Do your habits control you? Or do you control your habits? Its time to take a good hard look...
Habits can be good or bad. They can make you more productive or cause you to procrastinate. They can free up spare time or waste lots of time. They can better your mental and physical health or destroy it. They can help you sleep or cause you insomnia. They can make you happy and pleasant to be around or bring you down and cause isolation. Habits are powerful and they affect us in profound ways.
I have experienced firsthand the power habits can have over your life. I was ruled by the habits that I had developed over the years. Some of them good – such as personal hygiene and cleaning up after a meal… and some of them bad – such as eating when I was stressed out or bored.
To get an idea of how large a role habits play in our actions and interactions, imagine watching a film of your life for the past two weeks. If you look closely you’ll likely see similar patterns of behaviours emerging everywhere. For example, what are the first few things you do when you get up in the morning – Pee? Coffee? Shower? Wash your face? Get dressed? Make breakfast? Do you do them in a particular order? Around the same time? While listening to the same radio station or news broadcast? And maybe even sitting in the same chair?
For me its pee, drink a full glass of ice water, make coffee, make breakfast, sit down on the couch, write my daily intention in my journal, eat breakfast, and review my to do list for the day while drinking my coffee – predictably in that order, most every morning.
Some of these aren’t really habits, you might argue. For example, why do I pee first thing when I get up? Probably because I just have to go, you say, that’s not a habit that’s just the way my body works. Well maybe I do have to go, but why not put the coffee on first? Wouldn’t that be more efficient? Probably, but I don’t. I don’t even think about it. It’s become such a habit that I don’t question what I’m doing or the order I’m doing it in. I just do it.
The above little example is just one of the ways in which habits affect my life. I have taken a closer look at many more of my regular actions and interactions and found similar repetitive patterns of behaviour. For example, I’m aware that I have a similar bedtime routine, I repeatedly buy the same groceries every week, I regularly prepare the same handful of meals, I ask the same questions in conversation when I’m meeting someone new, I think the same types of thoughts and automatically respond in the same ways when someone accepts or praises what I’m saying or when someone questions or rejects what I’m saying, I wear the same cycle of outfits over and over even though I have a million clothes in my closet, I wear the same style of makeup almost every day…etc.
After taking a good hard look, I realised that habits make up a lot of the action I take in my life. But what I also noticed was that most of my habits had formed without me being aware of their creation - they had developed unconsciously in response to some internal or external stimulus.
If we look at my morning routine, for example, much of it developed unconsciously over the years. Hunger in the morning reminds me to make breakfast…and going pee has a natural reminder – I just have to go! My body triggers my mind, reminding me to do those parts of my morning routine, making it easy for the actions to develop into habits.
These are what I like to call reactionary habits - they developed unconsciously as a result of my reaction to a stimulus, and they stuck because at the time the habit developed, that reaction served me in some way.
Most of my daily habits were formed this way. I didn’t often question my habits too closely, or consciously create them, and once I looked a little closer I could also see that I was rarely able to consciously modify them or replace them even when they were no longer serving me. I would still often operate automatically and allow those unhelpful habits to control my actions.
As my awareness of how my habits developed and how they affected my behaviour increased so did my desire to change them, to destroy those that were no longer serving me and to replace them with ones that added VALUE to my LIFE. So I started focusing more and more of my awareness around my habits and reading up on habits and habit creation everywhere I could.
More and more I started to BELIEVE that I actually could change my own habits; that it really was POSSIBLE to replace the ones that were no longer serving me. And through trial and error I am learning how to do just that. I may never master the subject of habits altogether, but I will become the master of my own HABITS and therefore my own LIFE.
To give you an example, lets look back at my morning routine. Some of these habits - such as putting ice in my water and drinking the full glass and writing in my journal - are what I call my "own choice" habits. I consciously chose to incorporate them into my morning routine and I intentionally developed them until they became automatic. I'm also finding ways to replace the habits that are no longer serving me - including some of the most entrenched and unhelpful habits in my life - with POSITIVE ones.
What I’ve learned through this process is that NO HABIT IS PERMANENT - habits really can be created and recreated and changed and destroyed and replaced!
For me the most AMAZING part about developing the skill of habit creation, is the feeling that I am not powerless to life circumstances. It helps me to know that I can trust in myself to recognize when my habits are no longer serving me, to choose to adapt, to choose to create new habits that do serve me. I can trust in myself to CHOOSE actions that help me to BE my BEST self no matter what circumstances come my way.
And it all started with a little AWARENESS...
Next week I will share with you some tips on habit creation - some of the things I have been doing to develop my new "own choice" habits and to replace my old unhelpful ones. But for now, I am challenging you all – and myself – to become a little more aware of our current habits.
What habits show up in your life? Are they still serving you? If not, what habit would you love to replace it with? What new habits would you LOVE to create?
I challenge you to come up with at least three habits you’d love to trash and three you’d love to create!
Here’s to creating our own LIVES or EXCELLENCE!