April showers, Spring Cleaning, Getting Rid of Bad Habits

SPRING CLEANING

GETTING RID

OF BAD HABITS

This article was originally published April 12th, 2011 by William C. Smith

"How many people are trapped in their everyday habits:
part numb, part frightened, part indifferent?
To have a better life we must keep choosing how we’re living."
- Albert Einstein

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Somewhere I read that if it wasn’t for the weather changing, 90% of people wouldn’t have any way of starting a conversation. And how do weather conversations tend to flow? Towards the negative – complaining about the weather. It’s too hot, cold, rainy, windy, etc. . .Why do most people complain about the weather? Because they realize they probably can’t do anything about it. And it’s easier to complain about something you can’t change than to actually do something about things you can change.
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April brings more signs of Spring! Renewal, April showers, Spring cleaning, planting gardens and flowers.
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Habits are like seeds you plant. If you plant weeds – such as dandelions, you’re going to get weeds growing in your yard. But when you plant flower seeds or vegetables seeds (zinnias or green beans) – you get flowers or vegetables. Some habits are bad like smoking or bad eating habits. And then there are good habits like brushing your teeth or healthy eating.

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"Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man,
but coaxed downstairs one step at a time." -- Mark Twain
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Since we’re talking about Spring time – let’s discuss some Spring cleaning – some techniques to get rid of some bad habits. . .Are you ready to commit (not just think about), but actually commit to changing that bad habit?
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If so, keep reading. If not, then go back to complaining about the weather that you can’t change, and stop complaining about the habits you can change. . .Let’s get started.
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First let’s define what a habit is. It’s an acquired, usually unconscious behavior (can be physical behavior or thought pattern) that has become so automatic that we usually do it without even thinking about it. . .
A couple of examples of good habits:
Brushing your teeth
Stopping at stop signs and looking both ways before starting through the intersection.
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A couple of examples of bad habits:
Smoking
Biting your fingernails. .
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You’ve probably heard the question, When’s the best time to plant a tree? The answer is 20 years ago.
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When’s the next best time? Today. . .
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When’s the best time to break a habit? The best time is as soon as you realized you were doing something that was unhealthy, bad, annoying to you – or something you just didn’t want to do anymore.. .You didn’t do it then, or you probably wouldn’t still be reading this, so the next best answer is NOW – today!
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Here are the steps to breaking a bad habit:
1 – Define the habit
2 – Make a list of pros and cons – what are the pros for stopping and the cons if you don’t
3 – Ask yourself if there are any secondary gains you get from the habit (we’ll talk about this a little later)
4 – Create a new “temporary” habit, or a pattern interrupt you can do when you catch yourself doing (or hopefully just before doing) the behavior you want to stop
5 – Decide if this is something you’re ready to stop now – suddenly, or something you may choose to gradually stop doing (why would you continue even another day if you’ve already decided you want to stop?)
6 – Be patient with yourself. If you catch yourself falling back into the old behavior, instead of saying “Oh well, what’s the use?” Get back on track. Don’t beat yourself up or be too hard on yourself. There are plenty of other people who will do that for you.
7 – Think of a reward for yourself – a healthy reward – not a double dip chocolate sundae on a brownie (did your mouth just start drooling? Mine did). .
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"Winners are those people who make a habit of doing
the things losers are uncomfortable doing." - Ed Foreman
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Let’s more clearly define the steps of changing bad habits into good ones or eliminating them.
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1 – Define the habit -- We’re going to be working with “Habit X”. When you read “Habit X”, in your mind, replace it with the habit you want to change or get rid of. For the sake of this discussion, let’s pretend you suck your thumb. I know, you probably don’t, or if you do, you probably don’t want to acknowledge that you do. Just pretend. OK? . .Let’s more clearly define it. Is it only the right thumb? Or only the left thumb? Or maybe even both, either separately or together. Is it only at night when you’re sleeping? Or during the day too? Or is it when you’re stressed?
2 – Pros and cons:
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Pros
· You like how it feels
· Maybe it tastes good
· You like the “wrinkled thumb” look
· Your husband / wife / boyfriend / girlfriend thinks you’re cute when you do it
· It reminds you of your happy childhood
· It’s a way of showing others they can’t tell you what to do or not to do – rebellion!
· Oh, and the big one – it helps you deal with stress!
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Cons
· You don’t like how you feel afterwards
· It really doesn’t taste that good anymore
· Maybe other people make fun of you, and don’t want to be around you when you do
· You feel more like a child than an adult
· You feel shame, disappointment with yourself, like you’re not an adult, but instead embarrassed
· And it actually causes more stress, at least long term
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3 – Secondary Gains
