Posts tagged ‘bad habits’

June 3, 2012

Beware the “Exception”

In life, every experience offers us a chance to learn. Even if a life experience appears to get in the way of following your chosen goals or pushes you off your desired life path, you can learn from these life experiences in order to move forward positively. In my own life, I realized that there are multiple factors that can interfere with a desired life outcome. I have learned that if I do not pay attention, I am “doomed” to repeat the same “mistake” or situation.

For me, one observable pattern that contributed to being pushed off my desired path is that of the first “exception” to a specific rule or new habit that I am trying to establish.

For example, when I started working on the goal of attaining an optimal body weight, I established a personal rule to stop eating after 8 PM. The habit of not eating after 8 PM is beneficial since one typically consumes all of the calories one needs before 8 PM. I noticed that any food that I consumed after 8 PM was just to fulfill a craving. For me, I typically crave for salty and fatty foods that contribute to elevated blood pressure as well as empty body fat building calories.

It would seem that not snacking after 8 PM would be easy to follow. Intellectually, I know that I am not truly hungry and that any snacking would get in the way of my health goals of attaining and maintaining an healthy body weight.

This easy to follow healthy habit was sabotaged by the first “exception”. The first exception happened on a challenging day where things did not appear to go as planned. I was experiencing stress due to a death in my spouse’s family. One of my children was feeling bullied by a girl at school. When I turned on the news, my feelings of unease were bolstered by stories of calamity and disaster worldwide. On this day, I choose to “treat myself” and started the first exception to my snacking rule. In my brain, I justified my behavior by telling myself that I have been working hard and I deserve some tasty snacks after the kids went to sleep. I also deserve to watch some TV, have a beer and munch on some tasty buttered popcorn. Before I knew it, I had reverted to a non-productive habit every night after the kids went to bed. I eased into the comfortable habit of snacking and watching TV instead of productive habits or activities such as writing, paying the bills, folding the laundry or attending do household responsibilities.

I understand that this is a rather tame example. However, this type of pattern exists in more significant habit change such as quitting smoking, getting away from substance abuse, or any other addictive habit pattern. An exception can break the rule. Once the rule is broken we can go back to old patterns of behavior.

The next time that you consider establishing a new habit, remember the dangers of taking that first step off the path. It is easier to just stay on the path than straying off your desired path and getting lost.

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May 20, 2012

Ghosts of Habits Past

I fervently wish that I could write to you all and proclaim, “I have made it! I have no more non-productive habits”.  Sheepishly I have to admit that this is not the case.

Lately, I have experienced the influence of old habits as if they were haunting me like an old ghost crying, “feed me”, “pay attention to me” or just “hang out with me like the old days”. These habits can sneak back into our lives since them seem so familiar and in an odd way, comfortable. They fit us like a well-worn pair of shoes, they fit our feet snugly but they stink really badly. These “bad habits” may give us a sense of comfort, but we may forget the customary price we pay each time we engage in them. We may have initially adopted these habits as a form of escape. Now these proverbial “old friends” come and visit like an errant college buddy and sidetrack you from your goals.

When I made a goal to attain my optimal body weight, I worked on developing a new habit of avoiding snacking after 7 PM. This seemed like an easy habit to develop. It made sense that there was no point to eating shortly after dinner and so close to going to bed. One day after having a small party at our house, I was surrounded by crunchy, tasty salty snacks. Unconsciously, I grabbed a bowl of grub and sat down in front of the TV after the kids went to bed. My old habit sat comfortably next to me on the couch.

Some times these unscheduled visits from wayward patterns of former behavior can serve as a reminder of why you tried to leave these unproductive traditions in the past. Another item that was left at our house at our house after the party was multiple forms of alcoholic beverages. I assure you that this plethora of alcohol did not lead to me drinking myself into a drunken stupor every night. However, I did start drinking one or two beers a night for a while. After about a week of this habit, I noticed I was waking up tired and more dehydrated than usual. I also noticed that I did not feel that incredible after drinking as well. I realized that my longstanding habit of drinking socially upon occasion was a lot more enjoyable of daily adult beverage consumption.

Photo Credit: askinyourface.com

The next time old unproductive habits stop by your house for a visit, be cordial and acknowledge what these habits have meant to you. As soon as you can, show these old “friends” out the door.

Related Articles:

–       21 Days To Create a Habit

–       5 Self Improvement Tips

–       Developing Good Habits