In Part II of our discussion of habits, we’ll look at four more aspects of human habit: Body, I, Time and Social Support.
Body: Have you ever forgotten your watch at home only to spend the day looking down at your wrist because it still feels like you are wearing the watch? To your body, it feels as if a watch is really there! Even with no physical watch present, your body’s expectation, or habit, of feeling a watch is fulfilled. In a similar way, all habits are stored in your body in some way. Depression has a posture. Anger has a tone of voice. Confidence has a breathing pattern. In each case, the body actively participates in the habit even if the habit itself is not overtly physical. To learn where how your body stores your negative habits, answer the following questions.
When I engage in my limiting habit patterns,
1. How do I breathe? How does the tone of my voice change?
2. What is my posture like? What gestures do I typically use?
3. Where do I feel tension in my muscles? What allows me to release this tension?
4. How does my body react when I am the most powerful? Successful? Capable?
5. How does my body react when I feel the most vulnerable? Weak? Confused?
I: I simply stands for the Self, the core of a person’s identity, the utterly essential aspects of the individual. Do not confuse this with being selfish or egocentric. In fact, the most defining traits of some people may be their abilities to connect with others, to cooperate and to be social. Still, whatever characteristics set an individual apart from the pack, their uniqueness deserves respect. If you pay lip service to ideals you have trouble acting on, then you aren’t being yourself…at least not your habitual self…when you do act according to your ideals. To decide whether or not your habits allow you to be yourself, ask these questions.
1. How much of my day do I spend doing and saying things that honor my highest Self?
2. Do my current habits reflect my core beliefs and core values?
3. Do I feel powerful and capable when I am engaging in my current habits?
4. Who is the person I really want to be? How can I become that person? Do I often stand in her way?
Time: Habits are affected by time in at least three distinct ways. First, we spend time actually engaging in our habits. Whether our primary habits are distance running and healthy eating, or Internet surfing and potato chip scarfing, our habits literally consume our time.
Second, certain times of the day, week, month and year can make us more apt to succumb to negative habits. For example, someone who is not a morning person might have a shorter fuse if angered before 9am. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it is often difficult to just live in the present. Dreams of the future or nostalgia for the past can themselves be habits of escape from the demands of the moment. To analyze the role time plays in your current habits, answer the following questions.
1. How much time do my negative habits take up in a given day? Week? Month? Year?
2. Are there certain times of the day or seasons of the year when I am more likely to act on my negative habits?
3. Do I spend a lot of my time dwelling on the past? Do I spend a lot of my time dreaming about the future?
4. How can I begin to live my life as it is right now instead of escaping into my dreams or memories?
Social Support: Socialization refers to the influence exerted on our habit development by those with whom we share our lives. This group is not only made up of family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances. It is also includes our beloved pets, the gods we worship and celebrities we admire from afar. In a world of computers, cars, plasma TV’s and cell phones, many people actually interact more frequently with things than with humans. In any case, the central issue here is whether we socialize in ways that will improve us or hinder (perhaps even harm) us. To determine how your social life affects your habit life, answer the following questions.
1. With whom or what do I socialize when I am most vulnerable to my negative habits?
2. Who or what prompts me to act on my negative habits even when I do not feel any inner desire to do so?
3. Do I have social relationships that discourage me from making the changes I want to make?
4. What social relationships could support me as I attempt to change my habits?
With a better sense of how your limiting habits operate in these six powerful areas, the next step is to determine why you are still hanging onto these habits. If you have sustained a habit for a long time, it is almost certainly giving you a positive payoff in at least one of these six areas. Something keeps you coming back for more. The next step, then, is to a) find the payoffs that attach you to your current habits, and b) devise practical, simple strategies to break free of these habits once and for all! Upcoming posts in will show you how to do just that!
Dr. Janice Staab is a philosophical counselor and life coach. For more information on her services or to schedule your free consultation, e-mail email@example.com. You can also check out her Web site at www.lifesignscoaching.com.