How To Unlearn the Old You

A door just starting to open, letting light into a dark room.
Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash
By Eric Egan
By Eric Egan

Real-Life Examples of Personal Micro Victories in Self-Awareness.

First Personal Micro Victory.

I had just enough time to pick up breakfast. The restaurant may or may not be open this early. I felt they were open because I saw a long line of cars in the drive-up line.

Looking for a place to park, the wonderful smell of breakfast made me even more hungry and confirmed that they were open. Because they always have a long line of cars and ordering inside vs. the drive-up window results in fewer messed-up orders.

The wonderful smell of breakfast burritos teased me as I eagerly walked to the front door. I was on a mission of deliciousness as I pulled the door handle and — locked, locked? WTF? Why is the door locked when they are open?

I don’t have time for this. I felt the heat of anger and frustration rising. I am not the type to have a visible fit of rage, but I was pissed and disappointed.

Then a strange thing happened; I paused and asked myself: What about all that “go-with-the-flow of the universe” and all that “natural laws” stuff you are researching? 

That mental shift was amazing. Someone inside the restaurant looking out the locked glass door would have thought I was insane because I started laughing hard and laughed all the way back to the car.

A personal micro-victory that kept me smiling all day!

That was one of the first times I was self-aware and caught myself, my old self, that is.

Second Personal Micro Victory.

I was at Starbucks in a line that started at the door. The Starbucks machine had the line moving nicely. Nobody had any ordering issues or needed an explanation of what a Tall, Grande, or Venti was, preserving the line’s momentum.

I approached the register quickly, with a long line behind me now. It was almost time to pay, and like always, I pulled out my phone, so I would be ready for her to scan my app and — a login screen? WTF?

Like the app had never been used, a friggin update, I guess? Am I going to be “That guy?” The one that breaks the line’s smooth cadence and stands there to type in my email address and then my password (Like I knew my password) while a dozen sets of eyes are burning deep into my back?

Then I paused for some reason and thought, how upset do I have to get to make this app skip all this login BS and show my barcode? Reframing the situation like that highlighted that getting frustrated over this was pointless.

I caught my old self again. Yay me! My frustration quickly changed to a feeling of accomplishment.

Thankfully, I did not laugh as hard this time (in a crowded Starbucks), but the feeling was encouraging. I felt released. Another personal micro-victory! I casually pocketed my phone, pulled out a credit card right when it was time to pay (smoothly, as if I planned it), and had another great day.

There is a German word that describes the effect these micro victories will have in your life perfectly.1 Gestalt: something that is made of many parts and yet is somehow more than or different from the combination of its parts.

Quantum Level Victories

Personal micro victories are made of even smaller particles of success. Let’s call them quantum victories for fun. That also fits because they give you a quantum leap forward to a better destiny. 🙂

The first particle of your micro victory is that you finally became aware of the elusive, unconscious negative reaction, feeling, or habit you have been doing on autopilot for most of your life.

That by itself is a major accomplishment to be very proud of. It is the birthday of the new you.

The self-awareness used to catch yourself is made possible by the light gathered from all the self-improvement and self-awareness material you have been consuming.

You are expanding your enlightenment about yourself right now.

The light from all you are learning about yourself enables you to see what is hiding in the darkness of your unconscious, autopilot mind.

Things about yourself you had no idea were even there. It isn’t easy to see into your subconsciousness even with this light.

Also, until you have a breakthrough, like a personal micro victory, you may feel like this stuff does not work for you.

If you give up now, you will be 100% correct; this stuff does not work. Check out my article 2nd reason self-help is not working for you. There is another powerful method for becoming self-aware that I will go over at the end of this article.

The second quantum victory of your micro victory is also amazing; you were able to examine what you discovered. The same enlightenment you used to see yourself in a new light for the first time also lets you see your dark discovery for what it is; the most useless thing you have ever seen.

Automatic negative decisions and emotions cannot survive this light. In this light, they look stupid and weak.

Addressing It vs. Suppressing It.

To understand what a personal micro victory is, we also need to look at what it is not. It is not catching yourself in a negative emotional reaction to an event and then holding it in. That is suppression.

I also call it emotional compression. And we all know what eventually happens to people that keep suppressing and compressing their emotions inward.

They may look calm on the outside, but inside they are anything but. This suppression and compression can cause huge amounts of stress.

Many studies prove that “Stress can exert various actions on the body ranging from alterations in normal health to life-threatening effects and death.”2

Total Disruption.

When you woke up and became aware of what you were doing, you totally disrupted your “normal.” You now have a real chance at nurturing a “new normal.”

Because you disrupted an Automatic Natural Decision (AND) of the old you, you can disarm it.

Now you can see your normal automatic natural decision would be a useless waste of time and energy, stupid even.

