You Have the Power to Choose
The concept of whether we have free will or not is a subject for great debate within the field of psychology. The Behaviorists are quite sure that human behavior is a series of responses that are pre-programmed within the nervous system. These responses become more fixed with repetition over time. The Humanists on the other hand suggest that behavior is a series of choices that we can change at any time if we just put our mind to it.
What the most current research shows is that both concepts are true. We are creatures of habits, but we can change those habits by choosing to initiate new habits.
To put it another way; technically at any given time we do not have absolute free will. Our expression of will and hence our behavior largely is determined by baked-in behavior/ belief choices that have been repeatedly crafted over time. But that does not mean that we are stuck with that behavior/ belief forever. We can choose to initiate new behavior/ belief.
So, no technically you don’t have free will. But you do have free choice.
Think about it, you have the choice to craft your self-expression anyway you want.
There is a caveat though—it takes some time for the new behavior to build a new neural pathway. In fact, it takes approximately 70 days to retrain our nervous system to accept a new behavior strategy. This built in time lag is what makes it so difficult to change unwanted behaviors.
There is also another issue. Our behaviors/ beliefs, our way of being, is built up in layers, much like the stack of building blocks in the image. Not only do we need to add a program for a new behavior, we also need to remove the program for the old behavior/ belief. Often that old behavior is supporting several other behaviors/ beliefs—and those other behaviors/ beliefs need to be reworked as well.
Suddenly a small remodeling project becomes a much larger one. We can feel like change isn’t possible. What already exists can feel so permanent—like it has been that way for so long, how could it possibly change? But it is not permanent; it is just inter-layered. That’s why it can be necessary to get help to get the old patterns un-tangled. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s entirely normal.
What this time lag means is “You have to fake it till you make it.” The body’s built-in resistance to change is not bad, but it is a part of our nature that needs to be allowed for and worked with. One of the keys for working with change is breaking down our goals into manageable chunks.
Is your goal to eat a healthier diet? Don’t try to do it all at once. Rather, start by eliminating the two worst foods you eat. Once that’s easy, start decreasing portions. Then when that’s easy, remove a few more unhealthy foods—and try some new good ones you have never tried before.
Small steps lead to lasting change and eliminate the tendency for us to bounce back to the way it was before. When you follow the small step way, there is no hard line between “the now” and “the before,” which reduces your bounce back and supports you moving full steam ahead.