There are a lot of powerful forces in the world. There is the power of a moving river, the power on display during a thunderstorm with flashes of lightning and the peal of thunder. There is the power of a mother’s love as well as the power of atomic energy. There is the power of touch, the power of kindness and the power of faith. Being a part of a family and a community gives us a sense of empowerment as well. There is a power that exercises not only power but in many cases mastery over us, namely, the power of habit!
In case you’re skeptical of my last statement let me offer an illustration: do you sleep on the same side of the bed every evening? What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed every day? Which shoe do you put on first? In case you do not believe in the power of habit, tomorrow consciously think of the shoe that you usually put on first and decide to put the other shoe on first. You will begin in a small way to understand the power that habits have in our lives.
Often when we’re talking about habits, we are thinking about how to break bad ones. Entire industries have grown around the need to help us break bad habits and replace them with productive/healthy habits. There are many good practices that we exercise every day with little to no thought. As a child I was instructed to brush my teeth, today I never give it a thought. I know where my toothbrush and toothpaste are and teeth brushing is a part of my morning ritual. I do not have to write on a Post-it note and post it on the mirror in my bathroom, ‘hey don’t forget to brush your teeth’! I do not need to do this because I brush my teeth without giving it any thought, it just happens. In reality, it doesn’t just happen; it has become second nature because it has been a healthy habit that I have been exercising for more than half a century.
Another area where we can see the power of habit is when we get in our cars and begin to drive, most of us give little thought to the rules of the road and the proper technique for safe and courteous driving. We just get in the car and start moving. I remember when I was in driver’s training, I was hesitant, cautious and even somewhat frightened by all the vehicles around me. I had little to no experience from which to draw so all of my senses were on alert as I began this adventure of driving. Today when I get into a car I can have emails read to me, listen to books on Audible.com, or listen to podcasts, make and receive telephone calls. I do have to pay attention to my driving, but for the most part, driving has become an ingrained habit. I neither worry nor think about driving, I just drive.
There are some habits we should just quit:
- worrying about what others think about us
these are just a few, yet it’s not just enough to say we’re going to quit we have to replace them with positive alternatives.
The developing of new habits is just plain hard work in the beginning. Anytime we attempt a new skill we feel awkward, we have setbacks, and things don’t work out like we thought it was going to work. It takes practice, and it takes hours to get good at any skill. The same principle applies to habit developing. You have to stick with it and you have to be consistent and little by little the habit is driven deep into our mind and our life, and in a matter of time, it becomes one of those habits that is just a part of who we are and how we operate.
Whatever you’re doing today whether you like it or you do not like it does not matter, what matters is that you have done it long enough that it has become a habit. We like to blame our parents, teachers pastors other family members and friends, but we are the ones who have made a choice and incorporated the habit into our life. Like it or not we are responsible!
When there is a new habit that you want to incorporate into your life, you would be wise to break it down into more manageable mini-habits. It can seem so complicated and that it will be such a significant amount of time commitment to make the change in our lives, that we feel overwhelmed and never attempt to make the needed changes. If you want to get up early tomorrow morning try getting up 15 to 20 minutes sooner than you are at present and dedicate the extra minutes to developing your new habit. Do not just decide you’re going to start getting out of bed four hours earlier than you do presently. Your mind and body will be so overwhelmed you will give up before you start. You want to get healthy and start exercising? Do not get up tomorrow and spend three hours at the gym. Start walking for 15 or 20 minutes tomorrow. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Start walking during your lunch break. These are doable and once we see that we can do it will then begin to walk for 30 minutes and before you know what we are entering into a legitimate exercise regimen.
The best thing you could do today is to decide on a new habit that you want to incorporate into your life, sit down and break it into three or four bite-size pieces start small but the operative word: just start. If you start today or tomorrow in a few weeks, months or years this habit will be so routine in your life you will not give it a second thought it will just be a part of who you are. That is the power of habit.