Humans are creatures of habit, as famously quoted. In fact, we are conditioned to the lives we live. Need proof? When’s the last time you felt that surreal feeling of novelty? From brushing our teeth right as we wake up to finishing the night with a television series, we grow accustomed to our usual behavior. Since our brain recognizes the routine, it starts to run on auto-pilot. Unfortunately, since we are on auto-pilot, we can also fall into our habits without consciously being aware of it. We grab for the tooth brush or flip on the TV instinctively. The problem isn’t the habits are ingrained in us as much as they often lead to lives that we no longer consciously choose. We become identified with our routine. “It’s just what I like to do” is the usual rationalization. However, if you had been practicing something else long enough, that too would have become part of your perceived identity. That’s why we have to live life deliberately. Not all the time of course, at least not at first. Going from a brain fog to a sense of complete awareness, patterning out every movement would be too radical a change for you to handle at once. Instead, what we must do is insert a road block in our thinking where we want to make changes or new decisions. It helps to think a little bit about what you could better use that time for. For example, flipping on the television at night might be a coping mechanism after a long day but maybe now you’ve decided to practice meditation, or stretching in the morning after you brush your teeth. Something has to interrupt the pattern, and that can be a note to the self, an alarm, or simply powering off the TV for an extra thirty minutes or waking up twenty minutes earlier. That void in your usual schedule will give you the time to think about what you do next. Chances are that you’ve become accustomed to running from one thing to the next. Waking up at 6:30am, brushing your teeth, cooking breakfast, reading the newspaper, and then making the commute to work. Now that you’re up at 6:00am, your schedule is interrupted. Now you’ve got this space that you have to fill. The process is the same for replacing habits as well. Pattern interrupts are as simple as every time you feel the inertia to begin watching TV you take that same energy and walk to your private zone to meditate. Eventually the force of habit will make this feel natural rather than uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Perhaps the most important thing to recognize is that your whole life is mostly habit, and looking over it with a fine tooth comb is the way to change. Your vocabulary, the body language you give off, the ideas you have, and the places you decide to go are usually reinforced by past experiences. To give your life new light, you have to “think outside the box”, as they say. The box being your own head, meaning to give up the way you’ve been perceiving the world and the way you should interact with it.
Later we will discuss some powerful tiny habits to implement that can change the rest of your life, 21 days at a time.
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