Isn’t that the old saying “Old Habits Die Hard”? The reason that this saying is relevant is that it is true. Once something is repeated enough times to become a habit it becomes difficult to change. To make it more challenging it seems like those old habits that are destructive are even more difficult to discard. This might be because a destructive habit has morphed into a full fledged addiction like smoking, alcoholism, eating disorders, or gambling just to name a few. What are we to do about this old saying and how can we look at the positive consequences of old habits dying hard? Listen I don’t claim to have all the answers to how you might get rid of a severe addiction, but I can speak from experience on what has worked for me. Let’s take a look at some things to consider when tackling a destructive habit or addiction:
- Seek out medical help – Contact your doctor and see if there is anything they would advise. Sure you may feel you can kick this habit on your own, but if you have tried in the past and failed it may be time to seek out the assistance of a physician or physicians assistant.
- Break the pattern – The reason it is a habit is that you probably have a pattern of when you would indulge yourself in whatever you are addicted to. Maybe every Friday night you end up at the liquor store, make your purchase and decide it is time to have a few drinks after not drinking all week-long, and end up finishing the bottle, in effect binge drinking. Recognize that there is a pattern of behavior in play here and the trigger is Friday night. Now that you know the pattern you need to create a new form of behavior and substitute something else for that trip to the liquor store and the subsequent binge drinking episode. So maybe that is going out to dinner, taking a walk, going to the theater, or even reading a book. The behavior pattern is well ingrained in you mind by now and you will need to work at breaking it, but recognize it is a habit and you can replace it with a more constructive behavior.
- Goal Setting – I bring this up because I found myself pursuing a number of positive goals, but continued to have a couple destructive behaviors that just didn’t support what I was all about. When you realize that there is a destructive addiction that you are clinging to, but 90% of your life is headed in the opposite or positive direction, you begin to chip away at the strength of that addiction. One part of your brain begins to battle the weak part and this helps you build up some much-needed resolve to banish the bad habit so you can stay true to your real purpose and goals.
Obviously there are many other things you can do, but when they say old habits die-hard it is very true and just wishing for it to end won’t cut it. So seek out medical help to pick a strategy, recognize your pattern of behavior and break it, and get yourself some positive goals to help you battle the addiction. Let’s talk about the reverse of how this old habits die hard paradigm can work to your advantage. As we are all creatures of habits then we can choose what habits to embrace, setting our course by using this habitual behavior to enhance our lives instead of dragging it down. The paradox is that it is often more difficult to make that good behavior into an old habit that dies hard. Let’s take a look at some ways that have worked for me:
- Perseverance – I posted a blog on the topic of perseverance a while back and won’t go over everything in that post, but it might be worth a look to get a better idea of why it will help you create those good habits we are seeking. I struggled with this recently as I was attempting to make my yoga and meditation practice into a daily activity. I would get up at 5:00 a.m. and feed the dogs, grab a cup of coffee, and go upstairs to my game room and unroll my mat and begin my practice, but I also had days that I skipped it for what I justified to myself as good reasons. After about 4 months now I don’t seem to have those excuses/reasons for skipping my sessions and recently I had a pretty bad cold but stayed with the program, and that is the power of perseverance. I might add it is also the power of how what finally became an old habit dies hard. The act of getting up and ritual created a habit, and it turns out to be a pretty good habit that went from somewhat of a struggle to something I really enjoy today.
- Repetition and Ritual – I mentioned above that it took me about 4 months to go from an activity and turn it into a positive habit. I had to repeat the activity over and over again even against my desires at the time. As you develop a positive habit make sure you try to stick to the same time, same day(s), and repeat the pattern. To further integrate this new good habit into your life make sure you follow the same ritual as much as possible. An example might be changing into your favorite workout shorts, shirt, socks, and shoes, then drinking a pre-workout drink or in my case at 5:00 a.m. a bit of coffee. Why do you think churches follow the same ritual during a service? Rituals provide structure and repeat a pattern of behavior that lends itself to becoming a habit.
- Alignment – Make sure when you go down the road to creating a good habit that it supports your most important goals. I say this because now that it is a habit it commands your attention and you now have a trade off, the habit or something else I could be doing with my time that aligns to my goals. Remember you just created a habit and even a good one will require some time to break it, so choose wisely and align your new good habits with your goals.
Let’s all say goodbye to those destructive habits and say Hello or Hola to our new positive die hard habits. I would love to hear how you destroy the bad habits and create good ones, don’t be shy.
Everyone seeks to be more productive and for some that means doing more of something. For others it might be producing work that is higher quality, so there needs to be some definition around just what is productivity?
Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition is: “the quality or state of being productive”, at Dictionary.com they define it as “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services”. Either definition will suffice for my argument. I believe that living in the moment creates what others call flow or focus and this in turn can make one productive. The focus obtained from living in the moment allows you to create, generate, enhance, or bring forth goods and services, i.e. be productive. When are you really productive at home or work? I would guess it is when you are truly present and focused on what you are doing right now. Your mind is focused on what you are currently doing, not thoughts of the future, or some wandering down memory lane into the past. True productivity is for those people that can live in the moment, focus, and get into the flow.
Why are there so many articles written about managing your time and task management? They exist because we all have allowed ourselves to become so distracted by email, text messages, schedules, requests, that compete for our mind share right now, and the next 10, 20, 30, 60, or 90 minutes of our life. The living in the present mindset allows you to spend your time on what is important, which of course leads to greater productivity. This is why I have spent so much time lately making a case for living in the moment, because I know we all want to contribute something to those around us and we also need to be productive for our own peace of mind. Stay in the moment, focused on the most important things and the rest will fall into place.
As someone who is truly a work in progress when it comes to living in the now, I often feel unqualified to write on this topic, but maybe that is where most of us seem to be in our lives. I think we all want to make this more complicated than it really is, expecting that for us to live in the now we must become enlightened in some way. I am going to take a simplistic approach to helping you live in the moment and offer only two things to work on:
1) Meditate – You can say I am living in the moment, concentrating on what is going on right now, and not playing some future script of you life in your head, but you are really just brainwashing yourself with positive thinking. We all need to learn to meditate to teach our mind to live in the moment. You say well that should be easy, but I say it is much more difficult than you may think. My first couple experiences attempting to meditate last 5 or 6 minutes and it seemed to be much longer than that at the time. It seems to be relatively common knowledge that for the benefits of meditation to take hold you need about 15 – 20 minutes a day. Although even 5 or 10 minutes can be beneficial, but make 15 – 20 minutes your goal. There is nothing like meditation to help you live in the moment. You may consider yourself just too busy to meditate, I’ve often thought that myself and then I think about the the old zen proverb:
If you don’t have time to meditate for 15 minutes …Then you need to meditate for an hour!
2) Simplify – You might just consider simplifying your life by starting to say “NO” to people, and to the desire to do everything, to make everyone happy, and to have everything. As long as you buy into the program that you can have it all and do it all, which is really bullshit by the way you will never stand a chance of focusing your attention on the moment. Pick the 3 or 4 things that are really important to you and start focusing on them, and forget about the rest. This will put you in the mindset that focusing on the present is the most important thing you can do because you don’t feel like you need to do it all anymore. Too many priorities just makes that much more noise in you head and make it difficult to focus on the present.
There are other ways to move towards living in the moment, but these two are highly effective. I didn’t say either learning to meditate or simplifying your life are easy to achieve, but I do believe that they are effective tools in helping you live in the now. This is my focus right now in my own life. I am determined to move my mindset to the now by meditating and simplifying my life. In the next installment on this topic I would like to make a case why living in the now will actually make you more productive, happier, and maybe even more successful.
After a somewhat exhausting weekend and not getting much sleep I decided to skip my Monday morning yoga session, and then to top it off I get home tired out and decided not to do my strength training session. I was headed in the wrong direction when it came to my workouts. Of course skipping the workouts on Monday made me feel even more lethargic and tired. Funny how when you feel tired and do the workout anyway you begin to feel better. Maybe it is just short term memory, but you tend to forget that the workout will re-energize you even though the thought of getting started is not that appealing. When I got up on Tuesday morning I half hardheadedly did some of my usual yoga workout, and then feeling burned out from working all day I skipped my strength training workout again. Finally I got my stuff together and then on Wednesday did my strength training workout, which of course made me feel better. You can see why it is so easy to get into this inactivity downward spiral and it then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The typical excuses for missing workouts might include:
- I didn’t get enough sleep last night
- I’m too busy and need to do something else
- I have an injury, however minor
- I’ll just skip this one workout and it won’t matter
- I’m not mentally up for it
All the above are not great reasons for skipping a workout. Sure there are times when something might come up that is a higher priority event but those should be the exception. I like to build a little buffer in my strength training workout so that it can slide by a day or two and I can still accomplish it within a week. I do a 3 day split and this allows me some flexibility, but flexibility is not a license to succumb to the typical excuses stated previously. Remember inactivity begets inactivity and movement begets more movement. Don’t let your excuses prevent you from performing your workouts. The next time you say I’m too tired, or I can skip this one, drag your self off the couch and just go do it.