6 steps to make lasting change using these disruption tools

#abetterway wellness

Ever feel like you’ve been working really diligently at making a change in a behavior and you aren’t sure if you’re making progress?  Then BOOM, something happens that jolts you awake to the realization that: Whoa, I’m doing it!  Holy heck, this stuff is really working! 

There’s a system to making these meaningful behavior changes come about and I outline the 6-step framework below, but before we get to that, let me set the scene a little so we’re on the same page.

I’m referring to behavior changes like:

  • not interrupting your partner when they talk, or
  • being truly present with your friend by putting your phone away when you get together, or
  • listening to your body’s signals when it’s time to take a break versus push through and get frustrated because of brain fog, or
  • resisting making a snarky comment to that person that irks you because you value peace of mind over getting in a good zinger, or
  • in your quest to eradicate all-or-nothing thinking, you practice taking small, tiny steps of action and tell yourself they really are worth it and better than nothing, or
  • choosing to complete a project with a good enough standard versus killing yourself chasing perfection.

How are these types of seemingly on autopilot or ‘that’s just how I am’ behaviors actually changed long term?  Long term, in lasting ways, is the key!

It wasn’t just one day you decided you wanted to be a better listener, stop battling perfectionism or end the battle with mid-day brain fog, etc. and then BAM, you made it happen and banished those things forevermore.

Nah, that’s not how. 

It took diligent work right?  Serious repetition?  Making the conscious choice over and over?  Going outside your comfort zone many times with no guarantee of certainty it would work?

To make lasting change in behaviors that seem hard-wired, it requires consciously choosing to disrupt the pattern.  It’s the disruption tools that save the day!

Seems obvious and maybe even easy when you say it like that.  It can be simple to do, but often not easy. It’s worth it though.

Let me explain.

First, we have to be aware of whatever it is that we are bothered by and it has to cause us enough pain and struggle that we become willing to go outside our comfort zone many times to figure out a new way of being.  The so-called tipping point moment(s).

We must also be willing to drop our excuses and rationalizations and take responsibility for our choices.

Since much of our daily life is run on autopilot without much in the moment presence, we have to create an environment that will cue us or trigger us into remembering we want to go left instead of right so to speak.

Those cues and triggers are where magic happens!

They create the opportunity to then employ a disruption tool.  These tools alert us to the present moment.  Offer the choice to pause and do choose differently. 

Disruption tools are things like (not all inclusive):

Pausing • Inner chatter in 3rd person • Leave the environment • Turn on music • Ask for help • Recite mantra or prayer • Daily meditation • Reflection writing • Breathwork • Tapping • Move body to shift energy • Ask questions • Use jewelry to bring back focus/reminder of new choice • Go for a walk • Drink some water • Prayer • Placing hand on heart • Create space in environment • Nap • Put reminder messages up in your environment • Pre-decide using If/Then and When/Then algorithms • Have written options to refer to • Have rubber band on wrist to snap

The difficulty is making the choice that’s more aligned with how we want to behave instead of doing the same ‘ol easy and familiar thing.  There’s a lot of trial and error to change and that’s where many give up instead of look for even more pathways to success. 

This is especially true when it wasn’t the outcome you hoped for or you didn’t pull it off as easy as you thought, or you feel like you were making progress, but regressed in some way.  Ok, that’s part of the process. Use that information next time you come in contact with your cue or trigger and utilize a different disruption tool or strategy.

In Pema Chödrön’s great book The Places That Scare You she writes: Acknowledging that we are all churned up is the first and most difficult step in any practice. Without compassionate recognition that we are stuck, it’s impossible to liberate ourselves from confusion. ‘Doing something different’ is anything that interrupts our ancient habit of indulging in our emotions. We do anything to cut the strong tendency to spin out… Anything that’s non-habitual will do—even sing and dance or run around the block. We do anything that doesn’t reinforce our crippling habits. The third most difficult practice is to then remember that this is not something we do just once or twice. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.

