How NOT to let your mind run away with you!

One of the most common conversations I have with riders involves breaking patterns; intercepting modes of behavior or ingrained responses that are preventing them from doing the things that they want to do, or getting in the way of them being able to produce a certain result.

Firstly, realising that we are in control of responses- at all times- is crucial. If you think that your mood or reactions are due to people or circumstances outside of yourself, then you immediately give away your personal power to that which you have no control over. Terrible idea. Don’t do that.

What I want to talk about now, however, is consciously designing a “thought interceptor” (sounds like something off the matrix I know!) that use can utilise to redirect your focus when the superhighway of your brain space is travelling in the wrong direction.

But first, a back story.

There’s an economy to the thinking process that is designed to save us time which essentially takes several chunks of different information or activities and groups it together into one bulk item. For example rising to the trot; after a while that becomes an unconscious activity that you don’t have to think too much about, even though there are several different elements that contribute to making that possible.

Driving your car is another example of this; after a while you don’t have to think about the separate elements that form together to allow you to drive your car as unique activities. They become one item which is involved to “driving your car”.

Once your brain realizes that there is certain pattern of behavior that you are repeating again and again they become conditioned responses in the nervous system; the sole reason behind this is to ensure that we are operating efficiently. It’s there to save us time so every time were are presented with stimulus A, we know that reaction B needs to come from that; creating a neurological shortcut between those two points allows us to operate in the most efficient manner possible.

I’m going to continue on with the driving analogy because it’s a really good way of illustrating the point of using a thought interceptor in your everyday life and certainly for your riding.

Let’s say for instance you’re driving to work and you drive the same route every day; after a while, the driving experience of getting from A to B becomes essentially an unconscious activity. Of course there are elements of conscious behavior; you know you stop here, you know you go there, but certainly along the way our minds can deviate from the task at hand and we can be thinking about how our last training session went or what we watched on TV the night before. All manner of things comes up in our conscious mind while our unconscious mind is busy showing us the way.

So what happens if one day you are driving to work and all of a sudden there is a tree that’s fallen down, completely blocking your route? That is a pattern interrupt. What happens at that point is the unconscious mind gives over its power to the conscious mind, which is essentially the decision-maker. The decision-making power always lies with the conscious mind, so whenever something happens which deviates from the norm it pulls you out of this unconscious patterning of behavior and asks for a new decision to be made.

In order to force the unconscious or subconscious mind into a new decision-making mode you have to throw a spanner in the works. Why? When we have been practicing a certain outcome for a period of time, it becomes a conditioned response and our nervous system is habituated to behave in a certain way. In order for the outcome to be different, or for the pattern of behavior to change, we need to intersect the path with something, and that’s where a pattern interrupt becomes so useful and so handy.

One of my big catch phrases I use myself is “choose a better thought“; what is the best thought that I can choose in this situation?  Despite what you may be feeling, you are always free to choose a better thought than the one you’re currently thinking. For instance, if I am wanting to introduce a very simple pattern interrupts to a negative thinking process, if I manage to catch myself at that point that point where the negative thoughts starts to permeate my conscious mind, I will take my hair band which often lives on my wrist for obvious reasons and give it a snap.

That semi-uncomfortable feeling of the snapping hairband is a pattern interrupt; it’s something that my mind is not expecting me to do along the way of continuing or perpetuating a negative thought pattern. Do whatever you need to to interrupt the negative thought process and then take the opportunity to choose a better thought.  

There is however a ‘modus operandi’ to how the pattern interrupt sequence works, and what you need to do first is to identify a pattern of behavior that you’re looking to change. Once you’ve done so you really want to study the process, so you look to see if there any specific triggers that set it off and then what the chain reaction is from there. It’s the chain reaction from A to B. Then what you’re looking to introduce obviously is a pattern interrupt, something completely unexpected that you wouldn’t normally do in that situation. It could be anything like pulling your earlobe, or clucking like a chicken, snapping your hair band; anything that sends that neurological process into a tailspin so you can then replace it with a better thought or a better action, a better process that takes you closer towards where you want to go and further away from where it is that you don’t want to be.

Have fun and good luck developing your new pattern interrupts!

xx Jane

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