Don’t Give Up: How Working to Change Your Behavior Puts You in the Same Boat as The Buddha

Blog | February 8, 2022

Why is this happening again??

I thought I fixed this already.

I’ve BEEN doing so much work on this and changing… Why is this showing up again?

When you’re changing a behavior that has been a default of yours, it’s a process. And often, a frustrating one.

One of the things I hear people say is, “Hey, I’ve been working on this. I thought it wouldn’t be an issue anymore .” 

Our expectation is that, now that we’ve committed to a new behavior or pattern, the old one will just quietly fade into the background.

If only.

The truth is, “slipping up” or “regressing” with a new habit—what some people might read as failure—is actually a good sign.

It’s like the story of Mara’s role in the Buddha’s enlightenment.

Right before the mortal Siddartha reaches enlightenment and becomes the Buddha, he is sitting in quiet meditation. 

Mara, whose name means destruction, shows up. He sends in a parade of ALL the distractions:

First, beautiful goddesses to seduce Siddartha. 

Then, waves of monsters to attack him.

Anything to get him NOT to pass this threshold into enlightenment.

Through each, Siddartha stays in meditation, refusing to let his focus sway.

And in so doing, he reaches enlightenment and becomes the Buddha. (If you’re curious, you can learn all about Mara here.)

What’s the takeaway? The path to new behavior—whether it’s a new habit or eternal wisdom—is marked by distractions, missteps, and temptations. And the closer you get to changing, the more difficult you will be challenged until the new behavior becomes an old habit.

In other words, when these show up, it means you are on the right track. 

Releasing an old behavior and starting a new one is a delicate process. 

What’s SO important to keep in mind is that any new behavior is like a little seedling that’s just popped out of the ground. 

It is going to take nurturing, love, and a LOT of focus and attention. 

So that moment when you feel like giving up? It’s a sign of progress

An opportunity to practice. 

Yes. It’s so hard.

And. You gotta keep doing it.

And when things get the hardest, it’s actually a sign that you’re close

In The Big Leap, author Gay Hendricks calls this “the big breakdown before the big breakthrough.” It’s almost as if the universe—or Mara—is conspiring to test your convictions.

So what do you do when the frustration and anxiety rise, because you “screwed up” again on the path to exchanging an old behavior or pattern for a new one?

What to do when things fall apart as you’re learning how to stay OUT of the operational aspects and manage the relationships that make you a leader? (Like we talked about here).

Just: Notice. Pay attention.

Keep these observations as data points. 

I know. The anxiety that can come with shifting an old pattern can be overwhelming. But by paying attention, staying aware, now you have the capacity to see it

Which gives you the power to choose: How much do you want to engage or indulge that anxiety by falling back on the old habit? 

And if you do choose to indulge it, what are the ramifications?

Ask yourself:

  • How did things go when you went back from the new behavior to the old one? 
  • How did you feel? 
  • How did your team feel?
  • How much sleep did you get (or lose)?

The point is, you’re NOT failing, and it’s not confirmation that the old way was better. 

This is just the way things happen

Don’t give up! You are on the right track.

Helping our clients navigate the delicate work of releasing old patterns and starting new ones—to be the impactful, effective leader they dream of being—is exactly what we do. Schedule a complimentary discovery call to learn more today.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant