They talked to the right people about their problems. They paid the money and put in the time and effort.
In the case of anxiety, rumination, insecurity, or fear, they were mindful. They meditated or observed or whatever it is that people doing mindfulness do.
In the case of unwanted behaviors, habits, and addictions, they abstained. They added new things to their lives to take the place of bad habits. They busied themselves and steered clear of old triggers.
Why didn’t their change stick, they want to know?
If they are brain savvy, they question why their observation or abstinence didn’t change their brain permanently. Why didn’t those darn neural pathways reverse like the neuroscientists say they will?
Great questions, right?
Change doesn’t come from effort. We all know people who try hard and consult the very best resources available, only to keep falling into the same traps. And we all know others who had a flash of insight and effortlessly changed in an instant. (The huge majority of us fall somewhere between these extremes, by the way.)
There is one very simple question I can ask to learn a ton about how and why someone may or may not have experienced deep change: I want to know what they understand about the source of human experience.
When someone begins telling me that their particular problem goes back four generations, or they start talking about how stressful their job is, that their marriage just broke up, that their brain chemistry is off, or any other circumstance (yes, brain chemistry is a circumstance), I know they are innocently looking in the wrong direction.
I have so much compassion for anyone going through a really tough life circumstance. Hard things happen to all of us at times. But hard things aren’t the source of habits, addictions, anxiety, depression or any other problem one might have.
When someone is understandably looking there, their mind is innocently overcomplicating things and missing the freedom-giving truth.
I want to know: to what extent do they see that every single thing they ever experience is thought arising within them?
Because when people catch even a glimpse of that truth, change is inevitable.
I want to know: to what extent do they see that beyond their chatty, conceptual, experience-creating mind they are totally and completely habit- and problem-free?
Because when people begin to see that in a deep way, change is practically unavoidable.
Those realizations are the only thing that determines deep, permanent change.
Lasting change doesn’t come from doing, it comes from seeing.
Freedom isn’t something you can outsource, buy, or earn through hard work. It’s something you realize. It’s there already, but you have to see it.
Doing your way there isn’t an option.