Imagine you are playing Mario Kart. You love it and play it every day. You choose the same character, vehicle, specs and tracks because you ‘know’ if you just practice long enough you will get better and start to win. You know other people who use the same combination and they play way better than you… This routine becomes habit and you no longer consciously make the decision to turn the console on or select your options. They are muscle memory for you; you can make a coffee, eat your toast and chat on the phone while you play because you have cemented the neurological pathway in your brain with repetition for months.
Now… The longer you play without winning, and the more often you get frustrated, annoyed, angry because of your lack of progress, the more you reinforce those pathways. Your brain and body now recognise the pattern. They KNOW how this goes so everyone is on auto-pilot while the path is growing stronger and more embedded. This is the pattern and it won’t change if you don’t. You will continue to lose and suck at Mario Kart, because the combination you have chosen doesn’t work for you. You hold the controller differently to your cousin who smashes 1st place every game. Your reactions are different to your neighbour who can play one-handed. Your posture isn’t the same, chair not as comfy, TV graphics not as good and your internet may be laggy.
What if… You did a full reset of those neurological pathways and remade the roads? What if you dug up the tar, weeded the sides and changed your perspective and approach? Let’s say you upgrade your TV and then play with a different character. Don’t change anything else, just those 2 things. When you start your first lap it is going to feel awkward and uncomfortable. It’s different. It’s not how you usually do things and you are not sure how you feel about it. You play like that for a week and realise that you have moved up from12th place, and you are now coming in between 5th and 10th more often. At around this time, many people go back to the old way of doing things just to see what it’s like, or to confirm that they are not imagining the change. They immediately fall back into the old character and complain about the TV. The muscle memory of the old way of doing things is strong. It has been strengthened, repeated, overlaid and become habit. It’s easy to do and doesn’t require much thought. You get stuck in those patterns of frustration, anger, poor results and you blame everything except your decision to go back there.
You try again with the new character. It’s awkward but this time that feeling doesn’t last as long. You keep going and notice that it becomes easier and less frustrating each day until you suddenly don’t need to think about it anymore. You decide to upgrade your vehicle and the specs now, and try a different track. WHOA! That feels weird! You are not sure if you like it, and want to run back to where you were last week but that seems hard now too. You are stuck between small steps and big growth. People start noticing and commenting. “You’ve changed” “You don’t play the same anymore” “I don’t know how to do this with you now because you made it harder for me” “When are you going to play like the old you again?” “It’s just a phase, you’ll be back to normal soon” You start to question the changes because they are impacting other people and they seem uncomfortable with the way you are behaving around them now. You blame yourself and wonder if you hadn’t been so selfish and wanted to improve your game, maybe everyone around you would feel happier and you don’t want to upset anyone.
Then it happens. You come first in Mario Kart. You win. You kick everyone’s butt and they are all left to swallow your dust and it feels GOOD. Then it feels uncomfortable. You feel guilty for winning and doing something only for yourself. You feel worried that your friends and family won’t want to play Mario Kart with you anymore because it won’t be the same. You have never put yourself first before, or gone against what others have told you is good for you. You have never been loud and clear about your needs and what makes you happy within yourself. This feels strange. You win again! Your confidence has grown, you know the patterns that work for you, and the consistency of maintaining those new pathways has led to you changing things up in other areas of your life.
You stop justifying your changes and growth. You stop worrying what others think or say, and you start recognising and questioning other patterns in your life. Now you are winning at Minecraft, Zelda, Call Of Duty and HALO. Every time you change the patterns and pre-set controls in your brain, things improve and get harder then way easier. Challenging yourself and being accountable to and for yourself has worked. You feel like you were carrying the weight of a million green shells around with you and now they are gone. Each of those shells was the comments, fear, judgement, built-in patterns and coding of the old you. You don’t need to carry those around. You know you can adapt and change and grow to manage anything life has for you now and come first for yourself. The cup is yours. The win is yours. The game is yours. Your life is yours and you are the one making the decisions and changing the patterns to keep yourself moving.