Kicking the Habit

Dr. Purushothaman
January 12, 2014


Imagine your life to be a well knitted blanket with several colors and patterns.
Your habits could be akin to each of those intricately woven threads that make up
the blanket. They are the behaviors you repeat so often that they have become
ingrained as part of your daily routine - the way you dress, eat, drive a car, answer
the phone or greet someone. They affect every area of your life including your
work, family, income, hobbies and relationships and together determine how
your life works. Human beings are naturally creatures of habit. Our behaviors and
the way in which we conduct ourselves within society at large are predictable. For
the most part this is a good thing because it enables us to be perceived as
dependable, reliable and consistent. Just imagine going to work every morning
and not knowing how your boss will behave. Imagine the nightmare of going
home to an unpredictable spouse. Predictability defines normal behavior in our
society. However, getting stuck in a routine can result in complacency.
Shun the comfort zone
Success in life is born of change. It is only through growth that we are able to
reach higher levels of achievement. Most people resist change, primarily due to
fear, choosing instead to remain in the familiar arena of the comfort zone.
Lingering in the comfort zone is so easy to do because it affords security and
familiarity which we all crave. However, despite the security blanket which the
comfort zone provides, it is probably the greatest single enemy of your potential
for greater success and achievement. The familiarity of the comfort zone has the
potential to get you stuck in a rut, causing you to resist change and growth.
Successful men and women are those who use the comfort zone as a base camp
from which they can launch, explore and push the limits of their potential. They
are willing to be a little uncomfortable, understanding that this is the price they
must pay in order to be all they can be. Invariably, these are ultimately the most
fulfilled members of society.
The chains of habits
Samuel Johnson noted that “The chains of habit are generally too small to
be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” This is true. Their consequences
and effects do not show up until much later. That explains why someone would
continue to practice habits that all would agree will have dire consequences in the
long run. They will continue to smoke because lung cancer doesn’t show itself
right after the first puff. They continue to eat unhealthily because their arteries
aren’t blocked with the first bite. They continue to turn up for work late because
they are not fired after the first instance of tardiness. Everyday they continue to
engage in these negative practices thinking it doesn’t matter, but of course, we
know that in the long run it does.
Habits exert a significant influence in your life. They can be loyal, faithful servants
helping you reach new heights just as easily as they can be the worst of masters
and freeze you in your tracks. The bottom line is that the not so successful
expends the same amount of energy as the successful. The successful person
makes it a habit to practice six or more disciplines daily while the not so
successful is in the habit of practicing the six or so disempowering disciplines.
Replace old habits
Someone once described bad habits to be like a comfortable bed - easy to get into
but difficult to get out of. Any attempt to change a non-supportive habit leads to
a period of great discomfort until you have physically and mentally adjusted to
the new demand. The person who embarks on a new diet suffers from hunger
pangs, a new exercise regimen results in sore muscles, kicking a drug habit leaves
the user reeling from withdrawal symptoms. In the same way that your habits
took time to develop and become ingrained in the fabric of your daily life, it will
take time to change them and develop new ones. They say it takes twenty-one
days to assume a new habit. In actuality, it only takes a split second decision to
adopt a new habit. However, it does take twenty-one consecutive days of
practicing this new habit for it to replace the old one and to become a part of
your routine behavior.
Although old habits die hard, remember that they are learned behaviors and
anything that is learned can be unlearned. Through consistent effort and a clear
focus you have the ability to replace old non-supportive habits with those that
will guide and drive you towards your goals.
Keep on Pushing!

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