Aaah, the work of a lifetime!  Sounds so exciting huh?!

No, I know, it sounds like hard work with no certainty the new way will be infinitely better.  But as they say, choose your hard.  The time in our life is going to pass by regardless and hard choices are just part of the deal.   Stop expecting life to be easy and comfy and you’ll be more skilled in making lasting change.

When embarking on making a behavior or habit change, ask yourself, am I willing to make intentional disruption my friend even though it makes me really uncomfortable for a while

The discomfort is like the sand in an oyster that polishes the pearl.  Be a pearl!

In philosophy, personal development and mindfulness, you’ll hear teachers use the word skillful a lot.  Learning to be more skillful in life to reduce suffering for instance.

Learn better skills = live a better life.

If disruption has a negative connotation for you, you’re not alone.  Most of us work really hard to avoid life getting disrupted.  But the word gets a bad wrap, in part because it’s in relatively bad company synonym-wise:

Disrupt • Interrupt • Disturb • Interfere • Intrude • Intervene • Distract • Transfer • Shift • Divert • Pivot • Change • Intercede etc.

I’m here to tell you today, make disruption your friend and apply it to habit and mindset changes you’re working on and see your progress soar.  It will probably happen gradually like how I started today’s article.  You’ll think it’s not working, but you keep after it and then one day you watch the transformation in real time.

Let me put some personalization on this topic to bring it home for ya and outline the 6-step framework.  The impetus of my message today came from a recent awakening I had in my quest to become more skillful in the area of having better patience with people who rub me the wrong way.

We all have those folks in life, so imagine that person in your life as I tell you this story – maybe you can apply it next time you’re around that person.

There’s this guy in my pickleball rec group who barks criticisms or offers unsolicited advice on your game play.  He also thinks he’s the self-appointment rule book teacher.   What rubs me the wrong way is how oblivious he is of his own behavior – the very things he’s barking at others (mainly women), he does!  When he does it, he laughs it off or makes excuses how it’s not his fault.

The last few months, anytime I’ve had to pair up with him or played against him, I noticed:

  • a sense of dread comes over me - my body give me instant feedback like adrenaline I feel in my hands, sweating, dry mouth, etc.
  • a feeling of worry - wondering when he’ll bark at me (he has countless times)
  • I start getting hyper-aware of where he is on the court, what he’s saying to others and notice all his mistakes as though I was building a defense if he should criticize me if I make a mistake.
  • I want to win more than have fun
  • Felt nervous and self-conscious when I’d make beginner type mistakes

I don’t like it.  I especially don’t like the few times we’ve had a couple of barking exchanges.  I didn’t feel good about my part.  I know better than to engage with his negative energy, curmudgeon ways and bark back, but I couldn’t help myself I’d think - either in the moments immediately following or later in the day when I was reflecting on it.

It was happening frequently enough that I found I was wasting a lot of my mental energy pre and post.  The show stopper was the realization it was negatively impacting my pickleball game and I can’t have that!!  I’m a bit obsessed with the game and love it so much, so all I could think is I’ve got to take back control.

That’s where things get interesting.  Taking back control meant I had to call BS on myself!

When I’d think to myself that I couldn’t help myself, I started to inwardly challenge it with “c’mon Rusti, yes you can – you control your response.” 

I find myself leaning into these two brilliant bits of wisdom:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt


6-Step Framework to Using Disruption Tools to Make Lasting Change

STEP 1:  Since I know responding better when faced with someone who rub me the wrong way is a skill, I made the conscious decision I want to work on this.  I was drawing a line in the sand and rolling up my sleeves, time to get to work!  

