Breaking Subconscious Habits

There are things in life we all want to change but often we can be so in the habit of doing certain things that we find them almost impossible change.

The slogan of The Catholic Guy is ‘Inspiring you to Dream.’ I often think about this and wonder how we can help people to be all that they can be and want to be.

The following has greatly helped me to change my habits. It is very powerful and at the same time obvious. It is easy but just takes a decision.

It was late at night and Rosemary and I arrived back in Australia on a flight from Asia. We had taken a break combined with doing some work. Rather than feeling fresh we were tired from a long day of travelling that had kept us up most of the night before.

All we wanted was to clear immigration and get through customs and go home.

Isn’t it funny that often when we want things to go fast that somehow they just seem to take longer? After clearing immigration we went to collect our bags. We had not bought anything that needed to be checked and so we hoped we would get through customs quickly once we had our bags.

With all the travelling I do I think I buy a new bag about once a year. They get destroyed through travelling. The current one I have is purple. I normally get black or something dark but this was all I could find in my price range on a previous trip when I had to replace my bag quickly when it had been damaged.

Eventually a purple bag came down the baggage carousel. I lifted it off only to see a white ribbon with pretty silver trimming tied on the handle of the bag. It wasn’t mine even though the bag was identical to mine. I put it straight back on the baggage carousel.

We kept waiting and then Rosemary said to me, “I am sure that is your bag.  Go and get it again.”  I said, “No, my bag didn’t have a ribbon on it.”  Rosemary insisted that I should look again.

So once again I got it off the baggage carousel and looked at it more closely. It sure looked like my bag except for the ribbon.

I always leave the zip handles at the top of the bag. They were at the bottom on this bag further confirming to me that it wasn’t mine. I noticed however that the zip was not closed and that there was a 15 centimetre opening where it was open. I looked in without touching anything and there were my clothes inside. This was my bag but I hadn’t put the ribbon on it.

Fortunately I had not opened it. My first thought was what if someone has put something inside my bag? News stories like this I had heard of flooded my thoughts.

I looked at Rosemary and we both had the same thought, “we need to find someone from immigration before I open it so that we a have witness.”

I walked over and found an immigration officer and told him that I had found my bag but it had a ribbon on it now and that the zip handles were now at the bottom of the bag.

He immediately spoke in what was no doubt his official immigration officer voice.

“Sir do you believe your bag has been tampered with?” I said, “Yes” and asked him to come with me and see it.

I had thought, What would happen if I tried to leave the airport and had been caught with who knows what in my bag?

Can you imagine the news headlines, “Catholic Guy caught with drugs?”

The immigration officer came over and opened the bag under a security camera. I felt nervous and worried if they would ever let me out of goal if there was something unlawful inside it.

I already knew I was going to plead not guilty. I saw my life flashing before me.

When the bag was opened there was nothing in it but clearly it had been opened by someone.

A flood of relief came over me as I knew I wouldn’t be going to goal.

I am still using that bag and right now I am on another plane and it is stowed somewhere below me up here at 37,000 feet above the ground.

I also still have the ribbon on it.

I have noticed something interesting in the past few months. Every time I see the ribbon on the bag I am reminded of that story and particularly the nervous emotions I felt that night at the airport.

So much of what we do and how we respond to situations and circumstances are done subconsciously. That is we act automatically without thought.

When we learn to drive we are initially very conscious of everything we have to do from how to steer, how hard to press the brakes, the need to pay careful attention as to how fast the car is travelling, etc. Today I drove all over Sydney for meetings and then to the airport. Most of the time I gave very little thought to what I had to do while driving. It came automatically to me because my subconscious was in control.

Are there areas of your life you want to change? The way you speak, your choices when you look in the fridge, your attitudes and feelings? If we are honest these types of things and many others happen mostly without a lot of conscious thought.

Here’s my very simple but life changing thought that leads to an action that can and will change your life. I wish it was original but I didn’t think of it.

To break a subconscious action we need a visual prompt.

Let me give you some examples.

I speak and preach very often. From time to time I fall into habits that I am not aware of such as repeating certain phrases or words which can make the talk disjointed or I touch my face overly so that people who cannot hear and are lip-reading are unable to understand what I am saying, etc.

I do not notice that I am saying or doing these things until I see or listen back to a recording of the talk. The only way I break these habits is to ask someone to indicate to me while I am speaking whenever I am doing them. A small wave of the hand does the trick perfectly while I am talking. I have to choose people I can trust and who have my best interests in mind.

I am probably the only person who does this but I raid the pantry when I don’t need to. Before I know it I have eaten something I didn’t need. I can easily fall into the habit of snacking especially if I am watching television. I almost can’t remember walking to the pantry and opening the packet of chips and devouring them. What would happen when you are really serious about not eating the wrong foods at the wrong times if when you opened the pantry there was a sign that just said, “DON’T?”

If you did proceed beyond that point it wouldn’t be a subconscious decision. I have mysteriously found myself mysteriously at the pantry saying, “I don’t need that.”

Husbands when is the last time you told your wife you loved her? I know you mean to but!!!!!  What about a message in your phone that gets you back in the habit and reminds you?

One of my favourite passages in the Scriptures is from Romans 12:2. It says Be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you can judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.

To transform our mind we must bring what subconsciously controls our actions and thoughts under control. This will not happen accidentally but must be a deliberate action.

Visual prompts are very, very powerful.

When I see the white ribbon with the pretty silver trim on my bag I am catapulted back in time and in emotion and thought to that night in the customs hall.

Visual prompts can aid you in changing some of the biggest challenges in your life.

 Breaking Subconscious Habits

1 Comment

  1. Chitty Samy | | Reply

    Have seen Bruce on the Christian Channel but never preach in person before until I attended the retreat at Greystances. Truly remarkable and felt so connected and would firstly like to say thank you for inspiring me to change my old habits. The symbolism of the “shredder” and the walk of faith has helped me immensely and I only hope with faith I continue to remember this visual cue. Thank you once again and looking forward to seeing you again.

Leave a Reply