Oh, how often I have wished that I could wave a magic wand and remove my own shortcomings and character defects. Changing can be so hard! Over the years I have observed that my habits and behaviors are like water flowing down the side of a hill. The water will find the path of least resistance and as it flows, the channel it runs through gets deeper and wider. The longer the water flows down that channel the deeper it becomes and the harder it is to change. When something triggers me emotionally my behavior immediately starts running down those old familiar paths before I even have a chance to realize what has happened. I have found that changing the channel – creating new and better habits and behaviors – requires action of three different sorts. First of all, I have to become willing to let go of the old behavior, and turn it over to the Lord. Secondly, I have to put up a dam that prevents the water from starting to flow down the familiar channel and finally, I have to dig a new channel based on the direction I receive from the Lord. Eventually the new channel becomes deep enough and wide enough that my behavior immediately goes down the new, more productive path when something happens.
Just like putting up a dam is necessary to prevent the water from going down the old channel, the first thing I need to do to eliminate an old, bad habit is to recognize it as undesirable and make a decision to stop it. That decision is not enough to change my behavior, but without that decision I don’t have a chance. I need to think about the pattern, write about it, consider what I get out of it and why I go there. I write about the consequences of it and why I don’t want to do it anymore. I make a decision and a commitment – to myself, to the Lord, and to another person – that I will not go down that path anymore. This commitment is the dam.
Digging the New Channel
If all I do is put up a dam without digging a new channel – creating a new pathway for the water (my behavior) to flow – the next time I am triggered I will create a flood, a big puddle, or a mess. Nature abhors a vacuum. I need to prayerfully decide what new behavior will work better for me, and learn how to do it. Again, for me, this involves writing. I write about my options – everything I can think of. I ask my sponsor and others who have good recovery for their ideas. I consider what feels comfortable for me; what new behavior I can see myself using in the situation instead of the old ones I am trying to change. I pray for a confirmation that this is the right channel to dig, and then I start digging (doing the footwork)! I write out a plan and ask the Lord to confirm it. I read and reread it every day. I commit to it – to myself, the Lord, and other people. I take inventory throughout the day to see if I need a course correction. I write about and thank the Lord every day for my progress. It is an iterative process. If it isn’t working perfectly, I try to figure out why and make a change to the plan. I know the Lord wants me to become more like Him and will give me the power I need to do it, if I will have faith in Him. (See Moroni 7:33)
- Do you have any old habits or behaviors that don’t serve you well? What are they?
- Are you willing to let them go?
- What new channels would you like to dig? Are you willing to do the footwork?
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