Then you smile to yourself and choose more wisely. You choose a new positive path.

Now, you have no negative emotions to suppress and compress. In fact, your anger and frustration will be replaced with joy, happiness, and laughter. “Laughter has shown physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and quality-of-life benefits.”3 Many studies show; laughter is the best medicine. So is happiness.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” ~William James

What Real Change Is Made Of.

If you think the examples above are only tiny insignificant events, you are half right. They are very tiny. That is why I call them personal micro-victories.

However, they are far from insignificant. This is especially true for the first personal micro-victory you have. After your first personal micro-victory, it gets easier.

You see, big problems are rarely solved with big solutions. Big problems are solved with a series of small solutions over time.

Do you feel changing yourself is a big problem? It is for most people.

Believe me, when you have your first personal micro-victory, it will be a huge deal for you too. You are closer than you think.

How To FastTrack Your Personal Micro Victories.

I am always reading or listening to self-improvement material of one type or another. (Right now, I am reading a great book called “Switch” by Dan Heath and Chip Heath. It is more for organizational change. But I find methods to improve one area of life and work in other areas).

Self-improvement skills are perishable. You must constantly fuel the change you want with new, positive ways of thinking. Making self-improvement material a steady part of your diet provides that fuel.

But what made the most significant difference in catching the old me in action is mindfulness meditation. Don’t roll your eyes yet.

“Research over the past two decades broadly supports the claim that mindfulness meditation — practiced widely for the reduction of stress and promotion of health — exerts beneficial effects on physical and mental health, and cognitive performance.”4

You Really Can Have a New You.

Mindfulness meditation can change the structure of your brain for the better. This will give you the new hardware you need to run a new program. One study found,

“There is emerging evidence that mindfulness meditation might  cause  neuroplastic changes in the structure and function of brain regions involved in regulation of attention, emotion, and self-awareness.” (Tang YY, 2015)5

In other words, you can upgrade your brain and grow new pathways that lead to new ways of thinking.

Quiet Please!

Health benefits and upgrading my brain for new programs are a huge help. But learning to quiet my mind makes personal micro victories possible for me.

New ideas have a quiet voice. New ways of thinking are shy. They do not stand a chance in your normal, noisy mind of chaos.

In a large meeting or group, the quiet ones are usually the smartest. The quiet ones have new and innovative ideas that may never be heard.

The quiet ones are ignored and talked over, like when the New You tries to say something in your noisy mind. I started learning about mindfulness meditation with two apps, Calm and Headspace. I use them both. They both have beginner lessons.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you about learning mindfulness meditation is not to get upset with yourself when you are trying to focus on your breathing, and your mind keeps drifting away, and it will.

You will catch yourself drifting away again and try to return to the focus. That is entirely normal. Do not get upset with the drifting at all. Celebrate catching yourself drifting!

Catching yourself drifting away is one of the primary keys to mindfulness meditation, not how well or how long you can focus.

Be happy when you catch yourself chasing a thought and return to focusing on your breathing. As you build yourself a new brain, this gets easier.

Relax, and give yourself a break; this will take some time.

The process of trying to focus as long as I can on something — catching myself chasing a thought over and over, partly leads to catching the old me reacting poorly, a personal micro victory.

Catch and Release.

This next part of how to do mindfulness meditation reminds me of a fisherman in a small boat on a quiet lake. He, too, must be quiet to catch a fish. When he catches one, he reels the fish in, measures it, weighs it, takes a picture with the fish, and releases it back into the lake.

The other part that helped me have a micro victory is when I still try to focus, and a thought takes me away, and I catch it; I do not immediately return to trying to focus.

I take a quick moment to examine the thought that took me away before returning to focusing as long as I can and repeating.

It is an exciting and informative experience, strange at first, pausing during a thought to step back and examine what you were thinking. Like at the end of the movie The Matrix, when Neo didn’t just stop the bullets.

Neo also picked one out of the air and examined it while the other dozen bullets waited, hanging harmlessly in the air. After Neo examined that one bullet, he dropped it, and then all the bullets fell.

Mindfulness meditation (especially the catching, examining, and releasing distracting thoughts exercise), combined with a steady consumption of self-improvement material, makes personal micro victories possible. Personal micro victories make sustainable change, the new you, possible.

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Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Gestalt. In dictionary. Retrieved October 8, 2021, from

Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI journal, 16, 1057–1072.

Mora-Ripoll R. The therapeutic value of laughter in medicine. Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 Nov-Dec;16(6):56–64. PMID: 21280463.

Tang YY, Hölzel BK, Posner MI. The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Apr;16(4):213–25. doi: 10.1038/nrn3916. Epub 2015 Mar 18. PMID: 25783612.

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