Habits are wonderful things. It means that our bodies are on auto pilot to carry out tasks. We don’t need to focus intently on doing them – we have done it before and our body and mind remembers how. Imagine what it would be like without them! Remember that intense feeling of learning to drive a car. I would be exhausted after an hour out with my Dad (or maybe it was just his intensity that I was feeling! ) Having to think through the process of turning a corner and all that is involved with it.
However, how many of our habits do we do on a day to day basis that no longer serve us? The other day I was out walking my two dogs. There had been a dead baby bird near the tree on the nature strip for a few weeks. I have just been jogging past so there is no time to stop and sniff. On this day as we jogged by I noticed that the dried up bird was on the footpath. Quick as a flash Daisy picked it up. Getting it out of her mouth and disposing of it was disgusting. I am sure if I hadn’t she would have eaten it – YUCK! That night I was chopping up their carrots for dinner. I top and tailed the carrot and then realised what I had done. It is habit to top and tail carrots but did it really serve any purpose on this occasion? The top of the carrot is hardly going to cause any harm to my fur baby – the same mouth that a few hours earlier had tried to chew down a dead baby bird that had been sitting road side for a few weeks! It’s a habit, doesn’t serve any purpose – I just did it. Until I caught myself doing it. Interesting I thought!
The way we think about things and the way we respond is so often a habit – something that we have done often enough that we believe it is the “truth”. What does that actually mean when the habit, behaviour or action does not serve us in any way? In this instance it meant that I wasted some food as my fur babies could have eaten the top and tail of the carrot. At other times the habit can be so debilitating that it literally stops you from moving forward.
Many times over the years I have seen so many people hesitant to start a regular exercise program. Bodies resent being taken out of their comfort zone, the mind finds a way around it by making excuses and then the gut gets involved by feeling squeamish. Next thing you know the possible new client has backed out.
· It just doesn’t feel right – that’s the gut reacting to the change in habit.
· I can’t fit it in – that’s the head trying to find an excuse.
· I can’t afford it – before the gut and the body got in the way the head HAD been able to afford it!
The actual idea of starting a new habit seems exciting to begin with. Then the old habit starts to kick in, the inspired motivation diminishes in the face of a habit that has been around for a long time. We have all done this. Said we will change something and for a week we are pumped. Then an obstacle hits and the old habit is so easy to fall back on. It’s comfortable for the body, the head stops spinning with reasons and justifications and the gut relaxes as nothing is going to happen now that the old habit is back – it’s known and trusted.
SO how do you change this?
· Being aware of it is huge! Be aware that the old habit WILL resurface. That’s a given. Be ready for it and have a plan. Have a strategy for dealing with it. As they say – people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.
· Tell people about your new habit. Ask them to hold you accountable. You have to ask them to do this and make a plan. They may hold you accountable for a week or two and then they will have their own habit to fall back to – which will not be holding you accountable!
· Set up some indicators around your house. One of my favourites for dropping a few kilo’s for an event is to put the outfit you want to wear somewhere that you will see it regularly. It will remind you that there is a bigger picture. (Of course a note in the kitchen – “Step away from the fridge/pantry!” will also help!)
· Stay positive by believing that it’s possible. Believe in your ability to do this and find those around that also believe you can. There will always be people around you who will tell you to be careful, that you can’t do it. That’s their own habit, their own fall back. Avoid those people for a while!
· Respect and honour the struggle. Yes, it will be a challenge – it can be as fun and exciting as you want it to be. If you can stay positive, it won’t matter what the outcome is – the whole adventure will be a learning experience and will feed into your next adventure!
Go change some habits that no longer serve you and have a BLAST creating some new ones that do!