How old are you? What have you been doing? I can probably guess everything about your day today. Everything that you did up until now was because of your habits. You were sleeping on your favourite position, which is a habit, and then you woke up around a certain time, which is another habit. And then you may have checked your phone to check your messages, which is another habit. Then from there, your whole morning routine is a habit.
Now can you imagine how powerful habits are. Habits rule your entire life, from the moment that we wake up to the moment that we get into our favourite sleeping position. Now, just think to yourself, how many of those are bad habits and how many of those are good habits. By noticing what we are doing, and to know whether it’s good or bad, gives us an opportunity to change our lives for the better.
How Hard is it?
How hard is it to sleep in an unfamiliar position? How hard is it to use your opposite hand? What is most comfortable to us is our habit and it’s either making us or breaking us. Just imagine feeling stressed. Just imagine smoking. Just imagine eating fast food everyday. Habits can be emotional habits or behavioural. The cause of behavioural habits are due to emotional habits. Therefore, everything stems from the mind, with the thoughts.
Habits are ingrained in the ways that you think, the ways that you look at the world. Ask yourself: What is normal to you? What is normal to you is your habit. And if you notice carefully, everybody’s normal is different. Everybody was raised in different ways and were taught and perceived different beliefs and grew up and matured in our very own ways. That is why each of us is unique. Each person is different, each with their own habits.
Your Neural Pathways
Habits were created in our youths. We pile on what we got accustomed to doing and kept on doing it. Then as we learned to figure out life in our very own ways, we got more and more stuck in our ways. It is a skill to not get caught in a routine, to just stop what you’ve been accustomed to and then start something new. The major breakthrough starts with understanding your neural pathways.
The more that you think of it and the more that you do it, the more your neural pathways will be widened. It’s very similar to a hiking trail. The busy trails are obvious and open because many people cross those trails trampling and taking out the plants that are on that path. The less popular trails vanish because nobody enters there and the bushes and the trees grow over it. This is the same as your neural pathways in your brain. The more that you use them, the more permanent these pathways become.
To attain a new skill, one must walk through that less popular trail enough times that it becomes wider and wider. Then to stop a habit, one must stop crossing that path and thus allow the bushes and the trees to cover the ground. This always takes time of course. That’s why changing habits takes so much effort and time. It doesn’t happen in one day, it happens over a course of several months, or in some cases a couple years.
My Big Change: When I Stopped Smoking
A real life example that I’ll use is me stopping smoking cigarettes. I have been smoking for 24 years and I have finally decided to quit smoking 2 years ago. Now, check this: I have been smoking cigarettes since I was 12 years old. Now I am 36. Smoking was a big part of my life and my identity. I’d smoke in the morning right after I’d eat breakfast and go grab a coffee. I’d take a break from work and smoke. I’d light up a cigarette the moment I begin to drive. I loved smoking when my favourite song went on. And I can go on and on.
Now that I’ve completely stopped smoking, that energy is now being used for something else. In the beginning it was tough as it was a constant battle everyday. To fill up those gaps, those moments where I used to smoke was such a tedious task. Each time I’d be craving a cigarette, I just told myself to wait, wait, and think of something else, and then to do something else. I started doing push ups when I wanted to smoke. I started to practice this Wim Hoff Breathing Technique when I wanted to smoke. I started to spring and run whenever I wanted to smoke. But now I finally quit. Quitting smoking has shaken up my life. Now I do things differently from what I was used to before and this was because of sheer necessity, the necessity to change.
Before when I was still smoking, I’d wake up, go downstairs, make some coffee, and go have a cigarette. Now when I wake up, I do 3 sets of push ups and squats, do some Wim Hoff Breathing, then meditate, then take a cold shower. I turned all of the pent-up energy that I had from quitting smoking into physical exercise. I just had to channel that energy because if that energy didn’t have an outlet, I would have ended up exploding and stumbling back onto the habit of smoking.
It took at least 4 months to be able to just function normally. Now I don’t even think about it. It’s only been 2 years so I don’t want to jinx it but this is the longest that I have quit smoking in all of my years. Ever since I changed this tiny bad habit, my life has changed tremendously. Now I am much healthier, have more energy, and have more persistence and confidence in attaining my goals.
You Can Do It Too
The intention here is to build the habits to make you the person that you desire to be. This all starts with your thoughts because your thoughts gets translated into actions. If you change the way you think by looking at yourself and the world differently, your habits will change, thus changing your character. Do you know what your habits are? Just take a look at your life. What is the first thing that you do every morning? As you closely examine your life and what you are doing every second, you will notice that you are a habitual being.
By realizing what you are unconsciously doing throughout the day, you now have the power to change them. Write down what your habits are and then separate them into 2. What are the good habits that you have? What are the bad habits that you have? The game we are going to play here is to create an action plan for all of the bad habits that you have. We are then going to replace those bad habits with good habits.
Write down your bad habit and create an action plan so that you know which course of action to take whenever you’re thinking of doing it. Write down as many alternative ways to stop yourself from doing that bad habit. Then as you experiment through trial and error, find one or two ways in which you can successfully counter that bad habit. When you catch yourself doing that bad habit, you are very close. Now all you need to do is to find the scenario when that bad habit is bound to happen. This is called the trigger. Avoid what triggers you in the beginning until that habit fades and gets replaced with a newer healthier habit.
Make sure that that alternative way to stop yourself from doing that bad habit is healthy and sustainable. Once this is confirmed, you can replace that bad habit with that alternative way in which you chose to stop that bad habit. And from there your life will change with a new way of thinking realized. Just make sure that those new habits are actually long-term and sustainable.
Every time that you replace a bad habit with a good habit, you are getting one step closer to your goals. The first bad habits that you must correct are your thinking habits. How do you look at the world? How do you perceive yourself? Everything starts from the mind so once you know how to control that, you can learn how to change all of your actions, which in turn changes your habits, then your character, then your destiny.