The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of Habit

The other day I climbed into my car and set out for my son’s place. It was a trip that required little attention; I had driven the route many times.

Everything was going just fine as I made turns and crossed streets at traffic signals. Then, I made a visual survey of my surroundings to check my progress. Oops! Something was wrong!

For the past year I had been making frequent trips to a local Cancer Treatment Center, The first half of the trip is along the same route as getting to my son’s place. As I looked out the windows of the car, I realized that I was within sight of the wrong place. I was almost to the Cancer Center parking lot. I had missed a turn.

Every one of us has habits. We need habits to streamline the routines of our lives. Habits help enhance our lives. Without habits we would have to focus energies and extra time on what might be considered minor daily events.

I believe it is safe to say that habits fall into one of three categories: Good, Bad, or Ugly. Certain circumstances may cloud the issue and suggest that a habit is better placed in a different group. Other habits clearly fit in only one.

The science of habit is more clearly understood today than it was years ago. Habits are formed due to repetition of behaviors, events, tasks. It takes about one month of frequent, consistent repetition to establish a habit. Behaviors that are related to an external chemical or emotional, physical duress, may habituate more quickly.

Good Habits

Many routines are good ones, life enhancing one. These are the ones that streamline our lives without adding negative baggage to our daily loads. Getting dressed for work while planning the work day; exercising at the gym; getting food from the plate to our mouths; driving to work. Even relationship events, like talking to my spouse, saying “I love you” often, and going to church.

Rote knowledge also falls into this grouping. Addition facts, multiplication facts, business rules and laws. Things that we know without having to scratch our heads in wonder. Handwriting. Talking. Singing.

When I was a child, I always sat in the same seat at the table for meals. Colors were assigned to each member of the family, also. Tupperware Red was my color. Cereal bowl and tumbler. Life was easier with that pattern. No squabbling over who sits where.

Bad Habits

Wasting time with TV or on digital games. These pastimes are so readily available on our phones and tablets that we are unaware of the amount of time spent. Yet, for most of us, these pursuits are not moving us toward the enhanced life we really want. Snacking probably falls into this group. Mindlessly popping food into our mouths at all hours of the day and night. Drinking diet soda is known to be unhealthy for us, yet many persist in the habit. Artificial sweeteners in general are not as healthful as the advertisements indicate.

Ugly Habits

Destructive behaviors and attitudes take us far away from the Enhanced Life. Oh, the Promise they offer of the Good Life is the opposite of that, but the reality is ugly. We can easily end up with habits that hurt ourselves and others. Chemical addictions are physically and morally bad for us.

But, other Ugly habits can be identified: self-criticism, a negative perspective of self and/or life, seeing myself as a victim, pessimism, distrust – all lead away from an enhanced life. These beliefs and behaviors impact those around us, also, and tend to rub off on family and colleagues.

Steps to Take

As with other parts of our lives, we need to regularly take a purposeful inventory of our habits. I think perhaps this was the real purpose of the New Year’s Resolution process.

With a trusted adviser or coach, analyze the habituated portions of your life. Make a written list – or use a digital tool and store the file for ready access. Just like the drawers and closets of our physical environments, clutter accumulates in our daily routines and relationships.

Identify your habits with names, so you can address them more efficiently. Remember, they are habits, so we likely don’t notice that we do them and where they are taking us.

Be careful who you get to assist with this step. Not all acquaintances are equipped to benefit you on this quest.

Solutions

In the process of enhancing your life, you must be purposeful in creating a plan to replace a few bad habits with good ones. Don’t work on many at one time. One or possibly two (if they are already tied together in some specific co-dependency) at a time. You probably acquired the habits one-at-a-time, it is best to replace them in the same way.

Remember, the Law of Habit indicates a requirement of up to a 66 day strategic plan to create a replacement habit. Use visuals, like pictures, notes, quotes posted around your environment, so you are more aware of the evidences that an old habit is trying to re-assert itself.

We can’t just eliminate a bad habit. The empty space will be filled with something, either the old habit or a new one. Choose wisely.

The Reward

Surround yourself with Positive Influences. Control more carefully what goes into your brain through your eyes and ears. Load your e-reader and library with Positive Thinking books – and load your consciousness with their truths. Look for the good, the beautiful in life.

It is true, whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right. I encourage you to choose “I Can!”

Keep your eyes on the Reward – a changed, enhanced life that makes you, and those around you, happier and healthier.

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Thank you for reading.