New books and classrooms, autumn (or spring) fashions, September is sometimes know to be a time of change that is both rejuvenating and settling. Children who have had the flexibility of summer holidays are back on schedule with regular classes, which are meant to open up their world even more.
I know of a lot of adults who have had to ‘put their ducks in a row’ to get the kids out the door on time, and start another educational cycle.
Yet can we take something from the energy of a new school year? Does the subconscious support these disparate ideas of both regulation and renaissance? How can we best capture the power of our mind to move us forward while implementing patterns and regularity?
Settle Down: Benefits of Routine
The mind loves habits. It loves doing something over and over without thinking in a pattern that makes it easy for the mind.
The lazy/economical approach of the subconscious would like nothing better than to categorize actions, thoughts and immediately join them together to normalize that new group as ‘the way things go’. In some ways it’s like a child that knows a dog has four legs so anything with four legs is (temporarily) a ‘dog’. As we grow and learn, we cluster thoughts, feelings, actions, people and situations together to make it easier to process.
Routines help us move quickly. If we had to relearn everything as though it were the first time, life would feel very slow.
School children often find the beginning of the year hard as they develop strategies and patterns for getting ready for school, working through classes and schedules and dealing with homework and assignments. As adults we are often stymied when faced with something new as we’re usually well practiced at our day-to-day lives.
Starting from scratch messes up our ability to move forward easily. Routines help us automate certain repetitive tasks to free up our conscious mind for other things. When you put your keys in a certain place, for example, you tend to know where they are and don’t have to think about finding them every time.
Routines are simply automatic habits and don’t have positive or negative meaning (even though some may support our lives and others may not).
We often make a big distinction between best practices and bad habits, yet there’s very little actual difference between the two of them (as far as the mind goes). They often take the same amount of energy to learn, and both tend to, no matter what the outcome, have good intentions behind them.
For example, there may be very compelling ‘social acceptance’ reasons for teens getting into dicey habits that may not serve them over the long run. Yet the need to fit in may power start the habit and by the time that same need is less important, the pattern is set.
Routines can be comforting (because we (believe we) know what’s going on).
The subconscious mind likes the familiar and once it is there, does everything in its power to stay in that comfort zone. So the teen smoker or young drinker who was accepted for doing those things at the time may feel that link to acceptance being comfortably reminded whenever a cigarette is smoked or a drink drunk.
At the same time good habits are comfortable and often happen without our even thinking about it (try brushing your teeth with your opposite hand and you’ll know what I mean). We can get into positive, life-affirming patterns that become natural and comforting (these are made even easier with hypnosis.
Routine can bring us closer to mastery (the more we practice, the ‘luckier’ we get)
When we repeat the same suggestion in hypnosis (going directly to the subconscious mind), it can really fortify that one specific change. Repeated thoughts, feelings and actions can compound their power and make them more automatic and practiced. When we refine our practice to the best of our ability, then we tend to move in the direction of greater proficiency.
Can we get good at ‘bad habits’? Yes. Repeating the same thing over and over can make us really ‘good’ at unhealthy relationships, inappropriate coping mechanisms and fortified blocks in our path. However, when we realize that a pattern isn’t working, we can take the components that are – protective or committed – and redirect them in ways that support us better.
Shake it up: Benefits of Renewal
The mind is partial to newness.
Just like a magpie with a bright, shiny object, our mind is interested in things that are new or different. Our attention is brought to the unfamiliar (sometimes out of a protective alertness that warns us that different may be bad/dangerous) and gathers information to identify or categorize it so that it can work within the structure of our lives.
Even when we don’t know the exact nature of the change, we often find ourselves with a feeling that ‘something is different’ and look to figure out the discrepancy (just as we would when something has been moved or added in a room in our home).
Renewal can emotionally activate us, so it has more impact in the mind.
