The things we do on a regular, everyday basis make up the bulk of our lives. They affect our health, sense of happiness and level of success. Bad habits make us sluggish, and they make us feel guilty. Good habits create new ways of existing. They forge new paths on our journey to where we want to go.
Good habits form a new arrangement of your life, and as such they are the troops that can power through to help you reach your goals. Good habits extend our range as functioning people. Conscious effort is required, however, to form these positive outcomes. Habits also happen from inaction, from not doing anything.
Repetition and Good Habits
Continued repetition builds the structure of your life. It can be intentional or accidental. The longer we do something, it loses its intensity until we hardly notice we are doing it. Whatever pleasure or pain was associated with the activity dulls, and yet through habit the thing becomes unthinking. It becomes necessary to our life. We don’t hate it or love it, but we cannot do without it.
Actions become easier the more they are repeated. Long ingrained habits almost seem to do themselves. We are not really aware we are doing them. This applies to both physical habits and mental habits. Take notice of which habits in your life are building a positive structure and which ones are counter to that.
Habits of Ideas and the Imagination
Ideas and the imagination are shaped by habits as well. Passive habits cause our imagination to be less colorful, less original, more rote. Imagination that is active builds increasing energy, and it creates more connections between ideas. The connections or associations of thoughts are really habits, and these habits are what build our memories. The ideas you think about most and give the most energy to become the dominant memories in your mind. In essence they become your reality.
The more passive this stream of ideas becomes, the less you are able to make good judgments. Habit takes over and you make decisions because you always react the same way. We then see what we want to see, believe what we want instead of what is true.
Intentional Habits: ways to shape your path
- Generosity: Kindness grows by practicing it. Giving to others becomes easier with repetition.
- Intuition: Your inner higher voice becomes stronger with use as well. The human soul has remarkable abilities to govern itself, to restrain itself, to motivate itself, but it must be developed. So many of us have suppressed that part of ourselves out of habit.
- Greed and Desire: Habits become automatic and things that we enjoy can turn from pleasures into wants and then we persuade ourselves they are needs. The extreme extension of this is harmful addiction, but we all get caught in this trap on smaller levels. Awareness, being aware of the present moment, is the key to preventing these habits from becoming ingrained.
- Love and Anger: Where do our impulses come from? When we liek or dislike someone or something so thoroughly and quickly? It is from the repetition of our thoughts and ideas, that when left unchecked, form judgments. We will never escape human prefrences, nor can we override a lifetime of habitual ideas, but we can take a deep breath and look beyond the immediate reaction.
- Energy:Love, anger and all of our feelings are driven by energy. New circumstances, new places, new people, new ideas increase energy. It is when energy becomes stagnant that we fall back on whatever habits have been created. Strive to keep new ideas and challenges in your life to keep things moving.
- Following a model: Rote learning is mechanical. We repeat the same act over and over, copying someone else. We cease to think about the reason why the thing was done this way, if we ever bothered to ask at all. Models are good beginning points as we need to know where to start. Mkae sure you don’t lose site of why you chose that method to begin with.
- Reflection: When you find yourself feeling bored, stuck, lethargic or in any way feeling out of sorts, stop and think about what you are doing and why. The purpose behind a good activity will carry you forward. The absurdity of doing something counter to your goal will become apparent very quickly and you can laugh at yourself and do something more intentional.
Not all habits are bad. Not all habits are good. Some habits are neither good nor bad. The thing that is certain is that the longer a habit has been ingrained in your mind, the more it has been repeated, the harder it will be to change.
Habits can make it easier to get through difficult times. Habits can make it easier to become healthier, more friendly. Study habits help us learn new skills. Good hygiene habits help us stay healthy and socially acceptable. Housekeeping habits help us stay safe and comfortable in our homes.
When we identify an unhelpful or negative habit, our first impulse is to try to get rid of it immediately. Think about how long you have been doing the thing, how much energy (both active and passive) has gone into creating the habit, and you will see that a cold turkey, strict program of virtue may not be the best set up for success.
For myself, I have learned that big sudden changes to deeply ingrained patterns of behavior are virtually impossible. I have to remind myself to set aside the idea of perfection and set short goals. I tell myself that any improvement is better than none. Being aware that what I am doing is not helping me achieve the results I want in life gets the mind going, but won’t change very much in itself.
One technique I use when I identify some ideal I want to achieve is to think, what would I need to do this?
- If I say I want to exercise daily, I know I will need self discipline. Then I have to think how do I build self discipline? What do I need to build in my life to make that discipline likely to stick?
- I also have to be honest with myself about where I am now. In the exercise example, I know I will not be able to work at the level of an advanced athlete right away. I have to start where I am now. I have to understand that getting where they are takes time. Find stories of people who have gotten where you want to go, and chances are you will see that it took a lot of time and effort for them to get there.
So I work backward and create the steps until I get to a step that I can do now. And I start working forward. Build the foundation skills that you need to do the things you want. Habits are very difficult at first , but they get easier with repetition.