Habit is one of the most powerful forces in human nature. But unfortunately, it is also one of the most misunderstood.
People tend to associate the word habit with “BAD”. They don’t understand that habits were originally meant to SERVE us, not destroy us!
The brain has millions of messages from all of the five senses coming at it at the same time.
Since your brain’s main function is to help you to survive, part of that is to conserve energy to keep you alive. Energy conservation is efficiently achieved by organizing information into recognizable categories so that it does not have to keep on deciding what to do with it.
For example, when you see a door handle, the brain has created a habit of recognizing what to do with it instead of having to go through the whole procedure time and time again.
The challenge is that this efficient process can work against you too.
Like a door handle means “turn,” putting your feet up after a long day may mean “eat chocolate, or drink beer!”
So habits work in a loop. Trigger and response. Often when we are triggered, we don’t even realize how we are responding. For example, when we see the fridge we look in it as if something has changed since we looked in it 5 minutes ago!
So let’s look at how habits form and how we can break bad habits that don’t serve us and how we can integrate ones that do!
Let’s start by telling you a quick story about a wise old teacher who was taking a stroll through the forest.
She stopped and turned to her young student and said “Pull up that young sapling,” pointing to a sprout that had just broken through.
The student used her fingers and pulled out the sapling.
“Now,” commanded the teacher, “pull up that one,” pointing to a more established evergreen.
With a little effort, the student pulled up the plant, roots, and all.
“And now this one,” said the teacher nodding towards a well-developed evergreen that was as tall as the pupil.
With great effort, throwing all her weight and strength into the task, she finally got the tree loose.
“Now,” said the teacher, “I would like you to pull up this one.”
The student followed the teacher’s gaze which fell upon a mighty oak so tall that she couldn’t even see the top.
Remembering she had just to pull up the previous plant, she simply replied,” I can’t.”
“My Dear, you have just learned the power that habits will have in your life,” the teacher exclaimed.
“The older they are, the bigger they get, the deeper the roots grow, the harder they are to uproot. Some get so big, with roots so deep that you might hesitate to even try.”
Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do.”
Psychological studies show that 95% of everything we think, feel, do and achieve is a result of a learned habit.
Our habits are a result of a series of conditioned responses, learned over time that has led us to act or react accordingly.
Like it or not, habits are our constant companions. They can be our greatest helper or our greatest burden.
They are the servant of all great people and unfortunately the master of all failures.
We all have a mix of good and bad habits in our lives and we must take an inventory of those that are serving us and those that may be pulling us down.
After you have made your list, choose one habit every quarter and challenge it with all your focus and power.
Start by recognizing your triggers with the understanding that what happens next is what needs to change to break bad habits.
This is your chance to prove that you are the Alpha Dog in your habit relationship.
If you are unable to sustain the challenge for 30 days, you might want to consider removing that habit from your life permanently.
So the next question is, will you take this challenge on, or will you simply move on to the next article that you hope will change your life?
Be mindful of how you answer that. It could just be a habit!
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Michael Rodd Life Transformation Coach, Umhlanga, KZN, South Africa
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