“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit”
I like to think of taking up new habits and dumping old less desirable ones the same way I look at installing and uninstalling software into my computer. It is not as easy as that but looking at it that way makes it easier for me to embark on. Installing new software may take just a few minutes but installing a new habit (habit ware) into your H (habit) drive will likely take days if not weeks and months.
It’s a common saying that Character makes a man. However character is a collection of our Habits. Our habits form from our daily Actions. More often than not, our actions derive from our thoughts.
You might want to look at it this way: The thoughts we think daily affect the way we act. If we think we can be more efficient and honest, our actions will begin to adjust towards that line. If we think in terms of laziness and inefficiency, our actions follow suit. If we think in terms of immorality and dishonesty, our actions adjust to accommodate our line of thought.
A common example is when an individual in a state of mental depression begins to harbor suicidal thoughts. Most suicide cases start that way. Psychiatrists make it a point of duty to offer adequate psychotherapy to Patients who present in a state of depression to reduce suicidal tendencies. Part of this therapy is geared towards changing the way they think. Changing the way the patient thinks break the suicidal cycle. If a patient continues to think suicidal thoughts, he or she is most likely to move into the next level, which is action-suicide.
Another very common example is Pornography. With the advent of the Internet, Pornography became readily available and accessible. This has caused a lot of harm as a lot of young people even at very tender ages are getting hooked to the habit. With it comes many other accompanying habits like masturbation and other forms of sexual immorality. It starts with a thought and then an action which gradually becomes a daily affair and before you can say Jack! It has become a habit that will inevitably affect your character and your person.
Looking on the positive side, one can also install positive habits via the same cycle. Working out as a Daily Exercise is one of such Positive habits I installed via this pathway. I started thinking about being healthier and fit so I started taking a daily action of exercise. It was an effort for the 1st few days, but within a few weeks, it became part of my daily routine, a habit which required less effort to kick off daily. If you plan to lose any weight or look great working out, it has to be installed as a habit or you will end up working too hard some days and not working at all on most of the days. That way you get minimal results and you will likely quit before you achieve your goals.
Steps to take:
1. Change your thoughts:
Having established the link between our thoughts and our habits, it is only reasonable that we start uninstalling the habits we dislike at the level of our thought life and installing the habits we crave by thinking in that direction for as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.
If you have a problem with say masturbation, feeding on porn will not be the best way the change your thoughts. It will only reinforce that habit. Our eyes and ears are the most important inlets to our mind. They could be called the windows of our mind. So changing our thoughts entails controlling what passes through these windows.
If you already think of daily exercise a s an unnecessary stress, you can also change your thoughts through these windows. Watching people exercise can help in motivate you. Reading about the habit you want to install, can fill your mind with thoughts about it. Another way that works, is to get a notebook and write out the benefits and advantages you will derive from installing the new habit and looking at it daily. You can also write out what you stand to lose from continuing in a bad habit, to help you in uninstalling an undesirable habit. So key 1 is to change your thoughts
2. Map out definite and specific line of action:
I get to see a number of individuals, who stop at the level of changing their thoughts. They are all fired up but make no move and take no action. It is not just enough to think change. You have to step out and take an action but not just any action. It has to be a specific action. This way you can repeat it till it sticks to you and becomes part of your daily routine. An example of a specific line of action is Jogging round your neighborhood 5 times daily, doing 100 press ups and 50 sit-ups daily, reading a book to develop yourself every month. A salesman can decide to visit 10 prospective clients daily or commit to making 30 calls daily to prospective customers. When the action is specific and uniform is easier to install into your H (habit) drive.
3. Involve other people
Your loved ones-family and friends and even everyday acquaintances can aid you in installing new habits and uninstalling undesirable ones. A friend of mine quit smoking using this method. He announced to his family and friends a definite day that he will quit smoking. After that day, they served as a check to him, constantly reminding him of his promise, till it became part of him. I also used this means once. While in Med school, I found myself constantly missing my lectures. I informed a course mate that I will pay him a certain amount of money, any day I didn’t show up for lectures. I didn’t show up a couple more times and I had to pay up. Losing money this way a number of times sent a painful message to my brain which became linked to missing lectures. I didn’t need much persuasion to change after I had developed this pathway. My course mate’s vigilance served as a constant check to me.
4. 21 days trial version:
Most software vendors give a number of days as a trial period during which a prospective customer can use the product and confirm if he or she wants to go ahead and make the purchase or not. Installing a new habitware into your “H drive” will definitely take more time than it takes to install new software into your computer. A method that works for me is to set my eyes on taking the same repeated actions in an unbroken 21 days stretch. If I keep jogging 5 times around my neighborhood between 5:00pm and 5:30pm for 21 days, getting up on the 22nd day and subsequent days to do the same thing is not so laborious to me anymore. If I write a page daily in my book for 21 days, my chances of completing that book are higher. If a student decides to commit to an hour of daily study for the next 21 days, it soon becomes installed as a habit and studying becomes effortless.
I draw spiritual strength from my place of prayer, including strength required to break and form new habits. Prayer and meditation on God’s word can help renew your mind and quicken the habit installation/uninstallation process.
Some habits cling to us as a 2nd skin so much that we despair when we think of changing them. However nothing is impossible if we believe.
Refuse to live an unexciting, unmotivated life where you are controlled by habits you dislike. Get out of the mental rut. Change your thoughts, take specific actions, involve others by committing yourself publicly. Try for 21 days and you are ready to go.
If you have been successful in installing or uninstalling new habits in the past or you have an insight or tip to offer, do drop your comments so we all can get better and more effective.
Action plan: Write down a habit you want to uninstall and one you want to install and start working towards it today and for the next 21 days.
Keep Hope Alive!