can sing the song “Hooked on a Feeling” when you catch yourself feeling a trigger reaction coming on, get a little chuckle out of it and move on to a better choice.
- If humor isn’t your thing, ask yourself, “do I really want to run into a burning barn?”
Get to know yourself better and stay safe from the Burning Barn Habit.
Note: Some habits formed through extreme or chronic traumatic experiences are exponentially more difficult to change. Coping skills and reforming the brain’s responses typically require assistance.