We've already discussed our propensity to keep doing what never worked in the first place. But futile tactics are insidious. They keep coming to mind over and over, despite their record of failure. The difficulty is that you have wired your brain, setting down a groove that is all too easy to fall back into. Grooves can be erased only by forming new grooves.
If you find yourself falling back into self-defeating thoughts, stop and say, "That's how I've been approaching the problem. And it doesn't work." You will have to do this more than once, and yet each time is useful. The more you stop indulging the level of futility, the more mental energy can be devoted to new tactics. Please note, I'm not saying that you should fight your old mental habits. That's a recipe for more misery, as all wars are. Your aim is simply to notice what doesn't work, which is a form of mindfulness or self-awareness.
4. Expand Your Awareness
When the mind is constricted, it becomes like a tight muscle—you can't expect it to move as long as it's cramped. The things that constrict the mind: old conditioning, outworn beliefs, ritualized thinking, habit, inertia, fear and low expectations. These are challenges you need to confront as honestly as possible.
Having a closed mind doesn't feel good, so whenever you detect any kind of inner discomfort, the first tactic should be to expand your awareness. Let's say that you feel resentment toward someone else. Clearly, that is a contracted mindset. If you were more open-minded, you'd start to tolerate that person, see their good side, and stop waiting for something new to blame and dislike them for.
In and of itself, open-mindedness solves all kinds of problems that are the result of narrow-mindedness. But to achieve it, you need to stop believing that being stuck, judgmental, opinionated and self-important ever works. You must learn to know yourself better, to follow the model of tolerant people rather than prejudiced ones, to turn away from victimization and so on. For years I've recommended meditation as the most effective way to expand awareness. Also useful are mindfulness, self-reflection, prayer, contemplation and counseling.
5. Take Full Responsibility
Your mind encompasses the best of yourself and the worst. It holds the greatest promises and the greatest threats. Our minds create our reality. Once you face this fact, it can be overwhelming. We all secretly want to escape responsibility for creating the situation we find ourselves in. We don't want to face painful truths. Change feels like risk. Our minds are used to projecting blame and judgment upon others. So much promise goes unfulfilled this way. In truth, the power to create your reality, which begins by building a mature self, opens the way to life's greatest joys.
Next: Two ways to turn your perception around