This is a topic that comes up repeatedly when I am mentoring people one-on-one. What does it really mean when I say, “Your past does not equal your future”? So many times, we get stuck in what we have been doing, what your life has been like until now, and what your life was like as a child growing up. When you get stuck in the past, sometimes it's hard to see a different future. You don’t realize you possess the power to make changes in your life at any moment. You just have to decide to!
The sum of your past truly does not represent your future unless you allow it. I am always saying we each get dealt our hand of cards in life from the moment we are born. And not one single person walking on the planet had a say in the particular set of cards they were dealt. You got what you got, good or bad, and it is now up to you how you choose to play the game of life. Do you fold and walk away defeated, or do you stay in the game until you achieve a winning hand?
Life habits develop based on our childhood environment and influences. Some of these habits help us, and some hinder our life success. The truth is that the majority of the time we don’t even realize whether they are helping us or hurting us. We just keep repeating the same cycle of behaviors because that is all we know. The cycle continues until we acknowledge it and commit to a change that brings about a different outcome. You have probably heard people talking about the “cycle of poverty” or a “cycle of abusive behavior”. These are very real!
As humans, habits and behaviors begin forming from the time we take our first breath. Our brain is in a constant state of learning, based on our experiences. If we are exposed to well-rounded knowledge, experiences, insights and revelations grounded in a vision for a successful life, then guess what? You will take that information to form the foundation for your own life vision. But on the contrary, if we are exposed to stifled knowledge, poor experiences, bad family relations or unhealthy practices, then our brain is learning based on those experiences. You may have no control over your experience during the first eighteen years of your life. It is important for you to understand why you have certain habits or behaviors. It is equally important to acknowledge why changing a habit or behavior is so difficult.
Our brain has been trained and wired to behave a certain way based on our experiences. If we had a “magic” moment of opportunity at birth to choose from a menu of options, perhaps we would have chosen to wire our brain differently. That is not the way it works, but what most of us don’t realize is you can rewire and retrain your brain at any time by simply deciding and committing to it. No person is stuck with the results of our childhood unless they choose to be. Think about people you know of who have broken out of the “cycle” they were born into. There are so many examples in the USA given the push to “live the American dream”. How do so many people achieve great success when many came out of desperate situations? It started with a decision to change. They dug their heels in and chose a new path that served their life interests.
You can “rewire” your brain at any point. Our habits and behaviors become our norm. If you've always done something a certain way, that's the way you do it. Unless something happens to cause you to question why you do something a certain way, then it's very unlikely that you're going to change it. This is why it is so important to take the time to develop your own life strategy. The self-evaluation required in that process allows you to identify what habits and behaviors are limiting your life objectives. Most of us never stop to think about how our own habits may be restricting our life. And it’s all because we have accepted these behaviors our “norm”.
Most of the people I mentor are shocked when they connect the dots to their habits and behaviors driving bad life decisions. This could be money, health, relationships, or all of the above. Unless you have had a reason to stop and reflect on why you make decisions in a particular way, then most likely you have not asked yourself simple questions like:
· Where did my “life” knowledge come from?
· What or who influenced my overall decision-making ability?
· Why do I make food choices a particular way?
· Why do I manage my money a certain way?
· How do I approach relationships?
· Do I approach life with optimism or pessimism?
Most of us don’t do a true assessment of ourselves to identify good behavior from bad behavior or good habits from bad habits.
When I met my husband, Doug, he truly believed he could not save any money. He was totally convinced he did not make enough money to save. I saw his situation completely differently and set about to help him change his behavior in order to achieve his first $5,000. Why did we see the same situation so differently? We had two totally different experiences with money in our early lives. I grew up in an environment that sacrificed in order to save for the future, and he grew up in an environment focused on the present. I learned early to develop a vision and then start taking incremental, consistent steps to achieve it. He did not.
So while my initial work with Doug revolved around the act of saving money, what was really happening was an awakening to a new way of thinking which changed Doug’s overall approach to achieving life wealth. Was it easy for him? Absolutely not. He thought I was nuts! Sometimes he still does…J
Thank goodness he found me attractive, because when I cut up his ATM card his gut probably told him to run in the opposite direction. I am very glad he didn’t! We reflect on this moment often, because he still clearly remembers the pain of change. But that change in thinking was critical in order to change his life. Now he applies the power of change to all aspects of his life.
Behavioral change is not easy. I say it all the time. Not only is it not easy, but it is also not fun, until you start to see the true benefits of the change. As painful as those first few months of change were for Doug, just thirteen months later he had his first $5,000 in the bank. That money was saved while he had an annal salary of only $22,000! It might not sound like a lot of money to you now (that was over 25 years ago), but it was a lot of money to Doug based on his salary at the time. After all, he started with zero! The only thing that changed were his habits. His willingness to change his habits drove a different result in his life. For him, he stopped eating out every day; he stopped running to the ATM machine for quick cash (that is why I cut up the card); he was more strategic about going out with friends; and he set a monthly goal to save money. If you want to change your results, YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR HABITS!
Whether it is your health, your career, your relationships, your money, or something else, self-discipline rooted in a life strategy becomes your safety net. What does that mean? It means you must be willing to put boundaries and parameters in place for yourself to stay focused on your ultimate life objectives. When you encounter temptations, then you are grounded in your “WHY”, and you have the internal power to walk away because you are focused on a bigger vision.
The self-discipline that develops from rewiring your brain for your learned behaviors and habits will impact every decision you make for the rest of your life. It starts by simply deciding to make the change. Then you are off on your new life journey!
What are you waiting for? Start today!
Remember, YOU ARE THE CEO OF YOUR OWN LIFE!
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