STEP 2:  I got clear on why the change was a priority and important to me.  How?  I did this using the practices of meditation, talking to trusted friend, prayer, journal writing and mind-sculpting.  I reached the conclusion it has nothing to do with him specifically.  My why was so much bigger than him.  The clarity I got through my practices revealed:

  • I wanted to have a consistent level of fun while playing a sport I love
  • To consistently do that, I couldn’t allow myself to get yanked around by people who rub me the wrong way.  
  • I no longer wanted to suffer the difficulties and mental energy drain when he (or those like him) was on the court with me.
  • It’s important to me to challenge the thoughts and behaviors that don’t align with my values and beliefs and I’m willing to put in the time, effort and practice to bring about a more skillful way of thinking and responding in this situation and situations like it.

STEP 3:  I needed to identify the cues or triggers that would alert me I’m getting rubbed the wrong way.  Many of them are listed above – my mind and body feedback are my early warning system.  But also, consider when I have less impulse control – those are danger zones.  Such as being tired, hungry, feeling overwhelmed at work or home, not properly hydrated or anytime my mood is on the melancholy side.  When I’m in a danger zone, I have to be even more present-moment conscious.

STEP 4:  Select a handful of disruption techniques I could use to train a new response (see sample list below).  For me, in the moment my most powerful disrupters for this situation are: 1) pausing and taking full breaths when I feel triggered or hear him bark, 2) touch the string bracelet I wear to remind me that no response is a response, then choose not to respond, 3) Inner chatter in 3rd person - inwardly encourage myself ‘Rusti, it’s your choice to be triggered – remember, this is a sport and you’re out here to have fun” and 4) employ my pre-decision strategies when he barks like, when he bark/then I will consider maybe he’s going through a difficulty and he’s not conscious of his poor behavior (offer him silent compassion) and if he barks/then I choose to witness his behavior through the lens of a life lesson (the ways I don’t want to be).

Disruption tools:  Pausing • Inner chatter in 3rd person • Leave the environment • Turn on music • Ask for help • Recite mantra or prayer • Daily meditation • Reflection writing • Breathwork • Tapping • Move body to shift energy • Ask questions • Use jewelry to bring back focus/reminder of new choice • Go for a walk • Drink some water • Prayer • Placing hand on heart • Create space in environment • Nap • Put reminder messages up in your environment • Pre-decide using If/Then and When/Then algorithms • Have written options to refer to • Have rubber band on wrist to snap

STEP 5:  3 P’s for the win! Practice, patience, and persistence!  I don’t expect this to be easy or that I’ll be perfect in my discipline.  I know I will make mistakes, respond unskillfully at times and that’s part of the process.  I can view each instance as I either win or learn.

STEP 6:  Continue to lean on my fundamental practices like meditation, reflection journal writing and mind sculpting to further refine the desired behavior change, becoming ever more skillful but knowing I will never be perfect.  It’s a continuous process and with diligent practice, I will experience those moments when I realize Whoa, I’m doing it!  Holy heck, this stuff is really working!

Are you willing to give the 6-part framework a try? 

You might be thinking my pickleball example is silly, but I’d caution you to think of that person in your life that you regularly see and has often been the source of ruining your day.  Souring your mood.  Having a sense of dread like a dark cloud come over you and you just want to be anywhere else when you’re around that person.

It’s a life lesson that isn’t silly at all.  If you find yourself thinking it’s too insignificant, too small, too silly, etc. – then bingo, start there.  You can practice and hone your system for behavior change using these seemingly silly life situations.

They are the optimal training ground to practice for even more difficult personal behaviors or situations in life.

When you find yourself thinking “she just knows how to poke me and bring it out in me” or “I can’t help but get pissed, it’s their fault for stirring me up” or “if they’d stop doing ___________ then I wouldn’t have to react that way” – can I lovingly, but directly tell you – they’re not making you do anything. 

Your response is your choice.

You can more skillfully respond if you want to.  It will take a lot of work, patience and practice, but it’s a skill you can learn.

Use the 6-part framework to make lasting change and reach out to me for coaching if you’re struggling to implement it.

Choose to embrace disruption if you want victory!

In good health,

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