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Episode 20: Awareness Before Adjustment

Good morning, everybody! Today’s episode of The Work Of Becoming podcast is gonna be all about awareness before adjustment. So, typically, when we want to change something about our lives, when we want to change our behavior, our gut instinct is to go straight into adjusting that behavior.

So, let’s say, for example, that you have a “bad habit” of eating a bunch of popcorn late at night, and it makes you feel really sick, and it interrupts your sleep, and so, you want to change this habit. What I typically see people do is they will tell themselves, “Okay, self, on Monday, popcorn is done. I’m going to quit popcorn eating on Monday.” They try to make an adjustment before they’ve built any awareness about why the popcorn eating is happening, what’s triggering that popcorn eating, what the popcorn eating is bringing as a benefit, none of that awareness is there. They just try to immediately change the behavior.

And if this is you, don’t worry. This is very common. It’s a very immediate instinct. Like, “Oh, behavior X is a problem? I will not stop behavior X.” But as we all know, it’s not that easy to change a behavior. Really, what we need to do is we need to shift to a model where we build awareness before we try to make an adjustment.

So, story about me. This year, I am on a journey to becoming tidy. I really like it when my environment is spick and span. It makes me feel so calm, so comfortable, so peaceful, and yet, I have a tendency to make a mess, and then the mess doesn’t get cleaned up, and then two days later, my environment is a disaster and I’m totally anxious in my head, and I’m like, “Why am I anxious?” Then I’m like, “Oh, yeah, because my environment is a disaster and it’s stressing me out.”

So, this year I’ve been on a journey to become tidy, and of course, it would have been easy for me to say, “Okay, self, starting January first, I’m going to be a tidy person.” But if I tried to do that, I would not succeed because I didn’t build any awareness. So, here’s what I did instead.

The first month or two of the year, I focused on watching myself and watching my own behavior patterns. So, anytime our house got messy, I would think back to what exactly I had been thinking and feeling and experiencing when I created that mess and what I was thinking and feeling and experiencing when I chose not to pick up that mess. After a little bit of journaling and some awareness and several weeks of letting myself be messy, not trying to be tidy at all, I realized a pattern, and the pattern is that I get messy when I’m rushing.

So, when I have seven minutes before my next Zoom meeting, and I haven’t made breakfast yet, I will walk into the kitchen. I will whip out a pan. I will make a quick egg sandwich. But guess what? I’m in a rush. I don’t have time to clean it up, so I leave it there. And then the same thing happens at lunch. I walk out for my lunch break. I don’t even notice the stuff that’s on the counter because it’s been there since the morning. I pull out more stuff. I don’t put that stuff away, and by the time four o’clock comes around, the counter is messy, there are things out everywhere, and I don’t want to deal with the mess because I’m overwhelmed and tired from the day.

So, first, I built awareness from this pattern, and what that awareness taught me is that the behavior I wanted to change was really linked to the emotion of being frantic, the idea of, “I have to go fast. I don’t have enough time.” That’s why I was making a mess. That’s why I was throwing things back in the fridge, rather than putting them back in the spot that I had created for them at the beginning of the week.

And so, what I have done, strategically, is I have worked on slowing myself down in the mornings. I changed my schedule so that I have a little bit more time after I get back from my workout. I started getting up just slightly earlier. I focused on giving myself more time for those moments where I was creating messes and slowing down. This is an example of solving for the root, solving for the cause of your behavioral problem rather than just trying to switch the behavioral problem right off the bat. If you just try to solve the problem or change the problem or all of a sudden stop eating the popcorn, you will never achieve success in that because you haven’t actually learned why that behavior is happening, and we need to solve for the cause, not solve for the problem.

That is your lesson for today. I hope that you enjoyed it very much. I will talk to you in the next episode!

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Hi, I'm Karin

I’m a funfetti flavor super-fan, a loving dog mom, a PhD expert in mindset and behavior change… and I’m here to help make personal development and transformation a process that’s actually fun.

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