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Why we default to old ways (Is there a hole in your sidewalk?)

By Michal Spiegelman

Albert Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Like many of my private clients, you might struggle with repeating behaviors you don’t like.

You do the same things and fall into the same hole over and over again, wondering why you’re not making progress.

Do you try to practice self-love but continue to criticize yourself?

Are you learning to stand up for yourself but often fall back into self-doubt and insecurity?

Is it “easier” to continue rescuing and enabling your loved ones instead of setting boundaries?

If you thought “yes” to any of the questions above, you might keep falling into the same hole.

When I wrote this blog, I knew it was time to “dust off” this poem I’ve loved for years because you may need to read these words today.  

There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost …. I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

What is the “hole in your sidewalk”?

You might take the same street (metaphorically speaking) and fall into the same hole over and over again, even when you know you shouldn’t.

Small holes we fall into….

  • Trying to log into an account with the wrong password over and over and over.
  • Checking our phones the minute we wake up and constantly throughout the day.
  • Watching too much TV while criticizing a family member for doing the same.

Our unhealthy habits are a metaphor for taking the same street and falling into the same hole.

Bigger holes we fall into…

  • Taking care of others before ourselves.
  • Giving more than receiving.
  • Escaping into unhealthy behaviors to avoid pain.

The big hole in my sidewalk.

All of us learn behaviors from our family of origin. Those behaviors become natural tendencies that dictate how we show up in the world.

I kept falling into the hole of self-sacrifice.

Growing up, my parents sacrificed themselves in many ways for our family. Once, I remember they gave me their bedroom so that my siblings and I could have our own rooms. This meant they had to sleep in the living room.

This is just one example of their countless times of self-sacrifice. No wonder I kept falling into this hole myself! It took years of inner work for me to stop compromising my health and wellbeing and finally take care of myself.

What are some holes, big or small, that you keep falling into?

In Chapter 1 of the poem, you can’t break the pattern because you’re unaware of the problem. The subsequent chapters show you different ways you can stop falling into the same holes.

Chapter 2: Self-awareness.

This is the first step. If you don’t see the hole you’re falling into as a problem, you’ll have no reason to walk around it. Once you develop self-awareness, you can create real change rather than playing the victim role or blaming others for your patterns. Even when you do fall into the hole, you’re aware of what’s happening and take ownership.

Chapter 3: Responsibility

The second step is being willing to take responsibility for the holes you’re aware of. It’s more loving to say “it is my responsibility” than “it is my fault” because taking responsibility is more effective than taking the blame. Accepting responsibility is the catalyst that continues the change.

Chapters 4 & 5: Inner Wisdom

The last chapters of the poem are where your inner wisdom comes in.

How do you know what change to create? How do you know when to walk around the hole and when to take a different street?

This is the wisdom that you were born with. It’s built-in, but sometimes you lose touch with it. So how can you access it?

You can connect with your inner wisdom by maintaining a practice of clearing the noise and becoming mindful of the present moment.

Many people in our Reiki community say that treating themselves with Reiki daily brings them clarity and guidance from within. Tapping into Reiki and their inner wisdom is what helps them decide to walk around the hole or choose a different street.

Read this blog if you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and Reiki.

Or, if you’re really feeling stuck and you’re looking for someone to guide you, send me a note here, and we’ll talk.  

I hope this blog has shown you that it’s not your fault if you keep falling into the same holes! But it is your responsibility to develop self-awareness of them. By connecting to your inner wisdom, you’ll find it easier to live a more mindful life on either side of the street.

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