How To Live From Choice Instead of Fear and Habit
Discover how to live from choice. Break free of fear and habit. Live the life of bliss you’ve always deserved.
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To live a blissful life, you’ll need to move past the fear and habits that are holding you back. In this post, Sara Russell will show you why you react with fear or fall back into habits that don’t necessarily serve you and teach you how to live from choice once and for all.
Sara Russell is a Skills For Change Coach from a Radical lineage, a Qi Gong instructor, and a Relationship Anarchist in the Santa Cruz Mountains, who helps her clients analyze behaviors, relationships, systems, and transactions to see where old habits are no longer serving them.
She guides them in cultivating awareness of where they have power, how to use it, and how to create spaciousness to accept where they are powerless. Finally, Sara teaches radical self-love – bringing compassion to all of the above work, because change is hard, and being in a body is hard, and we don’t have to do it alone.
Learning to come from choice instead of fear and habit opens up abundant possibilities for greater satisfaction. If we want to live the lives we long for, rather than the ones that have been handed to us, we first need to ask ourselves, “What do I want?”
For example, I wanted to be on my phone less first thing in the morning. Turning off my morning alarm had quickly evolved into just a “quick” scroll of Instagram, and a “brief” check of my emails and text messages.
Starting my day mindlessly scrolling, or putting out work fires before my feet had hit the floor, meant I was starting my day cranky and depleted.
I decided to instead start my day with a five-minute morning journal.
To interrupt the old behavior of reaching for my phone, I placed my journal on top of it. Each morning, when my alarm went off and I groggily reached for the snooze button, my hand would bump up against my journal, immediately reminding me that I wanted to connect with my thoughts before hearing anyone else’s.
Why do we come from fear and habit?
If we want to be growing into the person we hope to become, rather than getting stuck on how we’ve been programmed from past conditioning, we first need to know why we resort to fear and habit.
The first part of the human brain that evolved is also the first part that develops in the womb. Welcome to your reptilian brain, the center of autonomic functions such as your breathing and the beating of your heart.
Its job is to keep you alive.
Its job is not about making you happy.
Those centers that help us hold complexity and big horizons of time evolved much later, and when triggered, they are the first parts to go off-line. When we are afraid, that ancient, reptilian brain takes over.
This response is so hard-wired that often you are in the middle of a reaction before you’ve had time to choose your response.
Biologically, this makes sense. At some point in your past, something intense happened to you. Something your body marked as dangerous. Something it wants to protect you from ever having to experience again.
These survival strategies were imprinted in a moment when we were quite powerless, and needed to do something intense to keep ourselves safe. This is our survival response – we fight/flee/freeze, fawn, or dissociate. The problem is, due to the intensity of the experience, we fail to adapt in future scenarios where we have more choice and control.
How to live from choice #1: Cultivate awareness.
In order to come from choice instead of habit, we first need to be aware of when that moment of choice arrives.
This is the span of time in between when something happens – a trigger – and when you react.
What do you do then?
This is the time to pause, not to problem-solve or to try to fix the situation.
This is the time to wait until you are re-centered, with your brain fully online, and can choose from a place of creativity and abundance, instead of fear.
While you are in that triggered state:
Notice: What is happening in your body? Are your shoulders tense, is your stomach clenched, is your breathing shallow?
What sensations are you experiencing? Where is there intensity in the body? Where are you numbing out?
We notice not to change our state, but to expand our awareness. This both helps us realize when we are triggered, and provides a bigger container in which to hold our experience.
Label: What emotions are you experiencing? Try to stick to the basics: anger, irritation, sadness, fear, hurt, anxiety, confusion, hopelessness.
Check-in with yourself: What do you need? A glass of water, to step outside, to go yell all by yourself in your car?
How to live from choice #2: Choose a new habit or belief.
At some point, our behavior worked for us, which is how it became a habit. Since then, we have strengthened that habit with countless repetitions of the same behavior.
Building a new habit is like building muscles. It takes practice, repetition, and time.
First, you need to choose the behavior with which to replace the old habit.
- What do I want?
- How would I prefer to respond?
- How would I like the situation to go?
The Ultimate Guide To Getting To Know Yourself – Learn how to date yourself in fun ways that will help you discover and fall in love with who you really are.
5 Easy Ways You Can Love Yourself Now – Five quick and easy ways that will help you practise emotional self care so you can discover what you really want.
How to live from choice #3: Replace the fear.
In order to move past your incredibly compelling fear-based stories, you need to tell yourself a new life-affirming version that you believe in.
In order to do that, you need to:
Step One: Fight any internalized shame in the body. Don’t believe the lie that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, sane enough, hard-working enough, strong enough, to deserve the things you want.
Step Two: Desensitize any historical fear that is no longer a current danger. Talk to a professional, especially one trained in somatic practices.
Step Three: Design your new life-affirming belief, that holds all the beautiful, messy complexities of what you want and need.
How to live from choice #4: Give change a chance.
Once you decide on your new behavior, and replace your old fears with well-rounded, compelling truths, it is still going to take time to embody these changes.
The mind moves very quickly and has the ability to time travel. It can analyze the past, plan for the future, and get fixated, for good or bad, on something in the present moment.
The body, on the other hand, moves much slower and is rooted in the here and now.
That means we need to accept what is, including our starting point: when is the moment of awareness? How much have you practiced these skills?
Change takes motivation, and practice, and time. It takes many repetitions before a behavior becomes your new embodied habit.
How to live from choice #5: Have compassion for your process of change
When you are first learning how to come from choice, you will default to your old habits most of the time. This is completely normal.
Gradually, you’ll reach for the new behavior with greater frequency, and that feels wonderful. Progress! Tangible triumph!
Then, when you get to the halfway point, where 50% of the time you are choosing the new behavior/belief, and 50% the old, you may feel discouraged, disappointed or disheartened.
It’s easy to berate yourself. The new way feels so much better than the old, so why do you ever do it the old way?
Because you’re still learning. Keep going. You’ve got this.
Eventually, your new behavior will become your default response.
You’ll start coming from your life-affirming beliefs, acting in alignment with your values and supporting your wants and needs.
You will still have bad moments, where fear reasserts itself, or an old habit that is usually quiet gets loud for a moment.
Occasionally, I still hop onto Instagram before I’ve thought about what I might want and need from my day. Or I wake up looking for a text message I am hoping to receive.
That’s OK. We’re human. That is a beautiful, complex thing.
Remember that this process of living with intention – from choice instead of fear or habit – is a marathon, not a sprint.
Of course, you’ll trip up and revert back to your default reactions once in a while.
You had a lifetime to accumulate your habits, a lifetime to internalise your fear.
So, yes, it will take a while.
But it doesn’t really matter. In many ways, the journey is just as important as the destination.
Hold your head high. You’ve got this.