Iyanla Vanzant
Photo: Gary Lupton/Studio D

Q: How do I break a negative pattern?

1. First, notice it.

Maybe you always end up in drama-filled relationships, or you go through endless cycles of overeating and guilt. The challenge with negative patterns is that they're unconscious. But we can train our minds to recognize them by paying attention to our emotions: When we feel pain we've felt countless times before, we must ask ourselves why.

2. Second, know its cause.

We fall into patterns because we fail to face reality. We return to the same bad situation, hoping that this time will be different. I've said it before: What we resist will persist. When we aren't honest with ourselves about what we feel, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.

3. Slow down!

Many patterns occur because we move too fast to see things for what they really are. We meet someone today and go on a date tomorrow, and by the next day, we're already imagining the wedding. The key is to manage our expectations to see what's really occurring right in front of us.

4. Forgive yourself.

Forgiveness clears out the residue of the past. Until we forgive ourselves for what we did, did not do, or should have done, we will repeat our patterns. But when the mind is clear of guilt and shame, it focuses on what is here instead of what was, and lets us take each moment as it comes.

5. Check in.

When we recognize that we're doing (again) what we've always done, we can't wait: We must stop ourselves in the moment. Ask yourself, What am I doing, and why? Breathe yourself through that thought—and make another choice right then and there.

Iyanla Vanzant is the host of OWN's Iyanla: Fix My Life and the author of Peace from Broken Pieces (SmileyBooks).

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