The Power of Habits

So much of your success comes from the habits you possess as a person. Often we don’t even think much about them, for instance the way you brush your teeth, or comb your hair are habits that have been established over the period of many years. Many old habits are good and they are best left the way they are, other old habits are destructive and we know this, but continue this destructive behavior. Why? Well because it is a habit and habits are hard to change. Think about a bad habit you have, maybe it is eating too much or the wrong foods, drinking alcohol, or maybe smoking. Think back, when did this behavior become a habit? Probably a long time ago and every time you repeat this behavior the habit becomes more ingrained and becomes part of  yourself. The more you repeat the behavior the stronger the habit becomes. Most of these habits have triggers, such as a cup of coffee proceeds a cigarette, or Friday night means a trip to the party store to pick up your favorite beverage.

If old habits have a hold over you because they are so ingrained and have been repeated so many times, then why is it equally as difficult to adopt a new habit? To start with it might be that your old habits are occupying so much space in your head and time on your calendar that there is no room for a new habit. Now none of what I have mentioned so far is very encouraging, but for most of us it is true. We are habitual animals by nature, and these habits provide a well known script to live out our days. We also know that by not adopting new positive habits we are stagnating. So what’s the answer here?

My advice is that there is no silver bullet, no easy solution. The only thing that works for me is you become so sick and tired of a bad habit and it’s consequences, that you make some room for a better habit. Sometimes being sick of it is not enough, but you also need a healthy dose of fear interjected into the equation. So I’m sick to death of this stupid behavior and I am afraid of what is doing to my life. Remember I’m not talking about some silly stupid habit, but instead something life threatening. A habit that has it’s own gravitational pull, sucking you into the vortex. This isn’t something that a little will power or well intended affirmations is going to fix.

The power of the habit is immense and well your resolve is usually pretty pathetic, and you know it. If you could use self discipline or some other form of wishful thinking you probably wouldn’t have dug the hole so deep in the first place. I’ve read some people that advocate just replacing the bad habit with a new habit. Great advice Einstein, but that’s like putting a three year old up against a Champion Sumo Wrestler. An old ingrained habit has way more traction with you and cannot be replaced by the new habit of the day. I’m not saying anything you don’t know here, because like me you tried this mismatch and observed the consequences.

When you get to that point where the pain caused by the old habit far exceeds the pleasure, you might be ready to make a change. Here are a few approaches to consider:

  • Triggers – Think about the triggers for your bad habits and consider eliminating the triggers. This at least begins changing your behavior and if nothing else begins to give you some insight into the situations that are facilitating this habit.
  • Not all at one time – Don’t try and fix everything in a day. What I’m really saying is don’t try to conquer Rome until you have laid waste to Venice first. One of the biggest mistakes we make is I’m going to stop all the bad shit, and I am doing it today! This only limits your probability for success and that leads to my final approach.
  • Incremental progress – You took 20 – 30 years to create this not so great habit of yours, and you are going to defeat it in a day. You begin to delude yourself and get all hyped up on David Goggins video’s and you decide I’m done with this shit. Let’s get real about who we are going to do battle with. You don’t want to hear this because we all think we have so much self disciple, but my advice is start small. Begin undermining the beast, bit by bit, step by step, until you are in essence beginning to gain some self control. If you can’t stop a bad habit, at least defer it, start breaking the pattern, begin confusing yourself; remember your taking this thing down by hand, brick by brick. Another incremental technique is to adjust the dosage. Start using less of whatever it is that is fucking you up, and you will not only have some more time on your hands, but you are also chipping away at the beast.

Listen it became a habit because you did something hundreds or thousands of times; all this repetition has made it part of your identify. It has become somewhat powerful and you probably know that. Don’t beat yourself up over it and just accept that you can’t change this behavior, because you can. You didn’t build this habit in a day or week, and you can’t destroy it that quickly, but you can take action.

Namaste

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