5 Ways to Overcome Past Conditioning and Form a New Mindset

The tradition of making a New Year's resolution is an optimistic gesture, but it quickly fades as around 92 percent of people quickly break their resolution. The reason? Old habits creep back in, and these habits are rooted in an old mindset. It sounds incredibly ambitious to change a whole mindset. In reality this is easier than keeping a single New Year's resolution because a new mindset paves the way for a broad range of life changes.

What is your mindset right now? None of us can truthfully say. A mindset is like a worldview. It's the lens through which you see life. A silent filtering process is going on. We let in certain experiences and censor others. When we hear someone else express an opinion, we filter it through yes, no, maybe, and so what? before actually hearing it. Your brain has been programmed and conditioned for years to filter reality; there's no getting around it without conscious effort.

Since conscious effort is the key, here are five reprogramming techniques that will clear your mind as well as change your mindset.

Reject Your Old Self

Most people allow beliefs, opinions, likes, and dislikes to pop up by default. In any situation, their thinking isn't centered on the present, but is a relic of the past. The self who originated old thinking doesn't exist anymore. So when you find yourself having a negative reaction, and you can see that this reaction is one you fall back on (e.g., getting angry, feeling anxious, shutting out whatever is new and unknown), simply stop for a second and silently repeat the following mantra: “I am not that person anymore.”

Let this thought sink in, then open yourself to the situation as it’s unfolding in real present time. Your real self is always here and now.

Reject Default Attitudes

Most of us have reacted to thousands of situations over a lifetime that left an impression. Call them psychological impressions or karmic imprints; the terminology doesn't matter. In both cases, the result is the same. An impression is like a microchip that sends out the same message over and over. It makes us respond the same way over and over also, which is the opposite of actually being real and present. 

The quicker your response is, the more you should reject it as a default mechanism. Simply seeing this will help to de-condition the brain. The same brain that became imprinted can be cleared again—all it takes is a little self-awareness.

Listen to the People You Don't Listen To

When you shut anyone out, you are censoring reality. Great decision-makers appear from the outside to be very decisive and single-minded. But this disguises how they actually arrive at a decision, which involves a period of searching. While searching, they open their minds to all kinds of information, spreading the net as wide as possible. In other words, great decision-makers do the opposite of censoring reality.

Try listening to people who you’ve been shutting out, whatever your reason was originally. We can all tell when we're being shut out, and we all have the same reaction. We resent it, and we have no motivation to help that person. See yourself as a kind of human inbox, allowing as many viewpoints as you can to enter your mental landscape. A rigid mindset is soon melted this way.

Favor Expanded Awareness

Consciousness isn't easy to define, and you can spend your life paying little attention to it. But every day is about having experiences; every experience requires an experiencer; and every experiencer is using their awareness to confront life's challenges. No matter what is happening, awareness determines the outcome.

What you want to cultivate is expanded awareness. If you don’t know what this means, you certainly have experienced its opposite, constricted awareness. As a defensive move, we contract our minds due to fear and threat. We draw back when we feel insecure and vulnerable. We are averse to the unknown and the potential risks that await us there. These are all symptoms of constricted awareness. Be conscious of when you feel these things, take a deep breath, and relax. Let your mind ease into the situation instead of contracting—that's all expanded awareness needs to be.

Find the Way of Least Action

In physics, the law of least action holds that nature favors the shortest path to achieve a result. A tennis ball falls to earth in a simple curve, not a curlicue. An arrow flies straight to the target. Water boils at 212 degrees F. If nature is always this efficient, using the least effort and energy as possible, why do we complicate our lives? The combination of stress, struggle, and needless suffering is the result of a mindset that sees no other way to live.

But there has always been another way, as pointed out by the world's wisdom traditions. Look into them, and you will find some astonishing propositions, including the following: Life was never meant to be a struggle. When you encounter the silent depth of your mind, some problems dissolve automatically while others present new solutions. Your higher self is real and wants only the best for you. A life aligned with the laws of nature is not only easier; it brings love, creativity, and bliss as our birthright.

All of these things are worth exploring, I think. They guide me personally, and from long experience I know that mindsets—which can feel like prisons—can be transformed into the gate to freedom. 

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About the Author

Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Co-Founder
Deepak Chopra, M.D., F.A.C.P. is the co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, the founder of the Chopra Foundation, and a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicineRead more