Habits are really hard to break. It doesn’t matter how many tricks you read about, it doesn’t matter if there’s a “change your habits in 28 days… or your money back”. You may as well ask for the money back now, because habits are hard to break. Now, that is not to say that they are impossible and you’re stuck with it forever.. but it’s going to take work.
I know someone who every time he walks past the kitchen he opens the refrigerator. He is constantly surprised by this fact. He could have just finished eating dinner and just walks into the kitchen to throw away a piece or paper.. he opens the refrigerator. He can be walking through to head up to his bedroom or to the bathroom.. opens the refrigerator. It drives him insane. He doesn’t even mean to, it just happens. It’s a habit.
I know someone else who has to have the TV on at all times. She walks into the house and automatically turns on the TV, whether or not there is something she wants to watch or not she turns it on and scans or searches or just keeps it on for background. This inevitably causes her to sit and watch instead of doing things on her “to-do” list, but it’s a habit. She doesn’t think about it, she just does.
I saw a meme on social media today about how parents are advised to put something “important” in the backseat with their babies as to not forget them, and people are going crazy, “what is more important than your baby!”.. but this is not about important, this is about habit. People so commonly do things out of habit they sometimes are at a detriment to themselves or their loved ones.
One man eats when he’s not hungry. One woman sits mindlessly watching TV. One parent drives to work on auto-pilot forgetting that it’s his/her day to drop the baby at daycare. All are important, some just have a more immediate result. All are the result of habits. Drug abuse is often called a “habit” and to a certain extent it is. When someone starts to feel a certain way they turn to what has worked in the past.. their “habit” for feeling better.
There are good habits and obviously there are horrible habits. All are easier to create than to make. So when you see something that says, “break habits in 28 days” what it’s really saying is create new habits.. that is possible.. but again.. not all habits are good, and even good habits designed to take the place of bad habits are not as easy to make/break. If you want to make it a habit to take off your shoes every time you walk into a house.. sure, a month later it may just be ingrained in your head, you may not even think about it. Your neuro-pathways have been sparked and you have reminded yourself enough that it’s habit. Same as your drive to work.. it’s auto-pilot.
If you want to stop yourself from looking in the fridge, or get yourself into a new exercise routine, or find better ways of coping with problems than drugs.. that’s going to take time. That’s going to take more than reminding yourself for a couple weeks. That’s going to take creating a new sense of self.. because those habits are linked to your personality, your ego. Those habits are part of what makes you you and how you see yourself as a person.
If you want to break major bad habits you have to decide that you are not a person who does these things. You are a non-smoker. You are a healthy person. You are strong. Because the moment you are a fat person trying to act differently your brain stops listening. The moment that you are an addict trying to be better.. you’ll have all the excuses why you it is who you are. You can’t go to the gym.. you’re too fat, people will laugh. It’s ok if you eat the cake.. you’re fat.. and everyone else is. It’s ok if you use again today… all your friends are and you don’t want to lose your friends.
You are not those things. You are a being that inhabits a body. You are whatever you tell yourself that you are. If you decide that you are healthy and are only going to do healthy things, and keep that in your mind, your heart, and your self.. your ego will evolve. Your habits will form. New habits, based on who you decide that you are. If you are an excuse… then you’ll never run out of those.
What would you do if you could do anything? I remember playing that game as a kid.. when you’re really little it’s things like fly or shoot laser beams out of your eyes or what ever. As we hit our teens it’s date a famous person or travel the world or get a Lamborghini. By the time we’re adults it’s things like, sleep.. or eat chocolate without getting fat.. or maybe something practical like buy a house.
We live a lot of life and as that life goes on we lose the magic that makes life worth living. I have a 5 year old and I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.. he’s torn, either an alligator tooth brusher or a jungle swinger… but thinks maybe he can do both. He doesn’t just think outside the box.. he doesn’t understand that there even should be a box, and much like a cat.. if there is a box anywhere around it will soon become one of his favorite toys.
There is something fundamentally sad about “growing up”. It’s not the fact that we have to pay bills or that we suddenly have responsibilities. It’s because we lose the piece of ourselves that we used to let dream. How many people are told that they can’t do something because there’s no money in it or the chances of being successful are so low, or because it’s not “practical” and how much is the whole world missing out because of that?
