Enjoy the first lesson as my gift. You can find the full course at www.dailyom.com
“We first make our habits and then our habits make us.” John Dryden
HABITS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
What is a habit? According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English a habit is “a tendency to behave in a particular way or do particular things, especially regularly and repeatedly over a long period.”
So, a habit is something that we do regularly and, often, unconsciously. It is a repeated action and it feels normal for us. Not all habits are good, or serve us well, and these are the ones at which we need to take a closer look, in order to see how much they might be harming us, or those around us. Psychologists tell us that a habit can be considered as a response to a stimulus. For example, stress may stimulate us to eat more chocolate or drink more alcohol. In order to break the habit, we require more than simple willpower. We need strategies that will enable us to weaken the link, and our reaction to the stimulus.
Breaking bad habits and replacing them with better ones is one of the most rewarding and satisfying things you can do. To quote Brian Tracey, “Bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with. Good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with.” The very fact that you are reading this lesson suggests that you could have some poor habits that you would like to get rid of, and replace them with something better. Am I right?
Some of the information you find, as you work your way through the course, you may have come across before… but have you done so with a clear determination to succeed? And with a willingness to put in the time and effort that is necessary? Experts say that it takes at least twenty one days to break a habit. Nature abhors a vacuum, so you must have something at hand with which to replace the bad habit, or you will relapse.
The cheese experience
A year ago, I became aware that my cholesterol was slightly raised. I didn’t want to take medication, so I looked into what I needed to cut out from my diet, and what I could change. I love cheese, and I live in a country and on a continent which produces an enormous variety of delicious cheeses. I looked into the fat content of many, many cheeses and, with the help of a nutritionist, I learnt which fats were good for me and which were not. It took time but I am now able to avoid the cheeses that I used to have in my refrigerator and instead, enjoy new cheese experiences. Always look for the positive aspects of your new habit.
Nobody said it would be an easy process, but it is possible to change lifelong habits. Is determination enough? Probably not. You need to possess an awareness of what poor habits you might have, and how they are affecting you and people close to you. Awareness is crucial. Maybe a bad habit doesn’t affect only you. Had you thought of that? Smoking, excessive drinking, and poor study habits can have disastrous effects on many of the people around you. You also need to have a strategy for tackling the process of removing the bad habit and replacing it with something which serves you better… and, probably, you will need some support from those around you.
What are you doing that is negative?
Poor habits can pervade all areas of our lives. They might include:
- Eating – too much; not enough fruit and vegetables; the wrong eating timetable;
- Exercise, or lack of it! – can’t motivate yourself or believe you have no time?
- Work – you have become a workaholic;
- Study – poor study habits or non-existent ones;
- Leisure – sedentary hobbies or solitary ones, in order to avoid socialising;
- A lack of creativity – you suppress your creativity because you don’t have sufficient confidence to believe you are creative in any way;
- Personal actions – smoking; biting your nails; drinking too much alcohol;
- Social activities– your social life has taken a nose-dive, or you are socialising with people you don’t really care for, in situations that don’t really make you feel good;
- Relationships – you neglect them or you are in an unhappy relationship.
Myrna is a fort y five year old housewife and supermarket cashier.
Her life is enormously busy. She works in shifts at a large supermarket close to her home, and has a husband, Doug, and two teenage children, Alice and Sean. She is under pressure to keep all the balls in the air at the same time.
Myrna realises that her diet and the diet she and her family have, is not as healthy as it could be. She sees overweight people all over the place and doesn’t want her family to become a statistic in this respect. She would like to put healthier food on the table but, even with the best of intentions, she still grabs meals from the ready-made section at work, or picks up a take-away on her way home.
Myrna and all the family often have colds, and Doug’s cholesterol level is increasing, although it hasn’t reached a dangerous level – yet!
Myrna’s awareness of the problem and her willingness to do something about it, is spurring her into action. She has decided to have a family conference to see how they all might start to make changes to their eating habits.
Decision: To get better organised. As a family, they are all in agreement that they need to make some changes. They all decide to become actively involved in making changes happen. They agree to sit down every Sunday and plan their menus for the week and also who, on any given day, will be responsible for the buying and preparation of their meals. They know what they should be eating – simply, they haven’t been doing it.
Result: The plan took a little while to take hold. Sean, in particular, wasn’t happy telling his friends that he couldn’t go with them to play basketball or go swimming when it was his turn to shop, or prepare. Now, though, they are eating healthy, nourishing food. Everyone’s weight is around where it should be, and they all have more energy and bounce.
- Habits are often performed unconsciously. Scrutinize your current habits and definite what changes you need to make. If studying is difficult for you? Observe what you are doing. How many hours per day/week do you study? Where? What motivates you? What distracts you?
- What is working in your life? Have you started a diet and the pounds are dropping off? OR
- What is not? Are you desperately trying to lose weight but the scales stay stuck?
- What habits would you like to get rid of? Make a list.
- What new habits would you like to introduce into your life? Make a list.
- Choose one habit from each of the lists above and then make; a list of 10 negative consequences of having the bad habit in your life and; a list of 10 benefits of having this new, positive habit.
- What goal has great importance for you?
- What new habits would help you achieve such a goal?
“Curious things, habits. People themselves never know they have them.” Agatha Christie