How to Change Behavior
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). And be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).
In changing behavior and negative emotions in your life, you must always start with changing your thoughts. Thoughts rule conduct. Thoughts give energy to emotions. If I’m feeling something, then I’m also thinking something. When you have negative emotions, look back to the thoughts that created them. Thoughts fuel emotions the way food gives energy to the body.
I’m not talking about cognitive thinking or thoughts that you are aware of here. Rather, the thoughts that dominate emotions and character proceed from the underlying thought patterns or as Paul calls them in Ephesians, from the spirit of your mind. Today we call this our personal belief system. Another word would be conscience.
Here’s how to produce change that sticks in your life and really changes how you live your life. Since my behavior is motivated by thought, then I must change underlying thoughts if I’m going to change behavior.
Here’s what I do. When I find or when the Lord or someone else reveals to me a deficiency in my life, I immediately ask the Lord to show me the thought pattern behind that behavior. It takes some time, but if I’ll persist, I’ll be able to see where the behavior originates. And then I’ll be able to revisit the thought and/or the experience that produced it, and bring a different ending to it and in that way change the pain and behavior the thought produces. Here are some examples from my own life. I was told hundreds of times as a child, Mitch, do you think you’ll ever do anything right? And my little mind translated this into I can’t do anything right. I go back and revisit these episodes of living that are very real to me. I say, Lord, what that person said to me is simply not true, but I began to believe that. But that’s not what You said about me in Your Word! You said that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! You said that I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me and gave Himself for me! Lord, I choose to forgive that person (I call their name to the Father) for saying that to me and moving me to believe that I can’t do anything right. I right now release any judgment that I have towards them, and I choose to forgive them for saying this to me! Then, in my mind, I take a visit to that memory of this being said to me. I hear the person say it, and then I purposely change my response from silence to Yes, I do think I can do things the right way, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I do this over and over again.
I no longer feel like a looser or as though I can’t do anything productive. I did feel this way in my youth, but by going back and meditating on the thoughts that produced this wrong motivation in me, and by purposely changing my response in my memory of the event, the Lord has enabled change in my behavior. And now what reigns in me is that I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! And now my life as an adult proves this out!
Go back and revisit the thoughts that bring you pain or that de-motivate you. Replay the episode that brought them in your own mind. Then, as they are being replayed in your memory, change the ending to line up with God’s Word! This is really meditating on the Word by using your imagination and previous memory. Change the bad replay of the event to line up with the Word. Do it over and over again. You will simply be amazed at the transformation in your life and in your emotions!