First, let’s define what a secondary gain is -- a perceived benefit that may, or may not, be recognized by the person on a conscious level.. .In the case of thumb sucking – it could be that other people don’t see you as an adult and therefore don’t hold you to adult standards and responsibilities. “Oh he / she sucks his / her thumb, I guess I couldn’t really expect him / her to be on time.”. .Or it distracts you from worries or problems and help you avoid facing problems or making decisions – you’re too busy sucking your thumb. . .Or maybe you get lots of gloves as gifts and you can either return them for the money or “re-gift” them to others. Yeah, stretching here. Maybe someone else can think of a better one.
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4 – Create new “temporary” habit. Why a “temporary” rather than a permanent habit? Because a “temporary” habit is really a pattern interrupt rather than establishing a true new habit. It’s something you can do – even something silly possibly – that will remind bring your awareness to the habit, cause you to stop and do the “temporary” habit, and then help you decide to consciously do what you want to stop doing, or let go of the habit. . .What would be an example of one you could do instead of sucking your thumb?
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You could squeeze your nose and making a horn type noise. But Will, that would be silly. People would laugh at me! And maybe even make fun of me! Uh, yeah! And don’t they laugh at you and make fun of you now? . .It would be silly to squeeze your nose and make a horn type noise – and it would maybe even cause you to laugh and think about how silly it is to suck your thumb. And besides, how long would it take to squeeze your nose and honk, as opposed to how long did you usually suck your thumb? 
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How about instead, if you caught your thumb going up to your face, you moved it away from your face, picked up a pen or pencil and wrote the words “silly habit”? OK, I know, excuses can be heard from miles around – you might be thinking – “What if I don’t have a pen or pencil or piece of paper to write it on? Use your finger and write it in the air. Oh, but people would see me and laugh!
OK – use your finger and write it on your leg – they’ll just think you’re scratching your leg. No excuses. Do you want to stop or not?
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Your turn – think of something – silly is best – that you could do instead of sucking your thumb that would be practical – running for five miles may not be practical each time. Eating a piece of candy may not be good – you might start putting on weight.
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5 – Decide if this is something you’re ready to stop now or later.. .Until you’re really ready and you’re really committed to ending this habit, you’re not going to do it. Part of this decision is made by the Pros and Cons and recognizing if there are any Secondary Gains. . .But the main thing is logically thinking, deciding, and then making a commitment to follow up – whether it’s stop now, or gradually stop. . .It needs to be your choice. Because you want to. Not because someone else tells you to. And when you’ve decided the Pros of stopping outweigh the Cons of continuing.
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6 – Be patient with yourself. Too many times, a person will be making good progress on getting rid of a bad habit, and they slip up once and what do they do? They tell themselves how useless it is, or how hard it is, or “I just can’t do this.” “I’m not strong enough” and then what do they do? They go back to the old habit and give up. . .Don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track. You may want to go through the check list again – but get back on track! . .Acknowledge you messed up. Pick yourself up and carry on. Let it go. DON’T beat yourself up. If it’s been three days since you last sucked your thumb. Pat yourself on the back for three days of success. And promise to make it at least four days next time.
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7 – Think of a reward for yourself – a healthy rewardDecide in advance what it’s going to be. A new CD, new shirt, pair of shoes, an afternoon at the park. . .Possibly you could decide to reward yourself by doing something you would be really proud of – make a donation to a charity. Do some volunteer work. Call a friend and tell them what you like most about them or give them a compliment.
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HINT -- You don’t really have to use one of the above as a means to reward yourself. You could just do it for the joy of helping someone else. If you make a donation to a charity – you could even do it anonymously.
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Also decide WHEN you’re going to reward yourself.
After you’ve been free of thumb sucking for a month? Three months? You decide what works for you.
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Maybe this could be a good time to start thinking about what you’ve already planted and what you want to plant in your Mind.
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And habits are controlled by your SubConscious Mind. . .Decide to get rid of those bad habits that you’re unhappy with and maybe start thinking about new habits you want to create that will increase your happiness level.
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Plant the seeds of positive habits now and dig up those weeds of negative habits.
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It’s time for Spring cleaning your Mind Garden.
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And that’s my story and I’m sticking with it! .
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Now think of someone else who would benefit from reading this article and forward it to them! Just imagine how good you’ll feel.

My professional office is located in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex. And I am available to travel (at your expense) worldwide for individual and group programs. I am also available for Video Skype Sessions

Copyright 2010 All rights reserved.

Would you like to use this article in your magazine, e-zine, newsletter, or website? You can, as long as you include this complete statement with it: William C. Smith, Alpha Process Coach, BCH, CI, Author, Speaker, Trainer. Are you ready to discover how to get from where you are to where you want to be? Then go to http://coachwilliamcsmith.blogspot.com And check out his websites too!

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