So this is the deal.  We know that we have bad habits.  We sometimes even know what they are. But often, we have no idea we are getting in our way, in the exact moment that we are getting in our way!
We realize that we somehow never arrive at our destination but we can’t figure out what detour we took.  It can be maddening.

So what do we do?  This is our LIFE fire drill.  We stop. We look. We listen.
The first defense against our maladaptive defense mechanisms? Um.. realizing that they are there in the first place.  You can’t fix what you don’t know is there.  So we have to look at ourselves deeply and ask the questions.  What is getting in my way, here?  And despite our immediate need to then turn on the TV,  grab a beer and/or run out into the world screaming for fear of the answer, we simply stay and wait for the reply.   This we can be sure of.  If we are asking the question, if we feel something is getting in our way, if we feel like WE are getting in our way, then we probably are.  Because, we aren’t dumb afterall. 😉

So we ask the question and we bravely await our own answer.  And then what?  Because clearly, we don’t normally know we are doing it, even when we are doing it!!!  No matter what the symptom is, the result is that somehow these little errors of judgment have kept us from not only the life we would like to lead but also being the people we were meant to be.

Discovering our own personal roadblocks is challenging, but recognizing them in real time… now that’s the bitch. But the only way to break destructive habits is to catch ourselves in the act.  And the process is the same:  STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.

It’s a little like the process of lucid dreaming. In lucid dreaming, we teach ourselves to notice that we are dreaming while we are dreaming.  Once we know we are dreaming, we can then take control of the dream.  But the most important element is that you know that you are dreaming in the first place.  One common practice is to practice noting during waking life that you are not dreaming so when dreams occur, it is easier to note that you are actually in a dream state.

For our purposes, it is very similar.  Imagine that when we lose control, we lose sight of our goals, that when we sabotage ourselves, it is like we are dreaming.  It is like we are on autopilot, but we are set to crash.  So during our days, we check in consistently with ourselves, no matter what is going on.

STOP:  Stop whatever you are doing and put your attention on yourself.

LOOK:  Are you being present and mindful of your thoughts and behavior?  Are you consciously making decisions or are you allowing your unconscious to run the show.

LISTEN:  What does your heart tell you? How do you feel?

If we consciously and dependably check in on ourselves all day long, we not only reinforce the thoughts and behaviors that we would like to cultivate but we are able to catch ourselves when we have fallen off the path, often moments later… as opposed to the years it has often taken us to see our errors.

Life is complicated. And we have a million things it seems tugging at us on a daily basis.  And we can lose ourselves in the process.  But if we learn how to stop, look and listen, we will always be able to find our way back to our essential selves.