As I tend to do when I know what I want to write about (habits) but am not sure where to start, I looked to Dictionary.com to tell me in its objective and emotionless way what exactly I am writing about:
hab·it (noun) an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary
Here is what I get from that definition:
- It is acquired. Which means you aren’t born with it. Which means you can change it. Which means you can dump it. Which means you can make space for it in your life if you want it around or if you want to start it.
- It is an (almost) involuntary pattern. Once it is a habit, not just something you do/think/say/feel on occasion, it is with you (or not with) you indefinitely. Unless you do something to change it.
So, folks, looks like we have a Good News/Bad News scenario here.
The good news is that, ultimately, you are in control of the habit.
The bad news is that, well, you are in control of the habit.
So keep it, change it, dump it or start it — the choice is literally yours. And by “yours,” I mean not your best friend’s, or your spouse’s or your mom’s or your client’s or anyone else’s.
You are responsible.
So now might be a good time to talk a little about why the idea of habits is on my mind right now.
Perhaps like you, too, some of mine are really great and serve me well.
Others of mine, for lack of a better term, suck and do not serve me at all.
And yet others, and perhaps this is the most important for me, are “someday habits” — those I do not yet possess but know in my gut I must if I am to do, be and feel all of the things I know I am capable of doing, being and feeling.
Sometimes the idea of control in this context is great. Empowering. Encouraging.
And sometimes, the idea of control in this context is freakin’ overwhelming. Like there-is-so-much-I-need/want-to-change overwhelming. So, more often than not, I hide or avoid all of the habit-changing stuff I need to deal with, usually in the form of just sticking with the sucky-yet-familiar habits.(With maybe an afternoon buried under my covers in bed mixed in for good measure.)
With all of this in mind, there comes a time (or, actually, multiple times throughout life) for all us when we face what’s wrong with our habits (the ones we have, the ones we don’t):
We admit or finally see or accept that it is no longer “OK” to live one way and act (or not act) another.
We look at habits not serving us and say “No more!”
We yearn for habits that will help us do all we want to do and decide now is the time to make it happen.
We vow that this time will be different.
For me, especially in my current location (The Lull), I have tried mightily not to always act, act, act as is my…well….habit. I have worked on waiting, and being patient and just being. I have also worked on not being “black and white” or “all or nothing” about everything, including habits. (Hasn’t always worked, but I am working on it.)
So instead of trying to overhaul my own habit system (dumping everything that doesn’t work and starting everything that should work), I am going to take it slowly but surely. The all-or-nothing approach (e.g., no sugar or carbs until, well, I gorge on sugar and carbs) crashes and burns quickly, then I come up with a great story about why it failed (how’s that for a self-fulfilling prophecy??).
So right now, for me, I am working on two habits. Just two. And for all the rest that need to be dumped or developed (and, trust me, there are MANY), I am patiently waiting until their time comes.
It will all happen. In its time.
(And by the way, this would be a good time to tell you that what works/doesn’t work for me may have absolutely nothing to do with you or your life. What comes easy for you, may be ridiculously hard for me and what is hard for you may be something I could do in my sleep. No matter. The idea of making or breaking the habit is what counts and is the part that IS universal to all of us.)
So below, I would love you to share what you are dumping and what you are developing. I am finding that making or breaking a habit is dependent on a few (not a ton of) factors, one of which is accountability — knowing that someone (or many someones) will be checking in on your progress.
So here is the thing: Having to explain why you are not carrying out what you intended to carry out is stressful. And I know I hate making or getting excuses.
So….declare (publicly or to one person privately — it doesn’t matter) what you intend to do (or not do) and then just freakin’ do it (or not)
Here is my full disclosure:
What am I dumping?
I bite my nails. Like not daintily or subtly. My nails (or what is left of them) are disgusting. Apalling. Gross. Seriously. My sister’s friend who has the exact same habit and, like me, has had it since childhood, once likened his nails and mine to a “science experiment gone wrong.” Unfortunately, he was not way off.
So I am done. I may slip up, but I am done. Sounds easy, and maybe it is (though I haven’t managed to stop permanently in the past 38 years). I’m considering “before” and “after” pictures but they may need to come with a warning message.
What am I doing?
In case you haven’t figured this one out, I am a writer. That is what I do and what I was meant to do. I am really good at it and it comes more easily to me than anything else in my life. And yet, for reasons that will certainly fill future blog posts and likely a book or two, I hide from it or use some fear of it to merely skim its surface.
My purpose as far as my writing — and the people I am meant to serve with this writing — have not yet made themselves entirely clear to me. But instead of waiting for lightning to strike and some being to appear and tell me “Today Is The Day,” I am declaring here that the habit I am developing right now is writing.
Because being good is not enough.
I will write every weekday morning (weekends TBD :)) from 6-6:30 to start. This will not be writing for money or for a client or for this blog or for someone else’s blog. This is for me. It may be incoherent. It may be brilliant. All I know is it will be.
I will do this for the next 30 days (started this morning at 6am) and see where it takes me. I will not stop after the 30 days; if anything, once the habit is in place, I will expand to an hour. This is a doable and reasonable habit goal for me. (Apparently, it takes 18 or 21 days to form a habit. I like 30 because it is a nice round number and one month seems like enough “cushion” for me to make sure the habit is firmly in place.)
So, there you have it. There comes a time when, in order to continue moving toward who you are or risk never, ever getting there, you will be faced with a make-or-break (or both) moment. Will my “make and breaks” above change my life forever?
Maybe, maybe not.
Will they give me a more logical and effective system that allows me to make change in my life?
My wait is over. My time has come. And what I believe is that whatever your make or break right now, your wait is also over. Maybe your time has come, too. I’m betting it has.
You will never know unless you try.