What is a habit?
A pattern of behaviour that has an element of compulsion to it and that is done without thought. We may not even realise that we are doing it!
Are habits good or bad?
When we do something out of habit – without conscious thought – that act has no power in it. When we do with thought the impact is very different than when we do (positive or negative) without thought. Another consequence of doing without thought is that we dissociate the consequences of that act on ourselves and on others.
How do habits get created?
The human psyche (spirit) has three facilities: the mind (the ability to think); the intellect (the ability to reason, discern, discriminate and decide) and personality traits or habits.
First, we see others doing something and the Mind thinks: I want to experience that too, e.g. smoking. The Intellect says: that isn’t a good idea, smoking is harmful to your body and can lead to lung cancer. M says: just the once won’t hurt. I continues to reason and M to persist in fulfilling its’ desire. Eventually I becomes overpowered by M’s persistence and falls silent. You then have a cigarette and this experience is recorded in your psyche. It may not be for another year that M once again thinks: let’s have a cigarette. Again I reasons and is eventually silenced by M’s persistence. Each time I is silenced sooner until eventually it falls totally silent. Now you have the thought and act on it without thought and so you have created a habit. This act then becomes part of you and you identity yourself as ‘a smoker’. If you decide to give up that habit you may even find your body reacting against the decision. So, we are now subservient to our own habits and say that we can’t do without them!
How do we break the law of habit?
1) Recognise and acknowledge the habit, you are 50% of the way there just by doing this. If I don’t acknowledge it I don’t have to do anything about it.
2) Recognise how this habit dis-empowers you. Why do we engage in patterns of thinking/ feeling/ action that cause us pain? We create our habits. Take responsibility- I am the creator and sustainer of my habits. I alone can destroy it/ transform it, no-one else can.
3) Take time to observer yourself- how you speak, how you behave. Separate yourself from your habit(s). Come to know that you aren’t your habit. Create spaces between the thought and the action, this re-introduces space for us to re-claim control over our actions and reaction. To re-activate your intellect.
4) Genuinely decide to change it. Our habits become our comfort zones (cages) so to change one can feel like jumping off a cliff. So we need courage.
5) We can build our courage by creating a list of all the benefits of changing it and another of all the damage/loss maintaining this habit is causing to our self and to others. Keep this list in front of you and direct your mind to all the positive benefits.
6) Replace it with something else… building your inner state of being is the most effective something else. Why?- Negative habits are created when we feel empty inside and have lost meaning/purpose in our life. We look for something that will give us instant relief from these feelings. Instead of temporary instant relief we can establish a more permanent internal relief. How? –Spend time in reflection and recognise the power within you. Our inner state of being is of truth, peace, love, happiness and power (such as, to discern right from wrong, to face, to decide). We can re-emerge these qualities by giving attention to them.
7) Every day see yourself without that habit. If you remember you with it you feed that image. Instead feed the image of a free you. I need to believe that I can change/transform it.
8) Be enthusiastic for your own future. We need enthusiasm to change, know that you are creating your own destiny. What do you want it to be?