Habits are powerful factors in our lives. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily express our character produce our effectiveness or ineffectiveness. ~ Stephen R. Covey
As Stephen Covey indicates, habits are powerful forces, perhaps even more so than we suspect. Good habits we often perceive as difficult to form and bad habits impossible to break. Ironically, the reverse also appears to be true. Good habits seem as flimsy as the first excuse to disrupt a routine and bad habits arise before we notice their presence.
By and large, we are the composite of our habits. The more good habits we incorporate into our lives, the more productive and happy we tend to be. The more we are bound to our bad habits, the more difficult we find it to improve our lot. The secret is to make the automatic responses of habit a matter of deliberate choice – we need to choose our habits. Habits developed in a self-aware fashion can be good friends.
So let’s resolve to discard some bad habits and form a few good ones.
Many habits are so deeply ingrained we don’t recognize them as a habit. Chances are you put your pants on the same way every morning, using the same mechanics each day. When you walk into your kitchen, turn on the light, grab for a coffee cup, habits run the show. Not only is there nothing wrong with habits, they help us get through the day without having to consciously think through every step we take.
There is a real possibility, however, many of our greatest stresses have their origin in habit. If we react to a stimulus in an automatic fashion, a habit is somewhere nearby. Even our moods may be a matter of habit. For example, the sight of our cluttered desk may cause us to feel depressed: so much to do, and so little time to do it. We begin to chastise ourselves for the lack of organization apparent in the random order of the papers laying about. We turn away and spend the next hour mindlessly browsing the web to avoid the work in front of us, compounding the problem. Suddenly some portion of our day is given over to self-reprimand and darkness.
Consider for a moment that addictions of all types are in reality often turbo-habits. When our automatic reactions hamper our ability to choose well, it’s time to recast the complexes controlling our actions. Breaking the automatic responses no longer serving us well, replacing a bad habit with a good one is an important skill. It is possible for the same pile of paper to stimulate an eagerness to get the mess cleaned up, to finish your accounting, to finish some outstanding projects. Habits should never replace the ability to choose well for yourself.
Bad habits are threats to our personal and professional well being. They originate in a dark neighborhood of our psyche given over to defeat and entropy. To break them we must be self-aware and capable of realizing their destructive nature. Then we must be willing to change. Habits can be useful, but only when we choose the habits we allow into our life.
We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.~ John Dryden