Sometimes in life, it is easy to get tunnel vision. This is especially true when it comes to your own wants and needs. When I think about the life I want to lead, and the health I want to attain, it can result in a kind of depression and stagnation, rather than providing the motivation I intended. I become impatient. I should already be living that ideal life and have that great health! After all, what’s holding me back? Thoughts like these swirl through my mind, and quickly lead to frustration and self-loathing.
This doesn’t help anything. It only compounds the struggle. Self-blame may be a natural inclination, but I’m learning it does nothing to motivate the journey to a better “me.” It DOES stress me out and prompt more of the same bad habits that landed me here.
Rather than fixate on the perfection we want, perhaps we should focus on the progress we’re making every day. Life will never be idyllic, but the fact is, you can attain your version of perfection – even if the end result is not the picture-perfect image you originally had in mind.
So how do we move from here to there—without the pointless self-criticism?
Routines are a Powerful Force
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that our ingrained routines are a big hindrance to change. Routines are essentially a series of habits. We establish them to provide structure to our days and a framework for our decisions. Even when formed without much conscious input on our part, the routines we develop make us feel safe and secure, lending a sense of normalcy. As a species, we tend to embrace routines.
Naturally, the thought of changing something familiar can be scary. Even when we accept that change is necessary and begin working toward it, bucking our routines to break unwanted habits can be incredibly difficult. It may even feel impossible at times. But the reality is far more hopeful. We’re all capable of making positive change. You, me, everyone. And that’s the simple truth.
How Do You Break a Bad Habit?
The first step in breaking any habit is to bring it into conscious awareness. In other words, be mindful of the behavior when it happens. Determine possible triggers, such as a certain time-of-day or circumstance. For the sake of example, let’s say the habit is biting your nails. Begin by training yourself to notice each time it happens. Pause and observe your situation. Try to figure out what might be triggering you.
Next, write down what you discover. Now you understand them better, make a list of triggers, along with some strategies to counteract them. Consider keeping an exact log of nail-biting occurrences. This will clear your head and help you focus on the task at hand, along with yielding useful information.
Finally, decide on a substitute action to help you transition. For instance, you could keep a pack of chewing gum close at hand. Pop a piece in whenever your fingers start
toward your mouth. Doing something (anything!) else will break the pattern and help refocus your energy more productively. Ultimately, that’s the key to kicking any habit for good!
Summing It Up
Be mindful of your decisions and be honest with yourself about what you need to change. Make a list of behaviors that are impeding your growth and take action to change them. Focus on progress, not unattained perfection. Once you let go of self-criticism for what you haven’t achieved yet, the process of change becomes much more rewarding.
In short: be good to yourself. If you make a mistake, acknowledge and take steps to correct it, rather than berating yourself. And don’t forget to notice the things you do right. Acknowledge your progress and enjoy your journey!
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