28 Mar Harnessing Your Habits
How many habits do you have? In the first five minutes of getting up this morning, I counted six, and two of those could be broken down into several smaller habits, such as which order of clothing I put on. So how can we make habits work for us and not against us?
Are habits good or bad?
Many of our habitual thoughts and actions are practical and useful, helping us travel through our days without having to think through every single thing we do. Some habits are harmless, not hurting ourselves or anyone else; every time I floss my teeth, I move over to the window to watch the birds. Other habits may harm ourselves or others, or lead us where we don’t want to go.
I don’t think we can eliminate bad habits, but we can replace them with better habits that are stronger. The old ones are still lurking in the background, but simply being aware that so much of what we do in a day is driven by habit can help us focus more clearly on genuine and lasting change.
You cannot change your future, but you can change your habits, and surely your habits will change your future. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
For me, the major question is not so much what I want to change, but why I want to. If we are really clear about what motivates us, that motivation can be a powerful force to create new habits. This is so only if the motivation comes from inside us, and isn’t driven by what family or friends or society thinks we should do.
What about willpower?
Certainly willpower is helpful in creating new habits, but it is not the whole picture. Please don’t be hard on yourself and think you don’t have enough willpower if you’ve tried to change in the past and not succeeded.
You can learn to harness your willpower most effectively if you are wide awake about what motivates you. Let’s face it. There is something you like about the old habit, and the trick is to identify all the pros and cons of both the old habit and the new one you’re trying to create. Once you’ve done this, you may realize that you’re not ready for change just yet.
Ready, set, go!