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A Different Approach 

There can be a temptation to believe that, to move away from our compulsive and addictive habits, we need to learn more willpower and self-discipline. You may already have tried making a really firm commitment to change, and also tried berating yourself when you’ve slipped up and gone back to your old behaviour. Somehow, despite seeing that it doesn’t work, we often think that we need to just dig deeper and push ourselves even harder. But willpower is not sustainable in the long run. Strong intention is a great start but willpower takes too much conscious effort to be all that we rely on as we go forward. In fact, the part of our brain that is responsible for willpower actually becomes fatigued over time. And being critical and harsh with ourselves when we don’t meet our goals, just undermines and stresses us further, making it even harder to have the resilience to keep moving forward. We often already feel shame because of our unwanted compulsion so adding more just makes the problem worse. So instead of taking a hard, tense and driven approach to change, we will make much better progress if we learn to soften, relax and observe with curiosity what is actually happening inside us. To guide ourselves away from our addictive and compulsive patterns, we start by learning to notice in more detail what is happening in our moment-to-moment experience, particularly around times when our unwanted behaviour happens. In this way, we gradually come to know all aspects of the behaviour, including what is driving it, and so learn how to let it go and then make wise choices about alternatives that are more beneficial to us.

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