Habits

It’s interesting but not unexpected that when we talk about our habits, the first thing that comes to mind are our bad habits.

We all have them, those bad habits which have woven themselves into the fabric of our very existence. Those habits that you remember your mum telling you not to do all those years ago which you just can’t help but do them even today.

But look, I’m not here to talk about those “bad” habits because frankly, I don’t think they’re too important to think about. In fact, what I’m really here to talk about, are the good ones. You didn’t think there was such a thing? well, let’s explore.

Clear your thoughts about everything you have ever known about habits because it’s likely that all you know and can think of are the habits your mum has been telling you you’ve been doing wrong all your life. Now think about something that you do each and every day that is part of your routine that you know helps you get through that day or week. Here’s a tip, start small. Here’s another tip, think about how this habit makes you feel. Here’s an example below:

Good HabitFeelings/ A sense of…
Making the bedAchievement – First of the day
Imagining what the day ahead looks likeComfort – Knowing what lies ahead and what needs to be done
Putting down the toilet seat before you flushAssurance – No bacteria flushed into the air
Reading before bedExcitement – Adventure time!
5 minute walk every 30 minutes on the computerHealthy – Taking care of your wellbeing

The example above is purely an example only, the individual may have very different habits or even those which are the same but make them feel or have a sense of something totally different. That’s why habits are unique to you and only you have the power over them (or on the flip side, them over you!).

So yes, we all do have good habits that make us a better person even if only ever so slightly. What I wanted to point out was that habits should not be seen as a negative in our lives.

I find it interesting how throughout most of our lives, we grow up being told that habits are bad and that we should not have them. I now realise that habits are one of the most important things in life to have. Having an in-depth and clear understanding of how habits work, how they motivate you, how to build them for you and shape them to our will can truly change our lives in almost every way.

“We are the sum of our actions, and therefore our habits make all the difference.”

Aristotle

What makes us who we are is the habits we make, the things that we do day to day without us even consciously having to think about it. Imagine being able to have great habits be an automatic and natural process of your everyday life, how much could we achieve? how far could we take that? The problem is that with every habit, it takes time to build. The time you put into building these positive habits can take days, weeks, months or even years so the best time to start applying these is always today. But why is it such a time-consuming exercise? It is because you are fighting with your weapon in which is your willpower. Often, willpower is said to be like a muscle that one can train and build. I have not only found this to be incredibly true but also a lot tougher to do in practice than in words. Our willpower is (I dare say) even tougher than building our physical muscles! The fight is in our heads, our minds, something no one else can really help you “train” but yourself, that is what makes it so difficult.

Don’t let the above dissuade you, however. There are many techniques to help you tackle and “trick” your mind into strengthening those habits.

The most common is to start small and simple to achieve. You see, when you achieve something you set out to accomplish, no matter how big or small, the chemical reactions in your body change, you get a feeling of satisfaction through the release of numerous “happy” chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Let’s not get bogged down into the science of what each one is all about but it’s least to say that they encourage you to keep going, to keep doing what you are doing. One small step at a time, one small success after another can lead to big long term gains and before you know it, you’ve been building positive habits without you even knowing it.

Another common technique is to recognise and remove OR transform “triggers” into something more positive. Triggers are usually subtle things that bring upon what the action of the habit is. For example, seeing fried chicken might be a trigger for you to instantly think you’re hungry and in need for it (my personal weakness), if this is something you are trying to change, you can try to avoid known locations of KFC’s OR turn the sight of KFC into a reminder to do 10 start jumps, for example. That’s probably not the best example for everyone so here’s one that more down to Earth, how about when you see everyone around you pull out their phones on a crowded bus or train, that is usually a trigger for you to do the same even if you are scrolling through nothing of use. Try noticing that trigger each time you see it, then try doing something else when you notice it, such as pulling out a book (which is my trigger response too!) or closing your eyes to rest for a few minutes. Remember, triggers usually lead to the action in which becomes the habit; to overcome them, notice what triggers you and change them to something positive.

Finally, always remember that everything good in life takes time, if you falter at first, don’t give up! Sometimes it might be good to log your record number of hours or days you’ve been able to work on something but sometimes that can also be so unforgiving. Be forgiving to yourself, please; after all, we’re only human.

This is a big topic, there’s a lot of literature about it and I’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg, my own little blurb and experience of it. What are your thoughts on it? Are habits something you think about? Do you want to change anything in your life right now and want to know how your habits could help you do so? PM me and let’s have a chat!

Thanks for reading, learning and being a better you ❤ Love to all, Jason

Feature image – A chicken representing my dangerous trigger, the fried chicken! taken on the 26th of March 2016.

Author: Jason Li

Jason Li (born 17th October 1992) grew up in the big bad city of Sydney. After all these years, he’s still growing up; or at least trying to. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he gets lucky and writes something good. Most of the time, however, he has no idea where life is taking him, living life just one single day at a time.

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