Q. I seem to have no will power. Every New Year I decide to diet and after about ten days I’m back to eating sweets and eating too much. I decide to exercise and the same thing happens. I’m also a worrier and don’t know how to stop worrying. How can I change my bad habits and develop some good ones? How can reach my dreams and goals?
A. Webster’s dictionary defines habit as “a thing done often and hence easily, a custom, a usual way of doing things.” We develop a variety of habits or routines throughout our life time. We may wake up at the same time every day; get ready in the same order - shower, dress, breakfast. We may even have a routine of always putting on our left shoe before we put on our right shoe.
Habits or routines help us in many ways. Good habits, firmly established take little thought. We do them almost automatically. We drive to work taking the same route each day. We pay our bills at the same time each month. We go to church every Sunday. These are all habits or routines we’ve established.
Habits rule us whether they are bad or good. We are captive to our habits. We want to change our ways and accomplish more—whether it’s losing weight, exercising more or finishing a to-do list. So why don’t we? If you really want to change you can, but you must set clear goals and change your habits.
New habits begin with one thought. That’s right
THOUGHT! We think about doing something
and we decide to do it. If we’re changing a negative habit, for
example in our diet, we now have an attitude of caution and awareness about
what we eat. We also have an “I can” attitude and feel optimistic about
accomplishing our goal. The attitude change leads to an action which leads to a
repeated action and eventually we have a habit.
The key is to keep doing the new behavior for six or eight weeks. It will take this long to establish a new habit. A negative habit is overcome one day at a time, the same way it began. A new habit is established one day at a time. Here are a few tips to help you:
1. Focus on your successes and congratulate yourself for these.
2. Expect relapses and learn from them. Not many can change a habit instantly. When you learned to ride a bike you fell down a few times before you could balance. The same is true for creating a new habit. The relapses can teach you things. What thoughts or feelings triggered your return to old habits?
3. You do have will power. Our will is a powerful part of us, capable of choosing to control our actions. Say to yourself, “I will.” And don’t say, “I won’t” or “I can’t” or “I’ll try.” Be positive and be determined to succeed.
4. Align your will with God’s will; ask his help in overcoming your weaknesses. This is helpful in all circumstances but essential to breaking an addiction.
5. Take every thought captive. A habit starts with one thought and is maintained or broken by our thoughts. For example, to break the worry habit stop every worry thought as soon as you notice it and replace it with a positive thought or image.
Here are a few thought provoking quotations on habits:
· “Habits are to the soul what the veins and arteries are to the blood, the courses in which it moves.” Horace Bushnell
· “Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.” Augustine
· “What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage.” Bruce Barton
· “Sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” G. D. Boardman
I hope these ideas help you change your habits and accomplish your goals.
“As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Proverbs 23:7