Kicking the Habit

Imagine your life to be a well knitted blanket with several colors and patterns. Your habits could be akin to each of those intricately woven threads that make up the blanket. They are the behaviors you repeat so often that they have become ingrained as part of your daily routine – the way you dress, eat, drive a car, answer the phone or greet someone. They affect every area of your life including your work, family, income, hobbies and relationships and together determine how your life works. Human beings are naturally creatures of habit. Our behaviors and the way in which we conduct ourselves within society at large are predictable. For the most part this is a good thing because it enables us to be perceived as dependable, reliable and consistent. Just imagine going to work every morning and not knowing how your boss will behave. Imagine the nightmare of going home to an unpredictable spouse. Predictability defines normal behavior in our society. However, getting stuck in a routine can result in complacency.

Shun the comfort zone

Success in life is born of change. It is only through growth that we are able to reach higher levels of achievement. Most people resist change, primarily due to fear, choosing instead to remain in the familiar arena of the comfort zone. Lingering in the comfort zone is so easy to do because it affords security and familiarity which we all crave. However, despite the security blanket which the comfort zone provides, it is probably the greatest single enemy of your potential for greater success and achievement. The familiarity of the comfort zone has the potential to get you stuck in a rut, causing you to resist change and growth.

Successful men and women are those who use the comfort zone as a base camp from which they can launch, explore and push the limits of their potential. They are willing to be a little uncomfortable, understanding that this is the price they must pay in order to be all they can be. Invariably, these are ultimately the most fulfilled members of society.

The chains of habits

Samuel Johnson noted that “The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” This is true. Their consequences and effects do not show up until much later. That explains why someone would continue to practice habits that all would agree will have dire consequences in the long run. They will continue to smoke because lung cancer doesn’t show itself right after the first puff. They continue to eat unhealthily because their arteries aren’t blocked with the first bite. They continue to turn up for work late because they are not fired after the first instance of tardiness. Everyday they continue to engage in these negative practices thinking it doesn’t matter, but of course, we know that in the long run it does.

Habits exert a significant influence in your life. They can be loyal, faithful servants helping you reach new heights just as easily as they can be the worst of masters and freeze you in your tracks. The bottom line is that the not so successful expends the same amount of energy as the successful. The successful person makes it a habit to practice six or more disciplines daily while the not so successful is in the habit of practicing the six or so disempowering disciplines.

Replace old habits

Someone once described bad habits to be like a comfortable bed – easy to get into but difficult to get out of. Any attempt to change a non-supportive habit leads to a period of great discomfort until you have physically and mentally adjusted to the new demand. The person who embarks on a new diet suffers from hunger pangs, a new exercise regimen results in sore muscles, kicking a drug habit leaves the user reeling from withdrawal symptoms. In the same way that your habits took time to develop and become ingrained in the fabric of your daily life, it will take time to change them and develop new ones. They say it takes twenty-one days to assume a new habit. In actuality, it only takes a split second decision to adopt a new habit. However, it does take twenty-one consecutive days of practicing this new habit for it to replace the old one and to become a part of your routine behavior.

Although old habits die hard, remember that they are learned behaviors and anything that is learned can be unlearned. Through consistent effort and a clear focus you have the ability to replace old non-supportive habits with those that will guide and drive you towards your goals.

Keep On Pushing!