“When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.” Milan Kundera
Human beings are a mystifying creation, with dynamic processes that science baffles to unravel. In this compound system all components-physical, chemical, biological, emotional, and spiritual are pulled back and forth in a struggle to achieve and maintain harmony. While many systems such as the functions of our organs are automatic, there is something we have control over which influences what happens to us on the inside- our Behavior.
To exercise or not to! To eat wholesome or not to! To speak well of others or not to!
Are there any secrets to successful behavior change? There is a whole branch of psychological sciences dedicated to this phenomenon. We’re blessed with many support systems based on the knowledge of behavior change: smoking cessation, weight loss, depression therapy, anger management and the like. While I am a strong proponent, my mind wants to connect deeper with the concept of behavior change. Why some people are successful, yet others struggle? Why do I have many unfulfilled promises to myself?
Of course access to support systems, will power, self efficacy, and the environment all play a substantial role in our journeys. But there are always those who succeed despite many odds. It’s obviously more complicated than simply following steps 1-10 and voila behavior change occurs!
I started thinking about reasons I am successful at changing certain behaviors and fail at others. My most successful changes can be owed to the fact that I believed the correct things about myself at that time. And even though my brain executes action of my body, it’s the acceptance of my heart that initiates the feeling of wanting to change. So until my heart feels like I need to change something, my brain will not comply and my body will not act.
We are bombarded with research, media, and material from every direction highlighting what is good for us. Meditation, eating wholesome, exercise, worship, taking a break, the list is endless. Why then is it so hard to change a particular habit that is keeping us from being our best?
There is a space between knowing (logic) and feeling (emotion)-and it’s this space that needs to be filled with the right things in order for change to occur.
The heart as we understand is the location of our emotions, and therefore has the power of belief.
Many times our motivation is fueled by fear, guilt, and regret. We promise to eat well after the binging over the holidays, start to exercise after flipping through a woman’s magazine, and refrain from backbiting after an enlightening sermon or Khutbah. A promise to change, soon dissipates with time. Why?
Our heart does not like to feel “negative” feelings for too long, and if the behavior we want changed continues to fuel such emotions, we may just block our brains from thinking about change-its too hard, to painful, too difficult. Our heart does not like harshness, it wants to be nurtured and cared for, and it responds to love.
How many times has a harsh voice been successful in making your child stop something destructive? Even if it’s something as small as writing on the walls? However, if approached consistently with a kind voice, overtime, they’re more likely not to repeat that behavior. It’s just human nature, we welcome compassion, and shun harshness. Yet as adults we continue to expect great big changes from ourselves while putting ourselves down.
If we get our hearts involved in the process of change, use emotions of kindness, compassion and love our brains may just comply.
My heart believes:
I need to eat wholesome and exercise, because I feel healthy, deserving, and beautiful when I take care of myself.
I need to work harder, because I possess something positive the world can benefit from.
I want to learn and grow so that I can cultivate my talents, and share them with people I love, or make a difference in someone’s life.
Maybe this frame of mind, or should I say frame of heart, will add meaning to the why’s of changing, and ultimately make the struggle worth it.
If you’ve continuously failed at a stopping or starting a behavior that can bring out the best version of yourself, this time try working on your heart!