When I went to college I had no idea what I was going to be when I grow up. I’m not 42 and just starting to figure it out, and it has nothing to do with the degree that I am still paying for. How many of us believe, especially in the US, that our jobs are our identity? Yet most of us got into a particular job because it was the one that was hiring or most convenient for our schedule or our location or our limited skills based on classes that we took predominately in our teens.
When I think about what I could do or have if I could do or have anything.. I may not want to fly like Superman, but I do want to see the world. I may not want laser beams that shoot out of my eyes but I do want to use my eyes to discover and see every beautiful thing that this world has to offer. I want to make a difference in this world. I want to raise my son to know that he can do and see and be anything that he wants, even if he has to go to the jungles and wrestle alligators with Aquafresh.
It’s been about a decade since that movie “The Bucket List” came out and people started to contemplate what they want to do before they die. The problem that I have always had with that is that people think they have forever. They think that they’ll be 90+ and have decades to make up for the time that they’re wasting now. But we don’t.. this is our life.. every day.. every minute. We don’t get it back. What do you want to do.. not before you die.. what do you want to do with your life?
I know people can get a little turned off when I mention the word “church”, but I was in church last week and we had a visiting priest from Africa. The Central African Republic to be precise.. anyway, he said that he was very interested to do the homily that week, because it was about Jesus’s (trigger word… bare with you) speech about being judged by those you know.
There is a part of the Bible in which Jesus speaks and everyone questions his authority, as he was just the son of a carpenter… and they knew of his humble beginnings.. and how could HE possibly be important. The Father went on to say how he knows how it feels. He came to this new church on the other side of the world and he was welcomed and respected, and though he loved his home there were always those that would never take him seriously because he was the kid that did…. what have you, 20 years ago.
When starting something new in life this is often a problem that people have. We are already set in our ways and it is difficult enough to start a new course and reprogram our own minds, but it is all the more difficult with the naysayers in our ears. I can remember when I was starting my health journey and I was cutting bad foods and trying to exercise more, and the hardest people to be around were the ones that were closest to me. The ones who were like, “oh… another diet” or “yeah, we can go out next week when you’re over your kick” or “it’s just a piece of cake” .. or pizza or what have you.. “It’s not a big deal. You’ve always eaten it before.”
There is something about human nature that people almost take it as a personal insult if you decide to change.. as if you’re trying to be better than the other person or that your change means that they should change as well.
As I have mentioned before people are very determined to stay the image that they have assigned for themselves. They like their habits. They know their identity. Anything outside of that makes them very uncomfortable. So if identity is permanent than you shouldn’t be able to change yours either. This is an extremely hard battle to wage when you’re already fighting your own mind.
A lot of people will tell you not to share your process or your plans with others. I’m not sure that I agree with that or not. I think it depends on your own resilience at that time (which can change from day to day and minute to minute), and also your opinion of the other person.. as well as a million other things. I do think that it is important to have a support system.. and that there are always those in your life that you KNOW you can’t depend on for support. Them, you avoid like the plague.
I believe this is why support groups like AA and weight watchers and the like are so important. Humans are, at our core, social beings. We need to connect with others. We need support, whether we like to admit it or not, but we can’t always get that at home with the people who are happy in the status quo or feel more comfortable holding our pasts against us. When it’s time for a change.. sometimes we have to make bold sweeping changes. We need to turn away from getting comfort in what’s familiar and move on to a new tribe if you like. The most important thing is not letting other’s define your identity.
I have to start by saying I love the film “Into the Woods”.. yes I know that it is also a play, but I haven’t see that.. and it’s pretty much the same thing. (spoiler) Anyway, it’s one of those fairytale stories with the morals all mixed in. There’s the one about honesty and the one for being true to yourself and going after your dreams but not forsaking others… and on and on.
The finale of the movie is my favorite, though. It’s a song about being careful what you put out into the world. There is a new baby and a scared father and the words are to be careful the things that you say, as children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will learn. It explains how children are constantly picking up on everything that we do and say. If we say that they’re lazy, they will believe it. If we say that they’re bad… they will believe it. If we say that we are bad or not worthy.. they will believe it.. and will learn the same of themselves. Our words and actions will become their words and actions.
Now if that isn’t impressive enough, then it gets into a refrain and it changes..
Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes a spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
It starts to talk about the words that we say to ourselves and how we create our own stories based on these words. We create our own reality as we begin to hear and say these words over and over.
It’s very common for someone to put all of their faith into an outside event and believe that their life cannot be complete until we get that love interest.. or the job, or the education, or the right body/looks.. and so forth. We tell ourselves this “story” so often that we can’t see past it. We can’t move forward in anyway until we reach that goal. Now sometimes this is a good thing, and it motivates us to strive for our best… but sometimes it holds us back from creating the life we truly want.
The other story that we like to tell ourselves is all of the reasons that our past is our problem. We have never succeeded in life because.. our parents were jerks, our exes left us, we didn’t finish school.. we’ve always been….. and that’s our story. That’s who we have become> we no longer have hopes and dreams and motivations.. we simply have our fallback “reasons” for our problems.
All of these are nothing but words.. nothing but stories, and fairytales. Our lives are not our past or our future, our lives are the choices that we make everyday. So be careful the things you say.. and do.. they are you.
I was listening to an old broadcast, which I like to do, about the Law of Attraction and I heard the most interesting analogy. I had heard the woman speak before, and I knew her story about not having enough diapers for her son when he was a baby and deciding right then and there to change her life. I remember being very stricken by the story as I looked at my own baby boy the first time that I heard it, but she the comment she made this time shook me.
She said that she had to be ready to die to create a new life for herself. Now I remember thinking this long ago when I thought about those who were suicidal and how the thought of feeling so desperate that they had to die instead of just leaving everything behind and starting anew, and that’s basically what she was saying. She wasn’t suicidal, but she had to be ready to let go of her entire past, her world, her friends, and even her identity to become the person that she dreamed of being.
I don’t know much about Tarot card readings but I know that the death card comes up a lot in movies to freak people out.. but the true meaning of the card is just major change. It can be either good or bad but something in your life has to end.. or die.. in order for something new to begin.
I see it a lot in both my personal life and my practice, where a person really wants their life to change… but they don’t really want to change. They want to lose weight, but they don’t really want to give up pizza and crashing on the couch watching 5 hours of TV at night.. it’s who they are.. and that is true. They are the person who eats pizza in front of the TV and is 60lbs over weight. In order to not be that person they need to change.
They want a new job and a better career path, but they don’t want to do any work to learn a new skill in order to move into another field or up the ladder. They want a new relationship but don’t want to change the types of guys they date or where they meet them. They don’t want to become something more desirable to a different caliber person. Now, I know I’m going to get people who disagree with this and say that people shouldn’t have to change to get others to be interested.. and to a certain degree that’s true.
No one should change their core beliefs, no one should pretend to be something that they’re not. No one should be made to feel like they are wrong or less than.. but that is different than someone working to better themselves in order to create a better life. I remember dating guys in my 20s who were very nice and sweet but just not going anywhere in their lives and I wanted more out of mine. I wanted someone who had hopes and dreams no matter what they were and when I explained that to them they said that they could change.
That to me was not an option. That to me was someone changing for the wrong reasons. I’m not talking about someone becoming the an ideal imagine that someone specific wants. That’s not staying true to yourself, but after I realized that I didn’t have the life that I wanted and that I wasn’t living my best self or meeting men that were living and being what I wanted I had to reevaluate my life. What did I want? Who did I want to be? And what was holding me back? Was it my friends who always just wanted to go out for dinner and drinks instead of outside activities? Was it dates who just wanted to sit around and eat pizza and play video games or watch movies instead of going to museums or having inspirational conversations? What did I want in my life, and what would I have to cut and change to get that.. and be that?
It is perfectly acceptable to change your entire world and let go of people who do not want what you want or at least want to help or encourage you to get what makes you happy. It is not the same as changing to make someone else happy. Sometimes you need to pull the plug on your old life support system to get the recharge to start a new one.