Posted by Tom Cocklereece
Have you ever found yourself experiencing a challenge or failure that had a déjà vu feeling as if you have been here before? Then there is the realization that yes, you have repeated some of the same self-defeating behaviors that achieved a similar unpleasant result before. Call it DNA, mental loops, or whatever you want but you have the life, marriage, relationships, marriage, etc., that you have built for yourself one decision at a time. We tend to hope and pray for a new start only to find that after receiving it, we wind up in the same situation—wishing we had a “do over.” Of course you have heard the definition of insanity—doing the same things over and over while expecting different results.
Whether you get a mulligan or not, what will you do to change the next chapter of your life’s story? You cannot change your DNA but there are three things you can be aware of as you dig yourself out of that hole or start over again:
- Spiritual Transformation
- Change your values
- Tame your gremlins
Three ways you may “get out of your way” are 1) spiritual transformation, change your values, and 2) tame your gremlins.
The one act that can bring the desired change is receiving Jesus Christ as Lord. For those who have never made a heart-felt decision to accept Christ, they cannot comprehend how this step would change their life for good. One the other hand, those who receive Christ often wonder why they did not make the decision long before they did. Indeed there is a mystery to the transformational change that takes place as the new Christian’s values are changed as a result of accepting Christ. Romans 10:9-10 is one of the best Bible passages that illustrates what is required for spiritual transformation:
9 That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV)
CHANGE YOUR VALUES
Changing your values is easier said than done but it can be done! Why are values so important and how do they affect your life? Values form the template or filter through which most of your decisions are made. There are essentially two kinds of life-shaping values—intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic values are heart values that seem to come naturally to you. They were formed unknowingly and often unintentionally through experiences, relationships with family, associations with friends, and DNA. One’s DNA rarely works alone to shape one’s behavior but rather it works in tandem with one of the other factors. When one decides to change their values, they find that it is difficult to do. Intrinsic values are the basis of what are called Underlying Automatic Commitments (UACs) meaning that many decisions are made with little thought. Think of UACs as a traffic signal with the common red, yellow, and green lights, but with UACs all three lights are green. Here is a way to understand UACs:
- Underlying—decisions are made below one’s awareness and require little thought
- Automatic—decisions are made automatically with little intentionality
- Commitment—since decisions are underlying and automatic, an obligation has essentially been made once two of the three “switches” have activated
As you may see, great intentionality must be exercised in order to make a decision other than that which the UAC has already mandated. This is not to say that one cannot arrest the UAC process in order to change the outcome. In fact, that is exactly what must take place but it is incredibly difficult to do. There is one exception, however—an epiphany experience with God through which HE changes the person’s “operating system.” In such cases, the template and filter through which decisions are made is transformed.
Perhaps there are extrinsic or aspirational values one may adopt in order to “fix” one’s decision-making process. This at least may change the Underlying Automatic Commitmentto an Underlying Automatic Contingency—meaning that there is an intentional pause for thought BEFORE a final decision is made. Remember that it takes only 21 days to develop a bad habit but it takes 66 days to develop a good one, which speaks to the reason why positive change is so difficult.
TAME YOUR GREMLINS
You may remember the 1984 movie Gremlins about a cute little pet given to a boy as a Christmas gift. There were three rules about keeping a gremlin: never expose it to bright lights, don’t get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. Of course all three rules were broken in the movie and the cute gremlin became many little monsters. The connection is that even with good values and a contingency process for decision-making, you may find that you often make impulsive decisions that are almost always poor choices. Rick Carson suggests that we often listen to our inner voices that are “gremlins” created out of one’s experience and desires that become our own worst enemy. (Taming Your Gremlin, 11)
Indeed, there are some good spiritual lessons here for the one who is interested in transformation, but even Christians sometimes struggle with destructive “inner voices.” I’m reminded of a tweet by Rick Warren that said, “Before you sin Satan says “It’s no big deal!” Afterwards he says “This is so big; you can never be forgiven” Both lies.” Gremlins tear down self esteem of the person who needs it; builds up the ego of the arrogant person; influences people to make the wrong decision with “eyes wide open;” and laugh at people after the damage has been done.
Unlike the fictional movie, these gremlins are real and people struggle with them often. Apply the opposite of the first of the three rules in the movie: expose gremlins to the light. Gremlins are tamed by identifying and naming them. When you are aware of your self-defeating behavior, you can make better decisions that will change the story of your life. This article begins a series that will help readers overcome self-defeating behavior.
Links to the Gremlin series:
Dr. Tom Cocklereece
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Tags: Christian Life Coaching, Coaching Process, Dr. Tom Cocklereece, Executive Coaching, gremlins, Marriage Coaching, My own worst enemy, Personal Development, Professional Coaching, Renewal Coaching, RENOVA Coaching, self-defeating behavior, Simple Discipleship, UACs, Underlying Automatic Commitment, Underlying Automatic Contingency