It was an interesting moment when I realised that the last time I had made a conscious decision was the first time I had decided to crawl.
Deciding to crawl was such a simple act … and yet it was an act that triggered the start of my social conditioning. Just like everyone around me, from the moment I first crawled I was trained that all of my answers were to be found outside myself. I was cheered as I crawled with more expertise, encouraged to walk and praised as I became proficient at it.
Progressively over time, I was schooled by my family, friends, school, community and so on, in all the things that were right and wrong, good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate about myself, my characteristics and my behaviour.
What I didn’t know was that all of this conditioning was forming the basis of the platform that my subconscious would then use to filter information about my life. Filters that would go on to create the boundaries that would define the way I would live, how far I would extend myself and the things that I would – and wouldn’t – allow myself to do as I moved through every day.
I also discovered that the subconscious is always adding and storing information to the long-term memory bank, and as it does so, it also creates lists of similar circumstances that the memory can, and will, be applied to over time.
Here’s an example. If, while walking across a courtyard on a rainy day, I was to slip because the pavement is wet, then my subconscious will not only record that it is slippery when wet in that courtyard, but will also then apply that information to all situations when it is wet.
So, instead of a one-off event where I slipped in the rain, my subconscious would go on to create a memory for me that it is always slippery when wet. Moving forward, I would then apply that to every situation, forever applying a boundary of having to be much more careful of all surfaces when it is raining.
Sure, there are times when this sort of information is helpful and can alert me to take care. However, I also found that there were exponentially more times when the experiences stored in my long-term memory were being applied through an ‘auto-pilot’ response … and I was limiting what I ‘allowed’ myself to do through wanting to minimise the impact of the long-term memory.
In effect, I had allowed my subconscious to create boundaries for me that in turn had created rules around what I could and couldn’t do. To make matters worse, those rules were creating layers of complexity that were significantly limiting my potential; they were essentially squashing me into a small and confined box.
I had spent so much time being squashed in that small and confined box that it had increased the level of fear that I associated with making changes. I can tell you from experience that when you can’t move it’s also very difficult to breathe.
Furthermore, being squashed into that space was taking such a toll on me that my subconscious then created boundaries for me to conserve my energy … and so I stopped doing almost all of the things I loved to do because the rules I had put in place told me that they were no longer good for me.
Eventually I found myself so afraid to move that my subconscious created blinkers for me and I became blind to the warning signs I was receiving from my body and my mind. Instead, I created rules and beliefs that succeeded in convincing me that it was much better to live in a totally overwhelmed state. Somehow, I had trained myself that being overwhelmed was easier than taking small steps that introduce and encourage change.
Once I understood all of these things it became very easy to take one simple step at a time to do things a little bit differently.
One of the most powerful things I have ever done for myself was to create a process that allowed me to step out of the box I had created for myself. I learned the simple, yet significant, act of challenging my boundaries.
I’ve tried and tested the following method so often – and it has worked so well every single time – that I now love finding something that I can challenge regularly. Here’s how it works:
- Identify a boundary in your life. The boundary can be big or small – it doesn’t matter. Just find something that you want to test. I started by challenging some long-held beliefs about physical activities I didn’t think I could do anymore because of permanent injuries.
- Set yourself an activity that will challenge what you believe about this boundary. Give yourself something to do that will challenge whether what you believe about the boundary is correct or that the boundary no longer applies to you. I set myself a goal of completing a day trek with challenging terrain that I knew would test the beliefs I held about my ankles, knees and back.
- Consciously take notice of the things that are – and aren’t – true about the boundary. Allow yourself time to get into the motion of the activity you’ve decided to do. If possible, remember to constantly ask yourself how you’re feeling whilst doing the activity. When you’ve finished the task, look at how you went honestly and decide whether the beliefs you held about the boundary are still true. I now know that 95% of the beliefs I held about physical activity weren’t true for me.
- Give the boundary a new definition. Once you know what is and isn’t true about the beliefs you held about the boundary, you can create a new definition for yourself. Creating the new definition will re-code your subconscious and create new information in your long-term memory. I now hold new beliefs about what I can and can’t do with regards to physical activity and I also know that these are now boundaries that I can challenge again whenever I want to!
Challenging boundaries is now so easy and simple for me that I am constantly looking for things I can test. Every time I go through this process I find that it shifts my perspective about things. The best thing about a shift in perspective is that it opens up so many more options in my life and there are so many more things I can easily do.
More options received in a graceful and easy way makes it so much easier for me to breathe. And … the more rules I get rid of, the simpler my life becomes. It seems that the more I challenge my boundaries the easier it is on my mind.
Perhaps most significantly, my experience has taught me that being ruled by the boundaries in our life is a choice that we make; we can choose to challenge them and breathe easier every day, or we can choose to remain confined and squashed in a box of our own making.
Doing something a little bit differently is no harder than learning to ask yourself a few questions – the choice is yours.
Want more info on ways to challenge some of your boundaries? There are loads of tips and tricks on living and thinking differently in my book ‘Keep It Super Simple’ – you can buy a copy from www.sheiqlife.com/shop.
Want to chat? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +61 438 624 868 and we’ll set up a time!
Bronwen Sciortino is a Simplicity Expert, Professional Speaker and the author of ‘Keep It Super Simple – Tips from a Recovering Perfectionist’. Join the conversation by subscribing to the tribe at www.sheiqlife.com; Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.