It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you repeatedly do the same action, it’ll turn into a habit. Once formed, habits operate at a sub-conscious level. They become our second nature. That’s great when they are supportive habits. Just imagine automatically eating healthily. However, this can prove a little troublesome when we want to change a habit that is unsupportive or undermining us.
Undoing a Habit
Step 1: Recognise that a habit is no longer supportive. Be really clear in your mind about the harms of this habit. Reinforce your determination by further asking: How is this habit preventing me from achieving my goals? Who would I be without this habit? And finally, ask yourself: What are the benefits of keeping this habit?
Step 2: Practise self inquiry by observing yourself. Any action, even a habit, is preceded by a thought. When it comes to habits, the space between the thought and action may only be a millisecond. Now, see if you can catch this thought as it occurs. Check: what feeling comes with the thought?
Step 3: Create a preferred action plan. Have you noticed: every time you feel upset out comes the biscuit tin (replace biscuit tins with your substitute)? If so, next time plan ahead to do something different. Replace the biscuit tin with: a call to a good friend, a walk or get out pen and paper and write down why you’re upset.
Step 4: Stay alert and Act. When you catch your trigger thought say ‘STOP!’ immediately. Now divert your mind to your preferred action plan. Do this enough times and your new action will become second nature.
Step 5: Be kind to yourself on the occasions you don’t succeed. To change a habit you require both determination and on-going encouragement. When you realise you’ve slipped into an old habit, remember it’s a second chance to become more aware for next time. If you find yourself in the boxing ring with disappointment or guilt, knock them out with acceptance. Acceptance says, ‘Yes I have this habit. This isn’t my eternal reality. I didn’t always have this habit and I can be free of it again. I am taking the steps I need to empower myself. ‘
Step 6: some habits are extra tricky to break. This habit is often tied up with a false belief. In this case we may need to do a little extra detective work, in the form of non-judgmental observation and gentle questioning. When we discover the false belief behind the habit, freedom is within sight.
Step 7: focus on empowering yourself. Create and grow good feelings and positivity within yourself. Try this: recall a time when you felt bad about yourself. Did you also feel disempowered? Now, recall a time when you felt good about yourself. Did you feel empowered too? Keeping our thoughts and feelings positive supports us to break stubborn habits.
The truth is, ‘I am not my habit. I am peaceful, free and powerful.’