A few weeks ago, I needed to get the vacuum cleaner to clean up a mess that my cat made and as I wasn't in the mood to drag it back upstairs to put it away, it sat there. In my living room. For a week.
Pretty soon, it started looking like the furniture. I got used to it being there. It just blended in.
Does anyone relate to this? I have a bad habit, sometimes, of not finishing what I start. Stopping shy of completion, so that a project remains open ended until I get back to it. The predominant thought that aids this habit is "I don't want to." I don't want to take the vacuum cleaner back upstairs, I don't want to do the dishes right now, I don't want to go to the gym.
And then I remember a formula one of my teachers gave me that puts me into action everytime. I tell myself, "Take the body. The mind will follow".And then I do it, anyway.
This week, we are talking about habits. Not just our habits of behavior, but our habits of thought that direct our behavior.
"First you create the habit. Then the habit creates you." Unknown
Sometimes what we attribute to our "plight" or the reason why things are the way they are is nothing more than a habit of thought that we continued to think.
We want to blame it on our heredity, our society, our socioeconomic status or gender, but really, sometimes, it's simply the habit of thoughts we think that are the largest factor in the results we create.
Our thoughts can empower or disempower. A thought of "I can" will impel us to do something entirely different than a thought of "I can't"which may just put us back into bed. When they say "You can do anything you put your mind to", there is some truth behind this.
In other words, changing anything in our life can simply come down to changing our mind.
Often when the New Year rolls around, you see people making strong determinations to change their life. Entirely. Change doesn't happen like this. There is something called "homeostasis" . We have a set point at which we feel comfortable. When change happens too quickly and throws us off our norm, sabotage sets in to keep us in our "place".
Change happens gradually. And the best way to begin a regimen of change is to pick one area. Just one.
What is something you do that consistently nets you unwanted results?Is it not getting enough sleep? Sleeping too much? Procrastination? Negative thinking? Self judgment? Under charging for your services? Spending too much time watching television? Eating too much sugar? What undermines your attempts at progress?
Whatever the habit of behavior or thought, changing habits in and of itself is like building new muscle.You don't immediately go to the 40 lb weight. You start out, instead, with the 10lb dumbbells. You get your body used to the repetition, to the discipline, to the new program.
Often without noticing, we live our life in a hypnotic trance. What we do every day becomes the default norm that we never question and never stray from. Like the vacuum cleaner that begins to blend into the furniture no longer looking out of character, we fail to notice how our daily practice has shaped our habits.
The question is, are we happy with them?
Regardless of how you anwer this, it is always a good exercise, to periodically shake up the status quo, to break an old habit or create a new one.
Simply because we can.
Like the 10 lb dumbbell, it is easiest to get into the repetition of something new and relatively simple before we tackle something we've been in the habit of doing for years. Here are some new habits of thoughts to put into practice to implement change. These are none you have not heard of before. The challenge will be in the doing of them.
Pick one that you can do for the week, consistently, to put yourself back in charge:
1) Ask yourself, what is one thing I can do today that will advance me in some way, mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually? My dad has a principle he lives by and shared with me one day, "Don't put off for tomorrow, what you can do today". It's sage advice. Choose the one thing you can do each day and do it. It could be educating yourself on a computer program, or choosing this day to start a meditation practice, or making a decision just for today, not to speak ill of one other person, or washing the dishes in the sink at the end of a meal. It doesn't matter what the objective. When you start challenging yourself with new habits, you create a program of self-mastery, which enables you, not your habits, to take dominion over your life.
2) If you are a person who consistently lives your life in the negative, this one is for you. If you find yourself saying "I can't do that". "That is impossible," "It's harder than you think," "It won't work," etc. If this is you, try on a new way of thinking, just for a week. You know the saying by Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can or not, you're right." I can't start a new business in this economy. I can't make money doing this thing I love. I can't get into this gallery. I can't overcome my fear. Or whatever the "I can't" is. The new habit, when you catch yourself saying this is to open up the question, "How can I?" or "How might this be possible?" or "How can I make this work?" So, in other words, you would ask "How can I start a new business in this economy?" How can I make money doing this thing I love? How can I get into this gallery? How can I change careers without struggle? How can I overcome this fear? Asking an open question makes it something worth exploring. Instead of shutting the door with a declarative "I can't" statement, you are keeping it ajar with possibility. You are also invoking the help of the Universe. Remember always, we are co-creating. We are not simply in these bodies. There is something much greater at play here. By actively engaging the questions, we are inviting participation from the larger parts of ourselves and expecting to receive answers.
3) Practice an "attitude of gratitude".If you were to just lay in your bed in the morning and think about all the things you have to be grateful for, your heart would be full before you even got out of bed. Just enjoying our 5 senses alone opens up a big world to be grateful for. Sometimes we get so narrowly focused on the one or two things that aren't working out for us, that we overlook and take for granted the 100's of things that are. This is a good habit to get into in general. If you've never done it before, make this your practice for the week.
4) Are you someone who judges yourself harshly? This is a habit that is worth breaking.We teach people how to treat us through our own self-regard. So, isn't it worthwhile to treat ourselves better? See ourselves in a higher light? Go more gently on ourselves when we don't accomplish everything we set out to in a day? A new habit you can begin is to set aside time every night and take inventory, asking yourself, "What did I do right today?" It is often most surprising on a day we might feel like we got nothing done, upon review we find out quite the contrary. This is a good way to stay on your game and evaluate your progress, honestly.
5) Accept compliments. One of my teachers used to tell me "Let other people invent you". Our self-perception is sometimes limiting. We don't see ourselves in our full talent because we take it for granted. We don't realize that things that come easily to us may not come so easily to others. Or we see ourselves how we saw ourselves 10 years ago, and we're out of date. So, this habit is really one of learning how to receive. Allowing others to perhaps see us in a greater light than we see ourselves. This week, really allow yourself to hear the compliment. Take it in. Let it affect you. And without commentary or explanation (or rebuttal), simply say "Thank You".
6) Live in the declaration of what you want. Whenever you are in a state of contrast, clearly seeing what you don't want, do not stay stuck there. Immediately consider what you do want. The reason for this is that what we focus on grows. What would you rather be drawing attention to, what you don't want? Or what you do want? The words "I don't know" can keep us stuck for years. But in the living of life, and discovering things we don't want, what we do want becomes crystal clear. When you are talking about what you want, your mind immediately goes to work on how to get it. Don't ever forget. We are directing the energy that is our life. Always consider what you are directing it toward.
7) Practice the art of doing nothing. This is for all of you overachievers who are intent on "productive" activity. There is nothing more productive then watching the sunset, or taking a drive through the country, or laying on the sand at the beach listening to the waves crash while staring up into the blue sky, soaking in beauty. Inspiration comes when it has a chance to get in. Schedule some time for no agenda. Even if it gets fit in at 10 at night, after the kids are asleep. Sit outside, feel the cool breeze on your skin while you count the stars in the sky. Engage in the magic of the universe. It reminds us that there is so much more at play than our "To Do" lists.
Whatever the new habit, the purpose of engaging is one of taking dominion over your own life. Steven Pressfield in his book "War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Inner Battles" (a fine read), says "the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery".
Self-Mastery. This is what practicing new habits net us.
We are powerful beyond measure, but we must awaken the force that is within us. It lies dormant until we invoke it.
It begins with a decision.
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