If you are feeling stuck in your life, you are more likely than not, repeating patterns of behavior that are deeply ingrained and very difficult to change.  You are stuck in a passive dis-empowered state, just going with the flow.

Let me share a true story with you.  When I was going to graduate school working a master’s degree in computer science, I was working two part-time jobs to make ends meet and I was making a daily 60 mile round trip to and from the university where I was taking my graduate level classes.

One of my jobs was a bartender at a local neighborhood bar.  The place was a rough blue-collar bar that was crowded with factory workers who worked at a local car factory, copper tube factory, wire rope factory and a small steel mill.  At that time, all of these factories had workers on at least two shifts each day and some of the factories had three shifts each day.  It was a shot and a beer kind of place.

My other job was working as a janitor that same bar.  My duties included emptying the ashtrays, as smoking was still allowed in those days, re-stocking the back bar with liquor, candy and other snacks, re-stocking the coolers with beer bottles, changing the half barrels of beer in the basement, cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the kitchen and taking out the garbage.

For my bartending job, I typically worked the night shift from 7:30 pm until the bar closed at 2:30 am.  For my janitor job, I worked from 4:30 am until 7:30 am.  I had to finish my janitor work by 7:30 am because the bar opened again at 8:00 am and the parking lot was always full with factory workers on the way home after leaving their third shift jobs  (from about 11:30 pm until about 7:30 am).

Since I lived within walking distance of the bar, I would walk home for the two hours between my bartending shift and my janitorial shift.  You may be curious why I just did not start my janitor work at 2:30 am instead of walking home and coming back at 4:30 am.  The reason was the local municipal rules for bars and taverns at that time required that no one be on the premises at all of the bar or tavern for that two hour window from 2:30 am until 4:30 am.

At 7:30 am I would go home and sleep for a few hours.  Then I would drive 30 miles to school, attend my grad school classes and drive 30 miles home again.  I would then do my homework until I had to go to work again.

I repeated this same pattern for about a year.  The late night hours, lack of sleep, commuting, grad school classes and homework began to takes its toll on my mental and physical health.

During this time period, there was a commercial on television for a doughnut company.  The owner of the doughnut shop in the commercial would get up early and leave his house in the dark in all kinds of weather and say “It’s time to make the doughnuts.”  He would come home in the dark, looking exhausted and say, “I made the doughnuts.”  The commercial shows him repeating this pattern over and over through the seasons over the course of a year.

It’s very interesting to me that the “It’s time to make the doughnuts” mentality is still part of our collective consciousness based on that old TV commerical. I was watching an episode of season two of the television show SEAL TEAM recently when one of thes seal team members said as he were going on a new mission, “It feels like, it’s time to make the doughnuts.”

I felt just like the guy in the doughnut commercial. 

I was stuck in a perpetual ingrained pattern of “time to make the doughnuts” and “I made the doughnuts” doing the same thing over and over and over again. 

Stephen Lesavich, PhD

My ingrained pattern was, complete my bar tending work, walk home from the bar, rest a while, walk back to the bar, do my janitorial work, walk home from the bar, sleep, commute to school 30 miles, sit in class, commute home 30 miles, do homework, and repeat over and over.

After about a year of doing the same thing over and over, something very interesting and scary happened to me.  I had just worked the night bartending shift at the bar and got home at about 2:45 am.  I fell asleep that night and woke up just in time go back to work at 4:30 am. I woke up very disorientated.

The bar was about a four block walk to the south from the place I was living.  However, when I left my place that morning, I walked almost two miles to the north, two miles in a direction directly opposite and away from where the bar was

 When I looked up I was in a totally different neighborhood.  Not such a good neighborhood at about 5:00 am.  I had no idea where I actually was.  Nothing looked familiar at all.  I started to panic.

I had to take a few deep breathes to compose myself.  I then was able to walk another block and could see a street sign and regain my composure.  I realized what I had done and started walking quickly back south to the bar.

I was late for my janitorial job that morning.  On the way, I know I needed to make a drastic and immediate, radical change in life.

So that morning when I went to school I checked the bulletin board in the hallway and found a listing for another part-time job writing software at a local company that did factory automation and robotics software.  This new part-time job paid as much as the bar tending job and janitor job combined. I applied for the new job was was immediately hired.  So I gave my two week notice to quit both of my other jobs that day.  After two weeks, I had a more reasonable schedule with a brand new set of energetic patterns.

Get additional insights on ingrained patterns from the Out There on the Edge of Everything® Podcast.

So how can you break out of your own highly engrained, “time to make the doughnuts” patterns in you own life?

1. Understand and Access the Risk Associated with Your Current Behavior Patterns. You may be in denial that your current behavior patterns are detrimental to your physical and mental health.  Begin by asking yourself questions such as, how is what I am doing effecting me physically?  How do my current behavior patterns make me feel?  What would I need to do to initiate a change?  When can I start?  How difficult do I perceive making changes to be?

2. Create a List of the Pros and Cons of Changing Your Current Behavior Patterns. You live and grow and initiate change by contrasts, by understanding what you want and what you do not want based on your life experiences.   Ask yourself, what are the benefits of making a change?  What the costs of making a change?  What are the physical, emotional, financial and other risks associated with making a change?  What is preventing you from making a change?  Is your decision fear based? If it is fear based, what are you afraid of?  Remember, one old acronym for, FEAR, is False Evidence Appearing Real.

3.  Decide What Type of Change is Required to Alter Your Current Behavior Patterns.  Can you initiate change in small steps?  Or is radical, abrupt change required?  Ask yourself, what positive actions are required for your change to become a permanent change?  What will the change look like, feel like, sound like, taste like, smell like?  How determined are you right now at this moment to initiate the change?  Make a list of your perceived obstacles and your emotional triggers that will slow down or prevent you from making a change.  Are the obstacles real or just imaginary?

4.  Take Direct Solution-Oriented Actions to Change Your Current Behavior Patterns.  Create a plan of action that focuses on taking achievable steps towards the end goal of changing your current behavior patterns in a positive, solution-oriented manner.  This will result in you living in an active, empowered state in which you are truly living the life you desire.  Do not spend any time focusing on the environment, people and circumstances that caused you to get ingrained in your current behavior patterns. Leave everything associated with those old behavior patterns behind.  If you have a relapse and fall back into any old behavior pattern, analyze and understand what caused the relapse including any situations, people, events, emotional triggers, etc. so you do not have additional relapses.  Recognize your successes and reward yourself for changing your ingrained behavior patterns. 

Changing your old energetic patterns can help you live in an active, empowered state and make a positive impact in your own life instead of being stuck in the “it’s time to make the doughnuts” and “I made the doughnuts,” energetic pattern, over and over again.

I am also done “making the doughnuts” at this point in my life, how about you?

Out There on the Edge of Everything®…

Stephen Lesavich, PhD

Copyright © 2019, by Stephen Lesavich, PhD.  All rights reserved.

Certified solution-focused life coach and experienced business coach.