Fixating on the negative.
Our habits are often things we don't realize are prominent in our life until someone else points them out to us. And it's not until we take stock of how much time, energy, and resources these habits consume that we realize how much they're impacting us. How often do we do something without truly understanding why we're doing it, or accept we're going to partake in a behavior when (deep down) we know we don't need to or want to? These habits - or at their strongest, compulsions - are easily programmed into our brains, making it difficult to break free of them, regardless of how aware we are that they are not a great idea.
It is all too easy to get stuck in a rut -- afterall, as humans, we are designed to seek routine and familiarity. (An unfamiliar route could have all kinds of hidden predators: why risk it?) But once those wheels get stuck in the mud, it can be truly challenging to unstick them.
So what's the key to breaking habits or finding new patterns?
We all have a pretty good sense of what is and isn't good for us (and I imagine a very small percentage of smokers are puffing away thinking, 'I'm really doing something good for my health right now!'). The Google machine provides us with limitless wisdom; we should be able to choose the best option all the time. So why do we let the urge to snack while watching TV or procrastinate doing housework win consistently?
A lack of information, it seems, is not the problem. We talk a lot in coaching about how having the facts is one thing, but having the motivation to take action is another thing altogether. We must first understand why our habits have formed the way they have, what breaking free of them will mean for us in the bigger picture, and how we can do it.
- Why do I feel the urge to eat late at night? What happens immediately before I head to the pantry for my late-night staples?
- If I stop snacking at night, what will change? Will my sleep improve? Could I lose weight? Would I be in a better mood? What else could I use that time for?
- What do I need to do to limit my urge and my resources to snack at night? When can I implement this? What can I do instead of snacking?
Understanding these pieces is key to understanding a very primal part of ourselves. Taking charge and making the better choice more often allows us to find balance and feel connected to our decisions, regaining control of our actions, and knowing that when we partake in the metaphorical habitual ice cream, it's a conscious, calculated decision, not a rote practice we aren't experiencing in the present moment.
What kinds of things are happening in your world that you don't consciously control, but that perhaps control you? Use the questions above to identify how and why you might be getting in your own way, and how you can implement steps to understand and reign in your habits.
Our upcoming workshops in NYC will focus on why we establish habits, how to break out of a rut (when you feel like you're getting in your own way), and how to establish happy, fulfilling new patterns. What will you gain if you revamp your social life or your kids' eating habits by considering what's become habitual in your world?