Commitment to Change | The Battle Within
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | December 2018
Extinguishing entrenched habits is difficult. We need more than simple will power. We must fight smart to be victorious.
We are strange creatures. Watching our life from a dispassionate position is a spectacular show and often odd show. We are in battle with ourselves, fighting the opposing forces within. One moment an internal wave of strength moves us to change. The chain smoker decides to quit and destroys his remaining cigarettes; but within a few hours, he is searching for his keys and heading to the store to for a fresh pack. In the morning, we commit to start a new diet; but by evening we gorge on a high calorie snack, famished from limited intake during the day. We know we should get to bed early; but stay glued to the computer checking for the latest wonderful facebook post. The showing would be almost comical if it didn’t impact our lives. Back and forth, we know what we should do; but the self-discipline wanes and we collapse.
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We know what we should do—for the most part—but when it is time to act, we give in to the expediency of the moment. While failure to act with due respect for the future is common, it isn’t universal. Many people have mastered the futuristic mindset and routinely act in their best interest.
"We are in battle with ourselves, fighting the opposing forces within."
But what about the others. Are they destined to a diminished life? Many life stragglers will grapple with postponement of pleasure. Whether it is genetics, environment or as I believe a complex mixture of many influences, the inner-battle waged by billions between immediate desires and long-term dreams will lead many down sorrowful paths, fighting a roaring enemy living in their own head. I will be faced with for the remainder of my sojourn on this dusty planet.
The struggle between doing something we know is good and something that provides momentary pleasure is difficult enough; but the struggle is much deeper. Each choice, once made, is bathed in meaning. We feel guilty for failures. We label ourselves weak or strong. The choice becomes part of our self-definition, spring boarding into other successful or destructive actions.
However, we want to change. When we feel unhappy, our mind jumps to action, searching for causes. Unhappiness is the problem and our problem-solving brain jumps to work, conducting an analysis, determining what is wrong with our life and in need of reconstruction. Naturally, we are happier when we healthy, well-fed, comfortable, safe, prosperous, knowledgeable, respected, non-celibate and loved. When we perceive deficiencies in any of these areas, we feel threatened and lose the enjoyments of peace and security.
Any detailed inspection exposes deficiencies. Any problem-solving journey deep into the human psyche discovers our thorns of existence, rips in the flesh, giving plenty of reasons for unhappiness. The self-searching process reminds of our vulnerability, unearthing insurmountable evidence of our rotten lives. The task of fixing taping and gluing the fragments into a happy and perfect whole is impossible. Could it be that this “finding and fixing” program creates the self-loathing, discouragement, helplessness and eventual depression? If my happiness and sense of self-worth is tied up in my ability to “find and fix,” I will get stuck in a vicious cycle that never leads to the happy ending. There will always be more to find and attempt to fix.
Self-awareness is essential for growth. Identifying character flaws that fall short of ideals is important. The small tweaks and adjustments that follow the discovery can improve our lives. We will enjoy better health, more wisdom, a greater sense of self, and improved relationships. The pathway to improvement is charged with obstacles, false hopes, and unrealistic expectations. The paradisiacal happiness can’t be found through changes. Our new life will still be spotted with good and bad, happiness and sorrows. Changes attempted with a false hope in perfection will disappoint. Growth is a pattern of slow adjustments, always beset by stumbles. An ill-prepared mind will struggle with these changes, surprised by the difficulties, the emotional strings will pull, they weary in their resolve and run to the store, ending their short-lived desire to be smoke free.
We can change. We can embark on life repairing journeys, fight through the helplessness, strong impulses, and land on our feet. This war with ourselves can’t be won with sheer will power. We must fight smart. The energy to self-regulate is limited. Successful life changes are made through more thoughtful efforts, creating environments that ease the process. We can’t expect to do everything else the same, single out a pervasive habit and force it into submission. This foolishness doesn’t work. We need crutches to boost our resolves, giving them energy and assistance.
We do this by changing routines, avoiding environments ripe with temptations, and summoning others to our aide. Change will still prove difficult but more manageable. Some habits are too formable, impossible to destroy in a head-on attack. We need to be sly, working around the ferocious enemy, improving life skills that strengthen the self. We can’t keep fighting the same battle, in the same manner, and hope for better results. End this comical movie, seek help, try something new, and emerge the victor.
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