It’s easier to make a change in your head than to change the world around you. While that’s true, changing what goes on in your head is by no means easy. Make change in there though, and you’re most of the way to changing the world out there. That’s why starting in there is important.
Are you in top condition?
We are all products of conditioning that dictates how we see the world. Conditioning and habit dictate behavior. Habit is practiced conditioning. Some habits you started learning not long after your birth, some you learned later in life. Some were taught to you by parents, teachers, peers; others you learned yourself. Change these habits, this conditioning, and your world-changing ability increases.
Imagine if you were conditioned at, say, five, developed a habit around that conditioning through practice, then practiced that habit until you were 40. Changing that habit would be pretty hard, don’t you think? You might not even recognize the habit as a habit, or the conditioning that lead to the habit. It might be an essential part of who you’ve become, especially if you’re surrounded by people sharing that same habit, and who also practiced that habit since they were very young.
Imagine that you developed a belief or a behavior pattern (a habit of thinking or acting) after a particularly intense, emotional experience (conditioning)—a painful end to a relationship early in life, a particularly embarrassing public experience, or a hard, long-term financial struggle, such as surviving the Great Depression. You might find it impossible to change that way of being. You may not even want to change it, especially if you feel that habit could protect you from having to face that intense emotional experience again.
Such habits are hard to identify and separate from who we are. As I’m writing this, I’m accessing my own behavior patterns so I can relate a personal experience of all this. It’s hard because my habits feel like who I am. So, seeing them as habits, selecting one, then identifying the conditioning experience that created it in the first place … ah, found one.
I was born in Southern California, and the neighborhood I grew up in was overwhelmingly Caucasian. Though I look African-American, I never once had a racial incident the whole time I lived in California. After my parents divorced, I relocated to Virginia, then Atlanta. There, in mostly African-American neighborhoods, I learned how people use behaviors, appearance, and mannerisms to exclude those different from them. I was bullied, harassed, robbed, teased—things that didn’t happen in California—by people who looked just like me.
The conclusion I drew, and which still dictates my preferences today, is that I’m more comfortable and accepted around Caucasian people than when I’m around people who look like me. I have developed the habit of spending time with Caucasians and avoiding people who look like me. Today it feels like a preference. That’s all. Although I now recognize the habitualness of the practiced thought and the conditioning that caused the habit, the energy required to change that preference, or habit, if I had the desire to change it, would require more than just mental energy. It would require modifying my lifestyle.
Imagine the enormous numbers of preferences and beliefs we all hold in our heads. Think about how your own beliefs dictate your behavior, including your thoughts about the world around you. I would go so far as to say most of them are highly beneficial. Yet, when it comes to becoming a change agent, habits we call culture, belief, morals, and collections of rituals such as religion, especially when shared by millions, or even the majority of the human race, pose a problem. If you’re wanting to change the global economic system, or the justice system, or the political system, clarifying your own thoughts (habits of belief) is a prerequisite to changing the world.
Do you believe money is evil? Do you believe people who have a lot of it will resist your efforts? Do you believe the money system is impossible to change? Do you believe there are secret cabals working to keep people enslaved through money? aDo you think life is hard and suffering is just a part of life? Do you believe things will never change?
Considering these questions can help begin the process of identifying what you believe about the world around you. The beliefs can point to the conditioning you may need to undo. Unless you understand your beliefs, you may be unknowingly sabotaging your own efforts to change.
Change agency begins with recognizing your physical existence as a collection of habits and realizing that all habits can change. The next step is realizing what your own habits are and changing those that work against your efforts to effect change in your head or in the world.