Today is a day of reflection on habits … and how easily we slip into them.
While habits are hard to break, as this former smoker can attest, they are darned easy to form and solidify.
Do you have a daily routine when you wake up and wind your way to work? Lots of us do and I would bet money that we cannot remember when we first established any part of it.
Do you find yourself doing the same things over and over again every day, even when you have decided to act differently, during your rational and reflective moments? Good intentions to change are fine and nothing happens without them. However, not much may happen even with them, if you do not also have a specific and thought-out series of actions that you will do.
“Breaking a habit” is an absolutely incorrect statement … we do not “break” habits … we replace habits …
If you are doing things a certain way and want to behave differently, you have to intentionally replace the old behavior with new behavior.
If you only try to stop doing what you want to stop doing, you will probably experience what we used to call “White Knuckling” back in my therapist days. You may succeed for a time in not doing what you used to do, but you will be doing so by psychologically or even physically holding on so tight to resist the impulse to return to the old habit … that your knuckles lose blood and turn white. This is also what you experience when visiting relatives whose politics, religion, or child-reading practices differ from yours. You are a guest and so … just grit your teeth and tough it out.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
I have seen a number of statements and posters lately that support this important concept. I can’t remember all the nicely stated variations, but the gist tends to be this: We are how we act. Our lives are being lived right now.
Repetition is the key … what do you repeatedly do?
I do not care if you do not mean to wind up in the same places, feeling the same emotions, or facing the same challenges. I ask you only to think intently about what you repeatedly do. Then figure out what is motivating you to keep doing that …
I have used Aristotle’s pithy summary in groups small and large, with people and organizations, in most of the situations I have found myself. Value exists in consistently reminding me and others that what we do again and again trumps any thing we say or think. In this case, behavior is more important than cognition or speeches.
“Habits both determine our behaviors and define us … so choose wisely when creating a habit.”
Here is the secret to positive change … do not not think of trying to stop a habit you wish to lose … think of choosing to create a habit you want to have.
Notice the emphasis on choosing? This means you are consciously deciding what to do … a detail, but an important one.
Here’s a neat little video example of a master therapist helping someone put all this into practice. You may have seen this one before, since it is quite popular in therapeutic circles – pure gold and solid advice in how to engage in effective change. Use it to help you develop your own personal change program:
Trying real hard to hard-wire productive habits into my sometimes resistant brain in the Heartland ….