The key to breaking a bad habit

Henry Ford once said “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.

Does it feel like you’re going round and round the same old destructive habit that you’d love to finally be free of? Perhaps it’s an angry outburst that’s left another relationship in tatters, or a binge eating or drinking session that has you wracked with guilt for the umpteenth time, or maybe your habit of lying or stealing has left you out of a job – again. If you’re frustrated at getting what you’ve always got, perhaps it’s time to try something different.

Sometimes we don’t even know why we do something and perhaps that’s where we need to start – by asking “why”.

One Sunday morning a young girl watched as her mom prepared the roast for lunch. When, as per usual, her mom sliced a small piece of the roast off at one end before placing it into the roasting dish, the little girl asked why she always cut that piece of meat off. Her mother didn’t know but she’d always seen her own mom do it. When she asked her mom why she’d always cut a small piece of the Sunday roast off, she said it was because her mom had always done it. It turns out that her mom always cut that small piece of the roast off so it could fit into her roasting dish, which was too small.

Generations had come and gone before one little girl finally asked “why” and I imagine the family no longer cut off and waste a piece of the Sunday roast.

When it comes to overcoming destructive habits, virtual mentor Michael Hyatt refers to the metaphor of the pin oak tree. This tree keeps its leaves during the winter months and when the leaves die in the autumn, they remain attached to the oak’s branches until the new leaves appear in the spring and push the old ones off the branch.

Now you could remove these leaves by hand, but that would just be silly. The leaves come off on their own when new growth appears in the spring.

Bad habits are similar. You can focus on eliminating them. Or, you can focus on developing positive habits. When you do this, you will naturally, and more easily, remove the bad habits.

Psychologists refer to this as sublimation.

You could for example focus on:

  • Eating tasty, fresh vegetables instead of eliminating junk food
  • Drinking eight glasses of water a day instead of cutting down on your coffee intake
  • Complimenting your spouse instead of breaking your pattern of arguing
  • Reading more books instead of cutting down the time you spend surfing the Internet
  • Praying for what you need instead of worrying about what you don’t want
  • Intentional relaxing rather than smoking
  • Taking up hiking rather than changing your sedentary lifestyle

The point is to focus on building a good habit rather than eliminating a bad one. Do just one thing differently and begin to see a change for the good.

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