Pompeii: ancient city best known for its notable volcanic ash covering it received on August 24, 79 AD, by the impressive Mount Vesuvius.
Pompeii: ancient port town lesser known for its impressive aqueduct system that pumped water throughout the entire city.
The streets of Pompeii were nightly flooded with water to clean them from the dust and dirt of the day’s activities, allowing for a clean start the next morning for its 20,000 residents. To compensate for the daily flooding, city planners used stones as crosswalks that could be used in times of high water to still cross a street by foot. The three stones you see pictured here indicate this road was a major thoroughfare in Pompeii. Less-trafficked streets had fewer stones across. Regardless of the street, the stones were all equally-sized and spaced to allow for chariots to pass through unencumbered. Visible today are deep wheel ruts from heavy chariot use on every street I walked.
If you were to analyze your regular thoughts and behaviors — the ones you have without consideration or intention because you think or behave them every single day — what would fall into that category?
Have you been riding your mental chariot so frequently over the same roads that you’ve created ruts? I guarantee you that’s true. We sometimes refer to those as neural pathways. And those paths can run very deep. When we create neural pathways we don’t usually do so consciously.
Think of it this way: Imagine standing in the middle of a university campus with an extensive sidewalk system that provides access to every single building. However, as you look across the green spaces between the sidewalks you notice well-worn dirt paths that are the clear pathways walked by the students, natural paths connecting a shorter or easier distance between A and B.
This is exactly what happens inside your brain as you introduce a thought and think it over and over and over again. You’re creating new pathways, new patterns of thinking. Habits are created in this exact way until we no longer think about them, we just do.
Your Stepping Stones
And oftentimes, those patterns of behavior we’ve been running for so long and whose tracks run so deep, are not serving us, so we also lay stepping stones to justify, excuse or skirt around the thought or the behavior when needed. This skipping across the pathway is our way of avoiding getting wet when the guilt or the embarrassment or the self-judgment comes rushing through.
The accusations or awarenesses or the judgments can come from ourselves (most often) or they can come from someone else or from an organization or a cultural expectation that we don’t feel we are meeting. So we skip across them.
We experience the guilt, embarrassment, and judgment as dirt, something that we shouldn’t have, but do and think skipping across the stones we’ve carefully placed and positioned will allow for a cleanse. Maybe this looks like yet another resolution to make a change, or a recommitment to doing things differently from now on. The skipping across can also look like defensiveness, self-justification, blaming others for where or why you are where you are right now, and all of these thoughts and behaviors are born out of fear.
Of the items on your list, can you imagine what it would feel like to cleanse yourself of any of them? To purge yourself of the weight of those behaviors and thoughts?
In my experience, creating a new neural pathway takes 33 consecutive days and I love making new trails in my brain!
The old wheel ruts will likely remain, but whether you continue using them is entirely up to you. If you give yourself some alternative routes to follow, you might just surprise yourself with how easy the new paths are to use.
If you’d like the digital calendar I created for myself and that I share with my clients, send me an email (coach @ armindalindsay dot com) and I’ll happily share the file with you. I use this to keep track of my daily path creation and by the time I’ve filled in the calendar, I no longer need it to remind me where to walk and what new behavior I’m employing.
I also offer a unique program that includes just two sessions with me for individuals in need of additional support in rewiring themselves from particularly difficult and long-standing behaviors that no longer serve them. If you’re interested in learning more about this highly-effective and individualized program, please send me an email (coach @ armindalindsay dot com) and tell me more about what’s going on and what behavior or habit you can’t seem to cleanse.
Choose to wash away any pathways that are no longer serving you and ride your chariot in a new direction.