Very early on my consciousness journey, even before I really knew what consciousness means, I recognized a need to free myself of certain bad habits. In fact, as I’m looking through the journal entry from ~3.5 years ago, the list of those bad habits read more like wishful thinking (I’m not gonna list them all … This is not a tell all blog … Sorry:). It’s been a journey of ups, downs and at times downright quitting, but today I am amazed that I was able to not only to eradicate them, but also go beyond some them! As such, I wanted to list a couple of caveats that I discovered along the way in case you might find them helpful as well:
- Throw goals out the window; Set an intention instead: Chances are that you have set plenty of goals before and they got you nowhere. The problem with goals, is that we tend to set our expectations too high and when we don’t meet them, they create guilt at best, and feed our shame at worst. Fail your goals enough times and you’ll run into a risk of creating an assumption that you can’t EVER do it. Intention, on the other hand, creates possibilities without pressure to perform. If you fall short, you know that tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to show up as the person you know deep inside you really are.
- Be mindful when the urge strikes: Notice the feeling (which part of your body is it coming from? How strong is it?); Notice the thoughts (what are you thinking?) Notice the environment (what could be the trigger?). By doing this, I was able to figure out that my excessive coffee drinking wasn’t an addiction per se, but really an excuse to take a break from work I found boring. An additional benefit of this approach is that it helped me to create a space between urge and acting on it, which over time helped me understand that the urge is just like any stimulus; consequently, it’s my choice how I want to address it.
- Be mindful of when you engage in your bad habit: I found that bad habits, once formed, tend to shift our minds to autopilot mode, which in a way is the point … A mindless escape from living life on life’s terms. By being mindful when I reached out for that third cup of coffee I found that it not only tasted awful from excess, but it felt like my body was telling me it’s too much. Sometimes I finished that umpteenth cup of coffee, but over time I started to pour it out after a couple of sips, and eventually turned away from a coffee machine altogether. For more on this, check out the following TED talk (particularly if you are new to mindfulness).
- Find a less harmful interim (or not) substitute: that’s how I got into green tea. It’s still got caffeine, but less so. Another bad habit I overcame is sloppiness. My first interim step was to commit to keeping things off the floor … Baby steps:)
- Be mindful of how you feel after you engage in the bad habit: notice all the negative feelings. This is not to beat yourself up, but to recall them next time the urge strikes. This helped me to realize (again, over time) how unfulfilling the bad habit truly is. By engaging in the bad habit, I wasn’t really tending to my needs, but actually were slowly becoming a slave to my own interpretations of certain set of circumstances.
- Celebrate and share progress: I really savor it when I come into clean house. It’s such a freeing feeling! Clutter was so stressful! Sharing your progress may help you connect with others who might be turned off by a faulty impression of your perfectness … And who knows you might inspire someone to a lifestyle change while you’re at it!
The importance of breaking bad habits didn’t really hit me until I watched an interview with Tony Robbins (one of my favorites). In it, he talked about a need to reach a certain pain threshold in order to make a change. I think of bad habits as self numbing mechanisms that rob us from an opportunity to make that change; change which will take us one step closer to reaching true potential.
So don’t overthink it. Do a quick soul check and set some intentions!