Are you trying to create a new habit, or break free from an old one? There are four practices that will facilitate your process. Anyone can do them — no religious affiliation or experience necessary, and they are totally practical! Just start, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and keep trying.
Shake Up Your Life
Though there are many factors that make it difficult to break an old habit, one important element to consider is the enormous power of inertia, the force of the status quo — being stuck in your comfort zone. To break out of the powerful inertia exerted by your comfort zone and to create a new habit, you must be willing to shake things up a little — or a lot. To shift the status quo and go beyond your conventional routines. Initially it may feel unnerving and uncomfortable, but it’s well worth it, because every shift opens up new doors. And a shift in one area of life spills over and helps you expand your natural boundaries in other areas of life. Change breeds change. One change leads to another!
Mind Over Emotions
Why do you stay in your comfort zone, even when it may result in harmful or limiting behavior? One reason is because you become emotionally invested in and trapped by your repeated behaviors. Look carefully at yourself: Are you afraid to leave your comfort zone? Free yourself by listening to your mind instead of your emotions. Allow your reflective mind to challenge your emotional and subjective concerns. Allow your mind to imagine and dream of a place that is beyond your present comfort zone. It takes introspection and practice to master knowing if your intellect or emotions are “speaking” to you, but the practice of separating your intellect from your emotions and acting on your intellect will empower you to do things that you are not accustomed to; to dare explore new vistas.
Make Your Rituals Less Habitual
Look carefully at your day: How many things do you do by rote, without giving it any thought? Many of our habits are things we learned from our parents, educators and culture. Very often we just mindlessly mimic these routines — habits that we do not own; behavior patterns that we acquired (or were imposed upon us) especially in our impressionable years. A way then to weaken your habitual behavior is by focusing and examining your routines, and making them your own — a routine that is relevant and customized to your needs. Identify your daily rituals, and don’t allow them to control you. Think about each one of these routines deliberately, and see how you can personalize them. For instance: Instead of mindlessly following your morning routine, which you learned from someone else, tailor that routine to your style, and not the default that you picked up from childhood. Instead of, say, rushing out of the house every morning, replace that routine with getting up earlier and streamlining your pre-work ritual. Ask yourself: What can you do to make your routines more relevant to you? Even good habits need to be reviewed and integrated. Even if your habits would work for someone else — you must find what works for you.
Cultivate and Nurture Your New Habit
Real growth takes time. Much like the way a gardener tends to his or her plants, you must nurture a new habit. Seed it: Every big plant begins as a tiny seed. Start small — change one aspect of one routine, and then use the strength you acquire from that success to push you toward bigger changes. Weed it: If something is eating up the space and energy that you’d like to devote to your new habit, remove it. Remember — weeding is a daily or weekly practice! Feed it: Give your new habit attention and time. Similar to the way that plants must be watered and kept in the sun in order to stay alive, a new habit can’t be neglected!
Exercise: Success starts with a plan! Choose one new habit you’d like to acquire. On paper or in your free MyMLC Journal, envision and outline how you will use the four practices described in this post to support your new habit.
Go deeper into this subject: Your Guide to Personal Freedom Week Four | Beyond Virtue | Emotional Subjectivity: Enemy or Ally | Are You a Conformist? | The Universal Message of Rosh Hashanah | Can the New Year Actually Change You? | A New Year: Has Anything Changed in Your Life?