Can you recall as a child, doing those puzzle mazes where you had to find your way to an end point, by working out which was the right route to take? The image would either be a mass of lines like tangled wires or a complicated maze. Discovering the right route to the end could be tricky as others led to a dead end or back to the start.

Sometimes you’d succeed by trial and error, eventually finding the right route to the end. Sometimes you’d chose the right route straight away and almost instinctively, find your way to the end. Other times you’d end up going over the same route again, confusing yourself and not realising you’d made a mistake.

The maze of life

You know, life can be like one of those puzzle mazes. For some their maze of life is full of fun and excitement, setting off with a spring in their step, laughing off ‘wrong’ turns and chalking them up to experience. They make up life’s rich tapestry.

Sometimes however, we get ‘stuck in a loop’, circling back on ourselves and wondering why we can’t get to where we want to go. We set out with determination, our goals in sight and then find ourselves facing a brick wall, heading down a dead end or weighing different options, unsure which one to take. We might try several things only to find we end up back where we started.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “the definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different result”. Well, I don’t subscribe to this and here’s why.

If you’re stuck in a loop, I’d like to reassure you that you’re not insane! What you are is stuck in a powerful cycle that can be traced back to childhood and most of the time, it’s something you’re completely unaware of.

Believe it or not this is actually good news! It means that whatever is holding you back in life is rooted in your past, not your present. So it’s old stuff not current stuff.

If you’re the kind of person who regularly beats themselves up because you feel like you never find the right route, it’s time for you to show yourself some compassion. That cycle you’re locked in is pretty powerful and most people can’t break it on their own. However, it can be broken!

Firstly though, let’s go on a little journey back into the past (cue music and swirly hand and body effect!)

The past is a foreign country

As we grow up, we start to form habits, which are based on things we see, hear, feel, taste and touch, things we experience, we learn and things we’re told. These lead us to form our values and beliefs. At the same time we’re building pathways of thought that lead to actions and behaviours. Some of these become so deeply ingrained we incorporate them as part of our identity. Now this is a normal, natural process. If our mind didn’t do this we’d take a long time to do anything and everything, so much so we’d not get far in a day. So we make habits from the familiar.

Just like with those childhood puzzles, some of those pathways will take us towards our goals and desired outcomes in a direct – or sometimes not so direct – route. All the time, we’re acquiring new thoughts and beliefs and from time to time our brain – the leader of our expedition through life – will say ‘I think we should go this way’.

Sometimes, those new pathways lead to a dead end and a voice in our unconscious says, ‘I think we took a wrong turn there’ or ‘I think we’re a little bit lost’.  We might take a diversion in life then hop back on to the main – or a different – track.

Then we have the circular routes – the ones that keep us locked in endless loops.

These loops are patterns of behaviour that we act out time and time again. They are a learned response. Decision-making in your mind is like scrolling through a list of files on your computer, trying to find the right one for the job at hand. If it’s something new for us, we might check several files before deciding which one is best for the job. However, in the case of habits, we rarely stop to think about our selection – it’s instinctive. Yet it doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

All those times we feel stuck, we’re simply playing out a long-running pattern of thought and behaviour, which keeps us turning on the same axis. We want to move forward, yet something holds us back. It could be a whispered thought that we’re not good enough. It might be a pattern of self-destructive behaviour founded in feelings of worthlessness. It can be  fear of exposure or being judged.

There’s a great line by the writer L. P. Hartley, ‘The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there,’ which to me means that the past is a place we have been, yet it’s not where we are now. We may think of it, but we don’t allow it to shape our present. Yet many of us do.

On a clear day you can see forever

Returning to the notion of those childhood puzzles, remember that there’s always another path to choose. It might be one that others have walked before us or one we carve out for ourselves.

At times, we just need a hand from someone to help us see the way forward, or to help us cut loose from the tendrils of the past that cling onto us. That’s where NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is so powerful.

Put simply, NLP is an ever developing body of tools and a way of thinking that will enable you to break free from the cycles of the past.

It employs pattern interrupt to disrupt habitual thoughts and actions.

It’s like a mental scalpel that lets you cut loose and let go of what no longer serves you.

It enables you to reorganise the building blocks of your thinking so you can pave a new way.

It’s propels you forward like the strength in your arms and legs does as you move

It creates a more resilient mindset as you find your way.

It’s a clear lens to help you see through the fog of fear and indecision.

Are you ready to leave the past behind, or to help others do the same? Get in touch here to discover more about why NLP is right for you!

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