I met with a counselor once who, to illustrate the way our brain works, poured water over a mound of sand in a box. The water ran down all sides, but as they pointed out, the water soon found a primary path that created a deeper groove in the sand. They then poured another pitcher and the water favored the deepest groove as it followed gravity down to the bottom of the container. They went on to explain that this is how our brain works. We've got neural pathways created over years - decades - that are highways for our thoughts. Our brain wants to process things efficiently, so regular patterns and thought processes become ingrained and it takes significant effort to change or undo them.
Anytime I type something that begins with the letters "re", I'll normally end up typing "Reagan" if I'm not thinking. It's habit. Similarly, I have a default way I think about myself and my abilities - and the way I think about others - that are completely automatic. Many of these thought settings aren't productive or healthy. If I'm not careful I'll discount my own worth and assume others are out to judge me before I even know them.
But we have power over this. We can change. Maybe there comes a day when we decide to win little battles no one will ever see. Then for the rest of our lives we’ll make a different decision in that space. No more smoking. No more McDonald's. No more thinking badly about our parents. No more believing we have nothing to offer.
Perhaps some of the most important moments in our lives begin when we're in a situation feeling drawn to act or think how we've always acted or thought, and instead choose to whisper to ourselves, "But this time, I could do it differently..."
It's guaranteed one thing will never change - and that's the fact we will encounter a thousand moments in a day when we're presented with a chance to either think the way we normally think - the way we believe is core to our identity - or we can remember we're evolving. As simply as I can put it: Nothing's going to change unless we change something. It's foolhardy to believe things get better in the longterm because we hope for it. It's about tiny shifts. In the small moments, we must remember: ”But this time, I could do it differently..."
Even if this causes us to modify only one out of 3,000 decisions, I bet the world would be better.
I bet we would, too.