Creature of Habit

Whether I like it or not, I am a creature of habit, especially in the morning. A habit is a little oasis of comfort in my day. I know exactly how to do something and there are never surprises with habits. I repeat the same mini routine the same way and I get the same outcome. It feels deliciously, smugly comfortable. Oh, and don’t let anyone mess with my little habit. I find myself getting defensive, even aggressive, as I try to protect my comfort zone.

There are two classes of habits, good habits and bad habits. Both are formed in the same way, through repetition. By repeating a sequence over and over again, it becomes programmed into our sub-conscious. If you have taught a child how to tie their shoelaces, you will know how complex the task is. Trying to co-ordinate all those fingers and the two laces takes huge concentration but when was the last time you had to put any energy into that task? Now it is quick and easy, a habit, a program run by the sub-conscious which leaves you free to chat or think about where you are going to find the car keys.

What we think, what we feel and what we do form our reality. This is a comforting thought when it comes to the good stuff in life. If the way we do things gives us positive results then we want to be able to repeat those good results. A habit does just that. It enables us to repeat a “dance” of specific thoughts, emotions and physical movements which result in a desired outcome, with very little energetic input on our part. When last did you have to think about which bunny ear goes where when tying your shoelaces?  You still think the same thoughts but your brain does it all automatically in the background. Habits, by nature, take very little conscious thought, very little energetic input, and so, are more easily done. Being “in the habit” of doing exercise every day makes it easy to get out of bed and out the door for your run. It’s after a holiday that you feel more effort; you have to fight a little harder with yourself to get out and do.

Many of our habits are so ingrained, there is little to no conscious awareness when we do them. Have you ever gone cold with the thought that you have no recollection of closing the door as you left for work. Your thoughts were elsewhere and your subconscious closed up for you, locked the door, got into the car and started driving down the road.

Habits give us a repeatable, dependable outcome. They are a wonderful strategy for change in your life. If we are in the habit of thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same emotions and doing the same things every day, then our life will be same every day. If we want a different outcome, we need to change our habits, make new ones. Sometimes it is easier to start a new habit of NOT doing something. If you don’t want to eat chocolate every day, make a habit of not buying chocolate. If you want to move more, than maybe you need to think of NOT MOVING less; less TV, less Facebook, less Instagram.

Habits are always hard to begin with but with repetition, practice, it gets easier with time. Motivate yourself by thinking of the outcome, how your life will change if you do this today. How will life be in a few years’ time if you DON’T do this now? The choice is yours to make. The habit is yours to begin.

Wishing you luck in your new endeavours, start today and Keep Moving.

Lessons from a Bicycle

How often do we use the saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle”? It is usually used when we need to do something which we haven’t done in ages and it’s meant to portray the idea that once we have learnt something, we never forget how to do it. There is a gentle smugness that comes with this, a confidence born of experience, the evidence of which provides safe, secure feelings. This side of a lesson learnt is so easy and comfortable that we often forget how it felt on the other side, the before side, when we didn’t know how.

Not many of us remember those first attempts at riding a bicycle. We may, if conscious enough, realize the skill it takes when teaching our children to ride. Training wheels have made it easier but before training wheels… We froze with fear, fell, tumbled, wobbled, crashed, kissed the dirt, and landed in rose bushes. Physically we got cut, scraped, bruised, bumped, grazed and sometimes even broke. Emotionally we laughed with nerves, cried with pain, yelled with frustration, giggled with embarrassment and eventually crowed with delight. Throughout this process we were drawn forward by the thrill of what life would be like if we could ride that bicycle. Nothing could distract us from our mission. Our imagination kept us focused on the goal, the rush of wind in our face from our daring speed, the power of being able to drive and control this glorious machine and the freedom it symbolized. It didn’t take long to realize that if we wanted to stay on top of this sensational ride, we had to keep moving. The minute you stopped moving forwards, you fell off, the ride ended and so did the rush.

As we grow older we hang up the bicycle and forget the lessons it teaches us. We get so caught up in our fear of learning new things that we deny ourselves the dream. We see the cuts and bruises, the grazes and the breaks. We imagine the frustration, humiliation, pain and embarrassment we will feel if we fail or don’t “get it” quickly enough.  We convince ourselves that it is not worth the effort to change because we have forgotten that the other side of learning, the “I did it” side, holds the reward of the rush, the power, the control. So we stay where we are, sitting on a wall, feet dangling while we watch others on their “bicycle of life”. We envy them, what they have, how much fun they are having and we wallow in our misery. We see only their rush, not their tumbles, and we grumble that they have it so easy. We convince ourselves we can’t do it, give ourselves really good reasons why it won’t work, satisfying ourselves that it is beyond our control, so not our responsibility even to try. We stay stuck.

Habits are patterns of behaviour which keep us feeling safe. But habits also keep us living the same day over and over again. If you want a better more fulfilling life you need to do things differently. You need to learn new ways of doing things. We can only grow through change, because let’s face it, you cannot grow and stay the same, they are flip sides of the coin, like light and dark, speeding and standing still. Make each day different by doing small things differently. Walk a different route, drink from a different cup, sit in a different chair. Your quest doesn’t have to be as huge as learning to ride a bicycle. You can start with small steps, one small change every day.

Decide what it is you want and keep focused on the ride, the rush of achievement.  When you tumble or land in a rosebush, get up and keep trying. Remember that if you want to reach your goal, if you want to feel the wind in your face as you ride down new roads, you will have to learn, change, grow and always keep moving…