You can change your mind and your actions at any time
After my last post ‘Getting real about trying to do it all – identifying and balancing our buckets’ we’ve been getting into our new family routine of work and daycare. Things are going well, although it hasn’t all been plain sailing with new daycare bugs being picked up, as many working parents will relate to!
After the big transition, Huw and I had another one over the long Easter weekend, weaning Huw off the boob.
This is something I’d been thinking about for a while but hadn’t been ready to commit to. I was feeling pretty tired working, training, being mum and still feeding Huw in the night and early in the morning. It felt like time, but could I fully commit?
This experience made me reflect on the decision making process and why sometimes we commit to something and there’s no looking back and other times there are multiple relapses. For example, you hear stories of someone who has tried for years to give up smoking and then suddenly is able to just go cold turkey. I’m curious about the patterns of events that lead to this moment of irreversible insight. For me with the weaning process I reflected on the following 5 factors which helped lead to a successful commitment:
1. My own commitment – From earlier this year, I realised that Huw didn’t need mummy’s milk anymore (those who have seen him eat will understand that!) and he was using me as a comforter to sleep. I had not been committed to the change however, holding on to feeding as it seemed the easy option to help settle him to sleep and then get some more snooze time in the morning. This wasn’t useful for Owain or others when they tried to settle him. I also think deep down this transition was the reality of Huw leaving the baby stage and into toddlerhood!
2. Sense of urgency – With my mum and dad visiting us soon I had committed to weaning Huw so that Owain and I could enjoy a weekend away to celebrate our recent wedding anniversary (and so I can enjoy more than a couple of wines with my parents!). I learnt a few years ago from completing my Myers Briggs personality profile that I thrive on being pressure prompted and that a sense of urgency can really help drive decisions.
3. Support system – Having Owain ready to support me with the decision and available to help settle Huw on that first night of weaning was instrumental. He also would help distract Huw and say no more milk. This reminded me of the importance of having a system set up to support a change.
4. Inspiration – I was inspired after speaking to a friend who similarly had procrastinated for a while about the weaning process, even trying multiple times and then giving in. She was almost ready to get a night nurse in to help with the process when she had an aha moment. Like with labour she realised she needed to get through this with her toddler, without a third party. Something had clicked and over the next few days she went through the weaning process reaffirming to her son that mummy still loved him but there was no more milk.
5. Timing – An extra long weekend presented the perfect opportunity to go through the weaning process, sometimes things seem to align and you have to take the opportunity and just do it.
Interestingly, my friend and I have both found that the boys have slept much better after weaning, are less clingy and irritable after sleep / feeding times. I have since discovered this through conversations with other friends too.
So what did this teach me?
For me, I reflected I had unconsciously been making the decision not to wean Huw, even if I was consciously saying it. I hadn’t mentally committed until Friday morning of the long weekend when I had a pivotal conversation with my friend and everything aligned. I pondered, what’s the trigger when we finally make the decision to change and you feel that internal shift that means we’re committed and there’s no going back?
It made me think of corporate change initiatives and how many fail (70% according to McKinsey) through a change being mandated without taking into account people’s individual decision making processes to commit to the change. When you’ve fully committed to something in the past, what was present for you? How can you leverage these factors to help you commit to something you’ve been putting off?
In the Japanese phenomenon ‘The Courage to be Disliked’, a philosopher is having a conversation with a youth throughout the book. In the chapter entitled ‘People Always Choose Not to Change’ in response to the youth’s remark that ‘there’s no way I can just change on the spot’ the philosopher says ‘Yes, you can. People can change at any time, regardless of the environments they are in. You are only unable to change because you are making the decision not to.’
For those interested in the neuroscience behind decision making I recommend reading this Psychology Today article from a few years ago –
Christopher Bergland writes:
“Understanding the neuroscience behind making a decision can be helpful when targeting new behaviors and changing bad habits. When you reach a fork in the road and need to make the right decision for your long-term health and well-being, using the brain science behind decision-making is a useful tool……
Decision-making is in the locus of your control. You have the power to break patterns of behavior simply by making better decisions. You can change your mind and your actions at any time. Even when you’re stuck in a cycle of rut-like thinking and behavior, a change of attitude and decision-making can turn your life around…….
Using mindfulness could give various regions of your striatum and prefrontal cortex time to relay the true “neuroeconomic” costs of a decision and help you make smarter choices. Mindful decision-making can derail compulsive or addictive patterns of behavior and take you down a path that’s in your best interest for long-term health, happiness, and overall well-being…..
The next time that you need to make a decision, take a few deep breaths and think about the the pros and cons of your next move in a pragmatic and mindful way. Then, do the right thing for your well-being.”
Since I started using Insight Timer earlier this year to reignite a regular formal meditation practice I have definitely found it helpful to manage decisions and change. I have been inspired to see the ripple effect of others using this app to help them better manage themselves.
Until next time, to finish with Christopher’s wise words:
You can change your mind and your actions at any time.