Many of the moments in our life are underlined by a feeling. Our subconscious mind is lightning fast in its appraisal of events and this is augmented even more by an emotional component. The fear/excitement of going to a new school or situation, attraction or repulsion of people, concepts, or conditions all tend to reinforce the memories that make up our lives.
Remember science class? Or do you remember the time someone fainted during dissection? Remember the hundreds of students with whom you attended school? Or the person who stole or broke your heart, or the buddy you shared an experience with for the first time? The mind (especially the teen mind) needs emotions to vie for a place in our expansive memory but more compact or limited recall.
Renewal enlivens connections within the mind (and in our relationships).
We link like to like, and when we change regularly, we link (and like) different situations. Studies have shown that our relationships are supported by changing our patterns to include ‘novel and arousing’ situations.
While going to the same restaurant may be an easy option, doing something new together gives a shared experience that couples (and friends or families) can build from and recall together. Forcing new connections in the mind gives us more active synapses – if we don’t use them, we tend to lose them.
Renewal gives hope for change.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got… When we do something new, we give ourselves permission to change, to see change as an option and to practice change for the future.
Sometimes when we stay within a set confine of who we are and what we can do, it stunts our ability to widen our view on the possibilities and opportunities that are available to us. Starting something different or new, even if our progress is slow (or backwards) gives us skills that we can take forward in our lives.
Can You Have Both Routine AND Renewal?
Is it possible to grab the benefits of both conditions without the negative impacts each can have on us? Can we dovetail routine and renewal when they appear to be contrary or, at times, completely divergent? How can this September be the month to amalgamate these two very powerful states of being and doing?
Look at this dichotomy a little differently and you might be able to see how both can be naturally added to your daily life.
Viewpoint: the journey rather than a hamster wheel
When you hike from point A to point B, there are some constants – one foot will go in front of the other to move forward. Just as our stride is important to a successful trek, this routine component is unlike taking steps on a treadmill or hamster wheel, our footsteps move us to experience something new, rather than simply moving to stay in one place.
We could look down at our feet along the path and simply focus on the repetitive task of our footfall, or we can look around us and begin to notice the wonder that unfolds as we move through our lives. Our routine can give us sure-footedness to continue, while our curiosity and openness can renew our view on the world and our lives as we progress. Considering both helps us to not lose our way, or get back on track if we have.
Viewpoint: patterns are as natural as change
When you look at the uniqueness of nature, you also see repetition and patterns. Leaves on a plant, rings of a tree, the seasons, the tides and waves of the sea… These patterns reveal a growth that tends to be both resilient and purposeful. As a part of the natural world, we also possess this dual ability and can develop and use it organically as well.
Sometimes we can take a break from a routine, just as winter can stop a growing season. Yet, that interruption gives time and space of rest, reflection and internal preparation, so when a practice is re-established, we can actually ‘spring’ from a different point, renewed and refreshed. And as we move forward in our lives, we may discover the different seasons require us to prioritize different actions and shift our focus and routine to best suit the time at hand.
Viewpoint: Training and trusting, growth and support
When I work with athletes, there is the balance of the training and the trusting minds – the one that learns and develops, and the one that recalls and reacts based on that practice and understanding. Both are important for excellence and performance.
Elite athletes make the extraordinary ordinary – and that comes from a combination of breaking out of a comfort zone, while practicing an enhanced or new habit or routine. Looking at professional athletes shows us hundreds of hours of practice that make reactions automatic, combined with learning new moves and pushing the limits of mind and body to reach comfort on a higher level.
Whether it is with school, home, relationships, hobbies or anything in your life, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to create excellence and transformation in your life. While hypnosis can help with the speed and ease of a change, your own mind possesses all that it needs to experience the benefits and possibilities held in both routine and renewal.
The examples around us, the models we can find in others, the reflection on our own past successes (or the lessons we may get from shortfalls), even the inhalation an exhalation of breath can suggests the secrets and power we possess to do both.
September (right now) is as good a time as any to discover this for yourself.