219. Habits, habits everywhere.


What is a habit?

For the past three weeks we have deviated from our custom of discussing a particular habit for three weeks and then moving on to a new one.

Instead, we have used of this space to reflect on the ever-present influence habits play in our everyday lives.

If we define a habit as a series of behaviours we exhibit each time we are presented with a certain – real or imagined – stimulus, then we can safely assume we each hold dozens of habits as our very own.

If it is true that all behaviour is learned then it follows that habits too are learned which means we have within ourselves the ability to transform debilitating habits into powerful, pleasure-inducing ones.

Let’s take a few moments and explore behaviours common to many of us.

The word stress is one that is commonly bandied about. We use the word to describe how we feel when confronted with certain situations that life has dealt us.

For example, if we find ourselves feeling stressed over a looming deadline, and previous deadlines have involved similar feelings within us, we can agree that we have taught ourselves to feel this way and, by virtue of having done so repeatedly in the past, we have created the habit of feeling stressed when facing pending deadlines.

What do you do when driving if another driver that cuts you off in traffic by swerving in front of you?

Do you become angry, furious, ballistic? Do you honk your horn in anger and proudly gesture towards that vehicle with the same finger that has two fingers to the left of it and two to the right of it?

If this is you, where and how did you learn to do this. Did you pick this up by modelling one, or both of your parents? Perhaps a friend introduced you to this response?

Regardless of the origin of your behaviour, if this is your pattern, and it recurs each time another vehicle cuts in front of you, you have habituated yourself to this behaviour.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, it is a habit.”

And by repeatedly responding the same way to the stimulus you have proven him right.

We have all imbued ourselves with dozens of these types of habits and I invite you, over the next little while to pay close attention to yourself and to list your habits as you become aware of them.

I recently attended my seventh meeting with the senior management group of one of my client companies. And just as on the previous six occasions, each person was seated precisely on the same chair at the table.

Coincidence? No, habit.

From the obvious ones – brushing our teeth – to the less obvious ones – putting the same arm first into a sleeve each time we put on a shirt – to the ones that are most often take place completely outside of our conscious awareness, our lives are driven by the many habits we have developed.

As a Habits Coach, I share this with each of my clients as it is important to acknowledge that whenever we wish to bring positive and sustainable change into our lives, we must first recognize that the behaviours we wish to change are really habits we need to replace.

And when you know how to change habits, life just gets better and better.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.


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