How do we turn things around? How do we change for the better? How do we break bad habits? Through self-awareness. Now, wait. Before you roll your eyes and say, “Really? That’s all you’ve got?” Read the rest of my post, try it and then tell me what you think.
December 2017, I was standing in the kitchen at work adding my 2nd teaspoon of sugar (my 6th for the day) to my second cup of coffee when all of a sudden I just stopped, thought “I’ve had enough.” And just like that, I stopped adding sugar to my drinks. I poured the coffee down the drain and went on about my day. I had been questioning my sugar for months but did nothing actively stop it…or so I thought.
February 2019, I was about to make my first cup of coffee for the day when I decided I couldn’t do this any more. I couldn’t try force myself to enjoy the taste of coffee. I just don’t like the taste. And for over a year I was forcing myself every day to drink it because it was a habit; because it was a social sport and because I was attached to it. But every day while I downed the coffee I’d ask myself why I’m doing this to myself. So one day I just stopped.
At the time of both these stories occurring I didn’t really think about the fact that I had questioned my sugar adding or coffee drinking often (if not every day while I was having it). But after some reflection and after reading a book called “Super Brain” I have understood that this technique of questioning actually leads to self-awareness and this is how we can end bad habits or stop hurting ourselves because we tell ourselves that “we’ve always done it that way and it’s hard to change.”
“The value of questioning yourself is that you keeping moving on. You refresh your responses; you let self-awareness take in as much as possible. Having more to process stimulates the brain to renew itself, and the mind, with more responses at its disposal from the brain, expands beyond imaginary limitations.” – (Super Brain).
What’s the difference between unconsciousness, awareness and self-awareness? The way I understand it is that unconsciousness is being in automatic pilot mode. We do things because we’ve always done it that way and we do not question it. Awareness is when we know we’re doing something or feeling a certain way but do not question the why. Self-awareness is the “Why.” And this is important because it allows the brain to create new patterns. Not immediately and not suddenly but over time. So unconsciousness is feeling sad but not identifying or thinking about it. Awareness is knowing that you’re feeling sad. Self-awareness is taking it a step further to not only say you’re feeling sad but to ask yourself why. Every time. And then thinking about the answer.
So if I use my sugar habit as an example; I knew sugar was not good for me. I knew I was having too much of it but this didn’t stop me from doing it. What did eventually stop me, was asking myself each time I did it, why I was doing it. That didn’t stop me immediately from not having the sugar. But it did eventually stop me. A year later I stopped. No relapse, no regret. My brain had created a new habit and I had become self-aware.
While my example seems small many people struggle with cutting out the small bad habits let alone the big ones. And without even knowing this was actually a technique, I can say it has clearly worked. Becoming self-aware can only help you, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a downside besides change 🙂
So, go on. Ask yourself “Why.” Why are you eating that chocolate; why are you feeling that way; why do you always react the same? And carry on doing what you were doing if need be. But this time, ask yourself why and think of the answer.