“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are to heavy to be broken” – Warren Buffett
Never a truer word.
Cuts like a knife doesn’t it?
For any of you who have struggled in the stranglehold of a nasty bad habit (yes, that means all of us!) then you’ll know just what devastation incarceration-by-bad-habit can bring.
What starts out innocently enough as a light handshake with our naughty indulgence, turns slowly and sneakily into a death grip. Whether it be maxing out our credit cards, spending too much time on Facebook, wolfing down junk food in the car on the way home from work, or downing the 4th, 5th and 6th glass of wine on a week night…. why the %#@!! do we keep doing it when we know better?
We’re intelligent, driven, hard-working humanoids, with a highly advanced consciousness and awareness thereof. We can build corporations, solve algorithms, and send men into space, but we battle to tear ourselves away from buying another lotto ticket. Surely, surely, surely if we just choose NOT to _____(Insert your bad habit here)___,then we should be able to STOP doing it. Easy peasy? But that’s not how it rolls.
How are we so strong and so weak? Are we that fucked up? Is it in our genes? Or perhaps we can blame the big bad modern world? Yes, that sounds right, we are victims of our environment!? We’re at the mercy of the stress of the crazy modern world right? The world/my boss/the kids … they drive me to ____(Insert your bad habit here)____ right?
Right. And Wrong.
Bad habits may well arise as a response to stress, but they are set in place over time through repetition, repetition, repetition. Dr Bruce Lipton (epigenetics and subconscious programming genius) says that all habits (repetitive behaviours) good and bad, are learnt much like learning to drive a car. What at first was consciously implemented, over time and with practice becomes a subconscious program – to such an extent that you can drive without conscious awareness that you’re driving. You can drive on autopilot.
So it is with bad habits. Once they’ve taken root in the subconscious mind, they will run on autopilot. So while your conscious mind is engaged elsewhere (thinking about the fight you just had, what’s for dinner, the endless ‘To Do List’ etc..), then your default programming reaches for the chocolate as a response to the stress stimuli.
If you catch yourself in the act, then you can stop the behaviour from rolling out, but the minute your conscious mind is distracted again (aka for 95% of the day) then your autopilot system takes over. And….unless we consciously practice a new habit to replace the old habit, then the existing default programe will run on repeat….repeat…repeat…. ad infinitum. The bad habit will stick UNTIL it is interrupted and replaced by a new habit.
Dr Lipton, explains that this tendency to run subconscious programmes is a good thing!! Our subconscious mind is built to take over business so that we can free up our conscious minds for creative thinking without having to worry ourselves with how to breathe or drive or walk or eat chocolate. Sadly the subconscious can’t distinguish between the good and the bad habits. It just runs the programmes without distinction or preference.
Is There a Quick Fix?
I know what you’re thinking…..because it’s what I thought:
If we’re like a computer and our subconscious is our hard drive, then is there a way to just do a quick defrag, re-format and re-programme? Like an upgrade that kicks in the minute we re-boot? Well, Yes, it would appear we can. Some people have instantaneously re-written deeply embedded bad habits via a high intensity experience like a spiritual awakening, a trauma, or a shock to the system. Unfortunately that’s not something that we can predict, control or instigate by sheer will.
A handful of scientists and psychologists have developed methods for quick subconscious reprogramming. It’s a new field and worth investigating. I would recommend that you check out Dr Lipton’s website and immerse yourself in the resources. The method that most intrigues me is Psych-K – a method of subconscious programming that can be done with a qualified instructor or at home with a friend.
The Tried and Tested Method
If you’re not willing to wait for a spiritual awakening then your best bet for kicking bad habits is the old fashioned way… determined, committed and goal-focused practice, practice and more practice of replacing a bad habit with a good one. This method is fool proof, BUT it takes time, patience and focus.
That’s a big “BUT” because time and patience and focus are rare in this fast-paced, time-squeezed, instant-gratification world that is constantly clamouring for our attention. Hardly surprising that we find it so hard to change our habits!
So, all in all … the GOOD NEWS is that changing bad habits is totally achievable!
The BAD NEWS is that it’s going to take time, patience and focus to re-program the subconscious mind.
To set yourself up for success in changing a bad habit my advice (from a wealth of experience, trust me!) is …
1. Keep it small. Keep it simple. Keep it doable.
2. Choose a new replacement habit that is something you like to do! Self-flagellation never got me anywhere.
3. Have a community of support and people to whom you are accountable.
Then … get started.
You have to get out of a bad habit the same way you got in…. repetition, repetition, repetition. So start implementing the new habit straight away. The sooner you start practising the new habit the closer you are to hard-wiring it into your system. Before you know it the new habit will become the default. Yay!!
And it will be effortless. Double Yay!!!
TWO BIG TIPS:
1. You MUST have a new habit – a new programme to overwrite the old one. You can’t simply just STOP a bad habit. There must be an alternative behaviour in place for the mind to default to instead of the bad one. No amount of “I won’t ever do that again” will override the program. You must have a new habit which you will need to practice, practice, practice.
2. Do not expect this to happen over night. Deeply ingrained habits take time to overwrite. Cultivate patience and “don’t quit before the miracle happens.” You didn’t learn to drive overnight. And you didn’t give up after the first stall.
So how long does it take to build a good habit (aka kick a bad habit)?
After 21 consecutive days the new habit will take root.
At 40 days the new habit is firmly set in, and starting to grow.
By 90 days the new habit has over-grown the old habit and is starting to bear fruit. 90 Days is the ‘industry standard’. 90 days will do the trick. Guaranteed.
90 days is a lot of days! It’s not for sissies.
If you are serious about implementing a new habit, then you need to be seriously dedicated to practising it.
Re-programming doesn’t come easy. But it does come.
Wishing you strength and joy on your re-programming journey.
And remember… MAKE IT FUN!
“The path to happiness should include some happiness”
– This blog has been inspired by many wonderful teachers. None of these thoughts are my own, though I can attest to their effectiveness from my own experience! These thoughts are a confluence of the thinking of many teachers who have brought me from addiction to recovery, including Tommy Rosen, Dr Bruce Lipton, Anthony Robbins, Dr Wayve Dyer and so many more.
Bad Habit vs Addiction
If your bad habit was developed as a response to a trauma or a series of small traumas – then you may have a real fight on your hands, and may need to look a little deeper for a solution. A deeply ingrained behaviour that you cannot stop on your own, despite numerous attempts, and that you “continue to do despite that it brings negative consequences” – that’s addiction. Addiction is the adult version of a Bad Habit. Addiction is ‘next level’ and requires a much more holistic approach to re-programming. Addiction must be attacked from every angle – dietary, spiritual, community etc… The 12 Steps is the most well known and successful format in beating addiction. I would argue though that The 12 Steps is just one component of the Recovery process. The 12 Steps in conjunction with numerous other tools like yoga, meditation, dietary changes, counselling etc. make recovery and transformation truly successful and sustainable.
If you think your bad habit has escalated into addiction then please go attend a 12 Step meeting ASAP and/or check out http://recovery2point0.com and sign up for their next FREE conference. Don’t hesitate to email me if you need any further advice or resources.