Humans have a deep and broad untapped potential. A potential that is simply a choice away. The choice to see the human behind the words, the positive intention behind the action, the pain behind the smile.
The world needs your untapped potential right now.
Yet, if it is only a choice away, why is it so hard to choose?
We are creatures of habit. If we practice something long enough – a pattern of thought, mood or action – our brain creates a habit of action loop within the body.
Our brain and body are driven by efficiency anchored in survival. With a habit of action loop in place, the body and brain can move onto new or more vital to our survival thoughts, emotions or actions.
This habit of action loop is called an automatic reaction. It happens without the brain and body needing to communicate, they have automated the reaction: when this sensation happens, this emotion gets generated and these are the thoughts we have. It is very efficient.
Automatic reactions happen below conscious thought, at the level of the autonomic nervous system, beyond conscious manipulation for most humans who have not tapped into their potential.
They begin at the level of sensation either through our five senses or internal mechanisms for sensing like our internal organs, which triggers a series of signals in our body and lead to an output of thought, mood or action, usually all three. Often, we don’t even know we are reacting. But the people that know us do…
Automatic reactions are not necessarily bad. They have kept our species alive and thriving for millennia.
Yet, when we want to access more of our potential, we must make a choice to respond in a way that is different than our automatic reactions. The act of choosing something different is downright uncomfortable, not only for us, but for others around us, even if they have been asking for it for years.
Our automatic reactions came to us honestly, as they had for our parents and generations before them. We learned them through watching, listening and shaping ourselves to be like those that we lived with in our early years.
We do this to belong, feel safe (even if actual safety was not possible) and have a sense of significance within the system.
Challenge is, most of our family systems lacked foresight into the thoughts they shared, the moods they generated, or the actions and behaviors they displayed. This was seen as the “just way we are.” Or in other words, this is all we know how to practice.
They did not know that through practicing something different, they could change. Or maybe some did, and they changed and probably left the reach of the family system, left what was familiar, to do so.
What is required of us now, is to expand into our untapped potential. Which means understanding our automatic reactions and choosing new thoughts, deepening our emotional capacity – to feel more through expanding our range and depth of emotions, as well as the ways we express them through our actions.
As I said above, this choice is downright uncomfortable, and not simply for us. Most of us live in a system of people. If we change, they are forced to either change, stay the same or leave. Their reactions to our choice add to the discomfort. Even if our choices are more in line with the generative behavior the people in the system asked for, they will likely not be psyched, as it means their role is shifting, and so too must they.
Yet, to have our life be the message, as Gandhi aptly described, we must start getting comfortable with discomfort.
Here is a start. Think of someone you disagree with or dislike or have even more intense feelings toward. Collect in your mind all the ‘wrongs’ this person has done that you have witnessed or heard about. Really feel into this person.
What reactions – start with sensation – happen in your body when you do this?
Think temperature, pressure, movement or location of the sensation.
Write this down. Do not dismiss these sensations. Write them down.
Here is what happens for me, as an example: I feel a constriction around my heart. My breath gets shallow and less full. My eyes narrow, I can see less, literally lose my peripheral vision. My throat constricts and feels dry. My pattern of thought narrows. I feel mad, and sad and afraid. Tears well up in my eyes.
Remember you are beginning to be comfortable being uncomfortable to tap into your potential as a human.
Now, in your mind change your perception of them. Hold onto the idea that they have dignity, significance and value. Give them equal status to another that you respect.
What reactions happen in your body when you do this?
Write this down. Do not dismiss these sensations. Write them down.
Again, here is what happens for me: I feel sad. I think about protecting them. My chest cavity feels expansive. I can feel my feet on the ground. There is a pulsing of energy going down my legs.
Do not judge your body reactions, simply label them. “I feel hot – that means I am mad” – no, it means you feel a heat in your body. Where do you feel the heat? “In my face.”
When we feel our sensations without labeling them as a thought or emotion, we are beginning the process of tapping into our potential – it is our potential for objectivity. For seeing ourselves and others as human, flawed in unique ways and still worthy of love.
Why is objectivity important?
Because in a longer horizon of time, the way we act now has a morphogenetic impact on the rest of society. It we continue to react in habitual ways, we will be fortifying the current structures that bind us. If we CHOOSE in every moment, to pause before we react, and then make a new choice, we can take an active role in creating the world we want to see.
Viktor Frankl, who survived the Holocaust, stated, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Choosing our response is an act of revolution. Just the revolution we want to see, not the one that we think we are supposed to have.
It takes 300 repetitions to establish muscle memory, 3,000 to embody the action – doing it without needing to think – a habit of action loop, and 10,000 repetitions to reach mastery. You have done one rep. You are on the path.
You are a master at your automatic reactions of thoughts, emotions and actions. Have you been practicing what you want to become the master of? Or have you been practicing what you learned?
If you want to take action in the world in a different way, yet cannot seem to sustain the change you desire, do not worry. This is one of the hardest changes to make. As it is a choice, not a forced march. Again, you have done your first rep.
Need more support? Invite perspective. We love being able to practice with others to tap into our potential and yours. We need all the potential we can get right now if we want to be the change we want to see in the world.