- Mental Health
The Power of Habits
Habit, n, a shackle for the free.— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
I have often said that habits are the most powerful force in the world. I then qualify that by saying; at least to you habits are the most powerful force in the world. Habits start off innocently enough. When we first take an action, we consult our belief system to make sure the action is in accordance with our core values. But each time we repeat the action, it becomes more an integral part of who we are. Eventually we come to accept that the action is totally okay and we no longer consult our belief system. We react out of habit.
It is estimated that 95% of the things we do, we have done before. Most of the things we do, we do out of habit. We take the same route to work; we shop at the same stores and often eat at the same restaurants. We even get in the habit of buying the same styles and colors. In short we are creatures of habit.
In some instances this is okay. We don't have to think about the everyday routine things we do in life. However you need to understand that when you do things out of habit, you are giving up control of your life. You no longer question if the activity is good for you. This can be a very damaging activity. You can get into a routine (some might call it a rut) and never learn or grow. Habits are extremely limiting. They keep us doing what we have always done.
If you expect to achieve your goals in life, you need to understand the power of habits. If you think about it, I am sure you will come to the same conclusion that I have - namely that habits are the most powerful force in the world. However, you can choose if you want to be the slave of habits or have them work for you. Most things you do in life will become habits. You will do them without conscious thinking. So what is the answer? It is quite simple. Make sure you develop good habits. If you are going to be a slave to habits, make sure you have good habits that will help you work toward your goals.
Use Your Habits for Good
What are some good habits to develop? Daily reading would be an excellent habit to develop. Daily exercise would be another. If you really want to save time you could combine the two. For example you could read while exercising on a stationary bike. I recommend 30 minutes a day. Further, you should do it first thing in the morning. If you promise yourself that you are going to exercise and/or read in the evening, you will find the majority of times something comes up to interfere with your planned activity. But if you wake up half an hour early, you will be able to complete your reading and exercise without interruption.
It is easy to underestimate the power of reading. First if you read just 30 minutes per day and you are an average reader, you will probably read about 20 books per year. It has been estimated that the average American reads less than one non-fiction book per year. Think how much further ahead you will be than the average person. It has also been estimated that for each non-fiction book you read, you will increase your earning power by at least $1,000 dollars. This can add up to quite a sum over a 15 to 20 year period.
It is also very helpful to give up television. Most people watch way too much television. This is a passive activity. Unless you are watching good educational programs, the sitcoms and reality shows will do very little to help you reach your goals. Almost everyone complains of a shortage of time. Yet most people spend a few hours per day with their eyes glued to the TV. How much of that TV time could be turned into productive learning time?
You need to become aware of the power that habits have in your life. You also need to examine which habits are keeping you in a rut and what you can do to get out. As everyone knows, it is extremely difficult to break a habit. A more productive approach is to design a behavior that will replace the habit. For example if you are hooked on watching TV, develop the habit of reading or meditating. Find something more powerful than the habit you want to replace. If you are finding it difficult to break a habit, you will want to develop some strong emotional attachment to the new behavior you are trying to adopt. Give yourself an emotional reason to adopt a new habit. It could be the self-satisfaction you will get when you have fully implemented the new habit.
While it is true that nothing is stronger than habit, there is nothing that says that all habits are bad. You are going to have habits. You will be a slave to your habits. Make sure that you have a good master. That your habits are leading you toward your goals. If you don't you will let your bad habits rule your life.
You must accept that you have total control of your thoughts and your thoughts lead to your circumstances. If you wish to change your circumstances, you must start with changing your thoughts.
© 2008 John Chancellor