Transitioning To A New Pattern

Transitioning to a new pattern can be liberating - but can also feel uncomfortable. This is true even when the new pattern is healthier and where you want to be.

Why? Because even though an old pattern may not serve you well, you are habituated to it. In other words, that old pattern is comfortable, known, and having been around for a long time, feels normal.

Now along comes the new pattern. And even if you have consciously worked to create this new pattern, you may notice that it feels a bit odd, strange, not quite right, even possibly scary. You may find that your inner critic pops to the surface, whispering words of doubt in your ear. Was this really the best decision? Wasn't everything fine just the way it was? This is too hard, just go back to what it was before.

This is the point when it can be really easy to fall right back into that old pattern.

But take heart, because if you can ride out the wave of discomfort with a neutral mind (say no thanks to the input from your inner critic) and hang in there for a short time, you will quickly find yourself becoming habituated to this new pattern. And suddenly it won't seem like the new kid of the block. It won't feel out of sync or off. Rather, it will feel like the "new normal."

This process may take a several weeks. In Yogic science it is said that it takes 40 days to change a habit and 90 days to create a new one. That can sound long, but remember that along the way subtle shifts take place, making each day feel easier and easier.

Then one day...poof...the new, uncomfortable pattern has taken on the role of the known and you don't even think about it. When you reach that state of having no conscious thoughts about the pattern, the transition is over and you have accepted the new pattern into the fold!

I noticed process with one of my own patterns. It was a transition away from working too much to integrating some core values of balance between work and play. At first I wasn't even aware of what was happening. I didn't consciously start. Rather my inner wisdom kicked in by guiding me to certain activities and my mind caught up later.

What I noticed initially was that I was doing a lot more of what I labeled "escaping" as in relaxing away from work, gasp, during the day. This is shocking because my old productivity pattern was that during the day I worked (business or household tasks) and it was only when the sun set that I felt entitled to relax.

Suddenly I was reading more - both day and night - watching more movies and tv shows, and even spending more time with friends at time slots that I would normally do work. And here's the final kicker, instead of getting up early to exercise or do yoga, I was staying in bed longer and getting up and reading. Yikes, what was happening?!

A part of me enjoyed this down time, especially after a busy year on the wheel of all business and little play. It felt ok for a bit...like a counterbalance. But there was also a part of me that was judging this behavior as lazy and not quite ok.

Then it hit me. The big "AHA".

Limiting my work to smaller chunks of time, enjoying more relaxation and fun, being flexible and flowing, having a better balance in my life...these are the core components I had been intentioning for my life. These are elements that I value strongly. I only want to work part time. I want lots of time to explore and simply be, enjoying life. I want to live in the space of flow where I check and see what I want in each moment rather than going off a script that my mind thinks I should be doing. I am living how I want...but my mind was still used to being in the old pattern.

Once I wrapped my head around the shift, I was able to let go of the critic and more consciously enjoy this new space...and keep refining it.

Today I am living in a better state of balance. I have made a conscious choice to block off chunks of days and even entire days as play, self-care and ME time. I regularly schedule outings with friends and am signing up for a mid-day Qi Gong class in January. These structures help keep me on track with my values and help me from slipping back to the old tendencies.

Three tips for your own transition:

  1. Simply notice what's happening.
  2. Try to observe rather than judge.
  3. Allow it to slowly unfold and enjoy the ride.

©2011, Jamie Durner, Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner & Wellness Educator at Ayurveda Wellness in Pewaukee, WI