The Making & Breaking of Habits

Prometheus LogoBad Habits are not only unwanted house guests, but they bring all their noisy, rowdy, smelly, free-loading friends with them, and pretty soon the place is infested. Seems like whenever we think we’ve squashed one, another pops in and takes its place. The family portrait is looking crowded . . . wait, that was supposed to be a selfie . . . Who are all these people?

Those things are voracious breeders, too. Even rabbits look on in voyeurous envy.

January is the time when most of us make resolutions, and no matter the details, the song remains the same– ditch the no-good, chip munching, beer chugging, chain-smoking, late-sleeping habits. Mostly, we try the stomp method . . . see one, stomp it. Maybe they’re more like roaches than rabbits.

Dan John, among others, made an interesting observation that we can only handle one significant change at a time. Dropping a bad habit is a significant change. Developing a good habit is a significant change. We’ve tallied two, this could be a problem. The way we overcome this human shortcoming is through Prioritization & Substitution. It may be working backwards, but let’s start with substitution, since it’s already in our realm of familiar concepts.

Cutting out the empty sloth-inducing calories of soda works best when a substitute drink is handy. We wouldn’t opt out of a bad soda habit in favor of eternal thirst . . . no, we go for a water, tea, coffee, or whatever we need to work our Resolution Magic. Simple, but not easy. It still takes work, and work takes practice.

Prioritization takes a little more leg work, detective work, sleuthing. Our internal sense of priority might be to give up alcohol or smoking, and while this is indeed a noble cause, something else we do is rabidly breeding our psychological need. Not to say that these habits can’t be broken, but more than likely, they reside at the top of our bad habit food chains . . . meaning, they feed on lesser habits . . . habits we might not think are “as bad,” or might not register to give up.

Some studies have shown a formidable link between sugar consumption and alcohol consumption, for example. Rigorous experiences have shown an insurmountable link between boredom and smoking. Staying busy, or at least mentally engaged might be the prioritizing step to keep your fingers & lips outta the smoke packs. Cutting down or out sugar might be the trick to staving off excessive alcohol cravings. Start simple, work up.

We all took unique paths to get to our bad habits, and we’ll all have to butcher a unique path to get out. It may not be a pretty path, but the view from the clearing is worth it.

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