I lived a great many years in a dual existence; on one side was the healthy Joe who worked out almost every day, took vitamins and supplements, and tried to eat the right foods, and on the other side was Joe the partier. Joe the partier seemed to be happiest spending time smoking and drinking. Both the good and the not so good Joe had firmly entrenched habits, and this continued on for many years. More recently there came a time when I asked myself are you all in? With one foot in the fitness and health world and one foot in bad habit land, a choice had to be made.
We all find ourselves in this situation where our positive actions are in conflict with some negative behaviors that we cling on to. These don’t need to be an addiction to substances, they may be a toxic relationship, a going nowhere job, or some other action that is contrary to the positive path you are on.
Being all in means you are willing to abandon that other side, thus ending the conflict. Every time you say no to the negative behavior you move closer to being all in. For myself I struggle with being mostly committed, and if anything I tend to go too far, but that is my psychological make-up. Some people can live a dual lifestyle, but for me this just led to self loathing and regret for every time that I failed to be all in. In Texas Hold’em going all in can mean winning or being eliminated from the game. In terms of life choices going all in can only mean winning. If you can’t live a life of making great choices 80% time, and going the opposite direction the other 20% of the time then you must make a choice. Am I all in? Am I totally committed?
So are you all in?
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.
According to Merriam Webster perseverance is defined as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering”. Another definition from the Oxford Dictionaries states that perseverance is “Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success”. Essentially perseverance is needed for something that is difficult and without it you will not achieve success. Now perseverance doesn’t gaurantee success, but without it you are almost certainly gauranteed to fail.
A couple synonyms for persevere are persist and hang on; I would add a dogged determination to see something through, to give it your best effort, and to not give up. Now let me also state that there is a difference between between perseverance and being stupid. One perseveres when pursuing a goal that is attainable, and usually perseverance comes from passion or a deep seeded belief that what you are seeking must be achieved.
We all have lots of great ideas and most of the time we pass on them because we lack the desire to make the long term investment or to persevere. Perseverance can apply to all aspects of our lives, but let’s take physical fitness as an example. If my goal is to run a marathon, and I’m just starting a running regime then one would need one hell of a lot of perseverance to make the investment in training required to achieve this goal. I’m no expert in marathon running, but I know some people who are and they train for many months to get in shape to run the 26+ miles required to complete this race. Apply that level of determination to other activities like strength training where you are using progressive resistance and every workout gets more difficult, or your yoga practice when you crawl out of bed at 5:00 a.m. and get on the mat challenging yourself time and time again.
So you want to be more physically fit, you want to have a better body, more strength, improved aerobic endurance, but are you willing to pay the price? I would guess that we tend to prematurely call it quits when in reality we are so close to achieving our goal and that’s where perseverance comes in. Only you know when you need to persevere and when what you are attempting is not worth the effort.