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Monday, July 29, 2013

Habit, Part 3

I don't have a scientific study with statistics to prove this, but using my own experience as a guide, the biggest obstacle and the most critical step in changing habit is thinking differently.  It's the slight change in thinking that says to take a second longer than I'm used to, a second longer than my habitual approach to whatever I'm struggling with, and in that one second, change can happen.

The one second isn't just breaking the old habit; it's the new habit that I'm starting.  That one second, or 5 or 10, disrupts the pattern that happens now without any thinking whatsoever, and all I need is a little hint, a little reminder, to get started.

What's that little reminder for you that says take just a second and think about what you're doing before you do it?  For me, it is literally reminding myself that habit requires change, and that if I'm unhappy with my habit, if my habit isn't serving me, no matter what kind of habit, this one second is the most important action I can take to begin and sustain that change.

I remind myself that no matter how hard it is at this moment, it's going to get easier and easier each time I honor that change.  And in the middle of struggle, remembering that things can actually get easier matters -hugely.  It matters that I'm moving closer to being the person I envision, that I'm proud of and content with how I'm behaving, and that I don't have shame or disappointment shadowing me.

It's not always easy, and I'm not always successful, but moving ever closer toward real and sustained change satisfies deeply.  There's such liberation in knowing that I'm more than a victim of deep, old habits, especially those created in response to my environment from even before I could make clear decisions.

If we're lucky, we have wise, understanding adults guiding us through the challenges of growing up.  But so much of the time, we are shaped by moments that we experience and process alone, and we are left to figure out how to care for ourselves, how to interact in ways that feel safe and secure. But those coping skills I developed as a child fail in the more nuanced world of adults.  I'm not a small child, and I'm not dealing with childhood circumstances.  So if my habits are that old, that unconscious, then for sure it's time to make some real changes, time to overcome some old habits.

So I'm trying to stay wide awake, to notice what is right in front of my face, and the obvious meaning in the obvious things..  There is subtle and hidden meaning, but there is also so much that is so obvious that we miss its meaning because we're so used to seeing it.  Sometimes the most invisible thing is the one you're so used to seeing that you don't even notice it's there. Pay attention.  I am.  And it's making a difference.

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