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We are what we repeatedly do

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.

- Will Durant

We all have habits or patterns that we do or follow that we know to be unhealthy or even harmful. We also all have habits that we are unaware of, but things that our environment notices and makes us aware of it. And more often than not, we tend to disregard it or worse, disown it. This is the moment of honesty and true self-reflection. What habits are you demonstrating? What patterns are you following? If you need help, a trusted friend or partner will be able to shed light on something you are not seeing.

Once you have identified the habits you have, it is time to sort. Find out which ones you would like to keep, the ones that lead you to becoming the person you are here to be, the ones that fuel your motivation every day, the ones that encourage you to live and love fully, the ones that create an environment for you to grow and explore. Once you sort the wheat from the chaff, you will see which ones you now need to eliminate.

One word of caution for elimination, though, before you take huge steps to rid them. The habits that are seriously bad or detrimental to your growth are there because somewhere along your life’s journey, you decided that they meant something, they provided a safety, a cocoon or fulfilled a certain need that you had. Become aware of it. For example, if your wish is to shed some weight, but instead of going to the gym three times a week you watch television, then ask yourself what this action is trying to protect you from? Is it simply laziness? But even that, has layers of reasons below it, laziness could be an excuse your brain has developed to protect you from being body shamed at the gym, especially if you are new and you are surrounded by all who are lean and fit. Or it could be the fear of failing, since you have already had various unsuccessful attempts, and thus your brain signals that it is better, safer to be at home. All the while, all your brain is doing is what it should do, namely protect you from harm and keeping you safe. That is the job of the part of your brain called the amygdala which in turn is a part of the limbic brain. [1]

The limbic brain is the part of the brain that is concerned about survival and the amygdala, besides being responsible for various survival techniques, is also the center for learned behaviors related to addiction or habits. Once you know that, then it becomes easier to forgive yourself for not achieving that goal or not breaking the habit. But recognition is only part of the story. Now it is time to eliminate those nasty habits.

We cannot simply get rid of something and leave a void in that place. That does not work. Thus, replace the old habit with something new. And remember that it takes time to replace an old habit with a new one. So, once you have decided which habit needs to go, find a suitable replacement. Take small steps. Create small action points, that are doable and not a grand goal that will ultimately lead to failure. As James Clear writes in his iconic book, Atomic Habits:

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same

way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of

your habits multiply as you repeat them. [2]

Small steps, like committing to a 15-minute walk in nature twice a week as a pre-cursor to a workout in the gym is a doable and achievable. And you will feel pride and joy in the accomplishing of it. If you find yourself falling back to the old habit of watching TV instead during the time allocated for exercise, gently bring yourself back to the new habit. Remind yourself that it is only natural for your brain to go back to the familiar. But it is your job to command the brain to a new way of living, a new way of thinking, until this becomes the familiar and the known. A little goes a long way, as my favorite yogini, Adriene Mishler says, and it truly is remarkable how your habit will compound with time.

Find the joy that comes from developing something new, something better, something that will ultimately fulfil you and make you proud. Share that joy with others. Encourage yourself and your loved ones to always aim higher and higher. We all deserve to have a rich and joyous life of abundance and blessings.

Photo courtesy: Wix

[1] Read to find out more [2] Clear, James. Atomic Habits. Avery Penguin Random House, New York, 2018. Pp. 20


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