Thursday, February 3, 2011


Each of us can be associated with various habits. Habits represent an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. They are a part of who we are. Of course, habits in and of themselves are not necessarily bad. For example, holding doors open for others coming in behind you or saying thank you when someone has done something for you. Other habits, like smoking or drinking or gambling, on the other hand, have a long and well chronicled history associated with them.

Anyone who has tried to break themselves of a habit understands how difficult it can be. There are psychological, physical, and chemical aspects involved. Sometimes separating ourselves from bad or undesired habits can be just a matter of education and awareness. Other times this separation can be absolutely torturous for mind and body. It has been shown in clinical studies that it takes about 3 or 4 weeks for our mind to accept a new behavior and make it part of our normative programming.

When I came across this notion of the necessity of "reprogramming" our minds to break us free from bad habits, it really was the first time that I thought about it in this light. In my life, when I have worked to break free of bad habits, my reprogramming normally takes several distinct steps:
  1. Awareness of the problem.
  2. Understanding of the impacts of the habit on my life.
  3. A resolve to make a change.
  4. Development of a strategy for victory.
  5. Attempt to change and subsequent setbacks.
  6. Modification of strategy.
  7. Vigilant personal monitoring and attention.
  8. Change accepted by mind and body.
Sometimes changes can occur quickly and this is quite a boost to moral. Other changes can take much longer to be fully brought about. Sometimes just when we start to think we have something licked, an old issue or behavior can manifest itself. In these situations it can really seem that despite all of our efforts, we are back at square one. One habit that I would dearly like to overcome at times like these is that of being too hard on myself and thinking of myself as a failure. I would much prefer to take ownership of what I did and work to get back on track with renewed vigilance and care and patience.