Saturday, March 9, 2013

Creatures of Habit

"The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken." ~ Samuel Johnson

     All of us have habits, both good and bad. A habit is a noun which means; a pattern of behavior acquired through frequent repetition. Obtaining and maintaining habits in our lives is, well, just a part of life. Yet, once again, a habit is one of those two edged swords that can make you or break you. A habit can be one of your greatest servants or one of your worst task masters. "Nothing is stronger than habit." (Ovid) As Samuel Johnson said in the quote above, the smallest of repeated behaviors we do can and will eventually turn into a way of life. Though seemingly minuscule in its beginnings, the behavior grows into a stronghold that is not easily broken. Once a habit is entrenched within our psyche's, our life is framed by those things we habitually do. The famous author, Stephen Covey said, "Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character." The fact of the matter is our habits are a reflection of who we are and the thoughts we have held dear to our souls. When we do something, for the most part, it is not some spontaneous effort or idea, but the way we react is nothing more than a composite of our habits. As creatures of habits, we can only act according to the those patterns we have consistently adhered to from our youth into adulthood.

     We are but a walking harvest of our habits! Think of the myriad of behaviors we do on a daily basis. How did you first begin this behavior? Why did you begin to do this behavior? Those behaviors just didn't happen. As Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." Somewhere long ago, in response to a situation in life, we began to will ourselves to act in a certain way, and now those acts are entrenched themselves into our way of living. "Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables." (Spanish Proverb) You see, we first make our habits, then in the end our habits make us. Its not that we consciously wish to have bad habits but they sneak up on us, until we become their slaves.

     Lets get one thing clear. Most of the time, when habits are discussed, its always discussed within the context of being a bad thing. Habits are a necessary way of getting things done in life. Habits make us predictable and allow a certain stability to operate in our lives. But habits are not neutral, and can only take on the persona we give them within the context of our life's daily routines. Vincent Lombardi said, "Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."

     Let me give you a personal for instance of a habit in my life. For years, I was an advocate of eating healthier, and taking supplements to help with our health, but there was a a thing I avoided at all costs when it came to health. This thing is called EXERCISE! Though every time I read books and articles about healthy living, the word, exercise, was a key component to bringing healing to the body. I always had an excuse to why I couldn't exercise. One day, at about the age of 37, I was laying sick in bed. I realized just eating a decent diet and taking supplements, obviously wasn't enough. So began a journey to change a bad exercising to exercising. From a mind set of habitually being repulsed and finding every reason in the book to not exercise to changing my life into a habit of routinely exercising was not an easy task. I have always told people they can't just stop a bad habit by doing nothing. There must be a good habit ready to replace a bad habit or at least a desire to acquire a new habit to take the place of the bad one. Desiderius Erasmus said, "A nail is driven out by another nail. Habit is overcome by habit." Deep down, I truly disliked how I felt about myself and where I was going. I did not like my bad habit of non-exercise. (Who really likes their bad habits?) So, I stepped into the odyssey of overcoming the bad with the good. I bought a treadmill! But guess what? Purchasing a treadmill did not break my bad habit of no exercise! Soon my inspired purchase was a very nice coat rack rather than a bad habit buster I had bought it do for me! Yep, that's right, the treadmill didn't do a thing for me... except drain my wallet of a monthly payment. Oh yeah...and every time I walked past my high tech coat rack, I could swear it laughed and taunted me with snide remarks!

     So let me just lay it on the line here! The only way to overcome a bad habit is to replace the bad habit with something good, and this takes EFFORT and WORK. I try to tell people if they can do the good for at least three consecutive weeks, then you have a great possibility of breaking the chains of the bad habit. You can pull down the strongholds that keep you from obtaining the desires of your heart. It was a bumpy road to victory for me, but here I sit, writing this article (eleven completed marathons and one fifty mile ultra marathon later) trying to inspire you to believe it can be accomplished, IF you put your mind to it! It took me awhile to finally die to live, but when I did die out to my lazy ways, and began to exercise on a consistent basis, something great happened. I realized how great I felt. I realized it wasn't as difficult as my imaginations had made exercise out to be. I came to many realizations concerning the power of habits and their control over our lives. I won't lie to you, do I struggle from time to time with my exercise...sure, but it doesn't take me long to remind myself of all the good it does for me and how I feel when I conquer the myriad of voices that call me back to my cave of apathy.

An ancient proverb says, "Good habits are formed from resisting temptation." You must begin to resist the temptation to stay in the bed of ease LONG ENOUGH to run into through the finish line of successful doing! Quit thinking you can't break the bad habit and step into the power of today! TODAY is the day when you drop apathy like a bad habit! Today is the day you begin to break that bad habit one chain link at a time!

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