A habit is a tendency that is repeated until it is done automatically without thinking or conscious intent. When we repeat a pattern, it is like a groove deepening in a rock that will become well established over time. We often find comfort in the familiarity of this place and will stay here until we become aware that a particular habit does not benefit us any longer.
We form habits of thinking, doing and being that become part of our world and how we identify ourselves. In my life coaching practice, I spend a lot of time with people who want to break a pattern that is no longer serving them. It is surprisingly hard to get out of a groove that has become deeply entrenched.
How do we get here?
Over our lifetime we are immersed in countless experiences that influence us. Our thoughts and behavior are shaped by our parents, economic status, education, the surrounding environment, or religious beliefs. We learn to respond according to the information we acquire along our unique journey. When something works for us, we do it again, and again. When something doesn’t work, we may still do it again as we become creatures of habit.
Habit is a man’s sole comfort. We dislike doing without even unpleasant things to which we have become accustomed. ~Goethe
Examples of bad habits:
1) Smoking, or drinking too much
2) Biting fingernails
4) Over eating
5) Cutting in front of others
6) Not listening and interrupting others
7) Always being late
8) Not telling the truth
9) Thinking negative thoughts
10) Resorting to anger
11) Foul language
Not all habits are bad. There are productive and unproductive levels of everything we do.
Examples of good habits:
1) Being grateful for all you have
2) Saying thank you and being courteous
3) Speaking kind words about others
4) Picking up after yourself
5) Being respectful to others
6) Using a seat belt
7) Arriving on time
8) Exercising daily
9) Keeping your word
10) Helping others
11) Brushing your teeth
When does a habit become an obsession or an addiction? When it’s difficult to stop and it turns into a consuming thought or action that preoccupies your mind. Here, it runs round-and-round inside your head like a hamster on a wheel.
How to break an unhealthy habit:
1) Admit you have one
2) Decide you really want to change
3) Don’t feed the bad habit
4) Start to notice the pattern
5) At the point of noticing, realize you have a choice
6) Choose differently and do the right thing
7) Get others to help and remind you
8) Hire a life coach or a therapist
9) Set realistic goals
10) Don’t talk yourself out of what you really want
11) Be gentle with yourself
I like to focus on developing healthy habits and ways of being that encourage a balanced and satisfying life. The imbalance comes when we are doing things we don’t enjoy that do not inspire growth, health or happiness. The dictionary says balance is the harmony of design and proportion. I like the idea that we are the architect of our world and with self-determination, we make our choices along the way.
Dr. Wayne Dyer in the Power of Intention says that in every moment we have an opportunity to act from a higher energy source or a lower energy source. More simply, we have the choice between doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing. When we consciously think about it, we know the difference. This is our free will. When we act without thinking, our response comes from a habitual, automatic and unconscious place. If we are unaware of our actions, we will form unhealthy habits and behaviors.
I’ve always liked the Native American tale about two dogs: “Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog, all of the time.” When asked which dog wins, Chief Cherokee reflected for a moment and replied, “The one I feed the most.”
If we are aware of what is good for us and what is not, our decisions become easier. First, we have to wake up, look and act from a conscious place. Change is not easy but it starts here:
* Experts agree that recognition is the first step
* Change only occurs when we truly want to
From here, anything is possible. Dr. Dyer also says: when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. The rest will follow. Try it!