Habits: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. –Aristotle
My husband emailed me a great article on forming new habits (http://zenhabits.net/sticky/). My first thought… what is he trying to tell me? My next thought… I don’t really want to know!
The first part of the article talks about all the ways we revert to old patterns, even when we acknowledge we want to create new habits. And boy oh boy, could I relate to this part of the article. Skipping a day of exercise turns into a week, and before I know it I haven’t seen the inside of my gym in months. And then the whole starting over process… just thinking about it is so painful that I can almost convince myself that I am happy with the way things are. And when I contemplate the number of times I have “started over” with my exercise regime, it becomes so overwhelming, it feels like I should just give up, because I have no long-term track record of success.
So that part of the article was a tad depressing.
But then, I read on to the second part of the article, which talks about how to create a habit from the ground up. Simple advice that we have all heard before… start with one very specific habit, and make no other changes in your life besides the one habit. Make the smallest possible change, but stick with that small change every single day. Be accountable by talking to other people about your decision to acquire this habit. Monitor negative self-talk; in other words, don’t talk yourself out of believing you can make this change. Reward yourself regularly for sticking with the new habit.
When I read the second part of the article, it sounded familiar, because it is very much a part of my recovery story. I have shared more times than I can count what I did in my days in early recovery… I prayed, I went to meetings, I talked to other alcoholics, and I refrained from picking up a drink or drug. One specific habit, several very small action steps, but I did them every single day, and I talked about the importance of doing them with anyone who would listen. And, over time, the rewards for this newly acquired habit… well, I would need a separate blog to detail all the rewards.
Here’s the upside to creating a habit, and one I would do well to remember any time I debate about going to the gym: if you do it often enough, it becomes second nature, and gets to the point where you miss it when it’s gone. Circumstances were such this week that I went two days without going to a 12-step meeting. By the third morning (today), I woke up, realized that my schedule was free, and could not wait to get there. Now, the day I am able to report this behavior with respect to exercise… well, it will be a glorious day indeed!
Unrelated to the subject matter at hand, today I am grateful for running water, and the miraculously talented family member who came to my rescue when the water was not running!
Related to the subject matter at hand, reading the article, then getting up from the computer, getting in the car, and driving to the gym… it’s a miracle!