Saturday, January 14, 2006

Curious about Habits - Adopting the Good and Abandoning the Bad

“Habits are formed by the repetition of particular acts. They are strengthened by an increase in the number of repeated acts. Habits are also weakened or broken, and contrary habits are formed by the repetition of contrary acts.” - Mortimer J. Adler

Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” - Stephen Covey

This is the time of year where we are making goals and resolutions. Many of them depend upon either adopting good habits or abandoning bad habits. Most self improvement experts suggest that it takes 21 to 30 days to form a habit.

I suggest that it may take a bit longer. In the fitness world, we who teach realize that our classes will be overflowing through the third week of January. Then, those who have been working out consistently often start missing a day here and there. This is followed by missing a week, then a month, and we will see them next January. It is a shame, but it reinforces my belief that it takes longer than 21 to 30 days to develop a habit - good or bad.

I feel that I am quite disciplined and accomplish many of the tasks I set for myself. My good habit is hard and consistent work. However, I have been talking for months about my work on a book proposal. This seems to be the one task that I just am not finding enough time for.

Bo Bennett’s following statement puts me to shame. “Not managing your time and making excuses are two bad habits. Don't put them both together by claiming you ‘don't have the time.’” I think I have found a solution. Several writers have suggested that we create an Excel sheet with 1000 squares. Each square represents an hour of writing (for me it will be writing my book proposal), which we check every time we complete an hour.

This same idea will work for hours of exercise, learning/practicing a new skill and working on a large project. Keeping a daily journal presents another alternative for keeping track of our progress on habit breaking and/or making. Just remember that we can often replace a bad habit with a new, good one.

As you probably know by now, I found many fun and interesting quotations about habits. Let me share a few:
  • Habits are safer than rules; you don't have to watch them. And you don't have to keep them either. They keep you.” - Frank Crane
  • Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.” - Mark Twain
  • Don't let your sins turn into bad habits.” - Saint Teresa
  • Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing. It didn't change people's habits. It just kept them inside the house.” - Alfred Hitchcock
  • It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man's life is made up of nothing, but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” - Albert Einstein
  • It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.” - Benjamin Franklin

Some interesting thoughts from some great thinkers!

I challenge you to pick one habit to abandon and one habit to adopt. I feel strongly that we try to tackle too many at a time. And that is the reason we don’t succeed.

For me, I am going to take the advice given by Charles Dickens, “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”

Also, remember that we can change our own habits - not the habits of others. And, if we could, would we want to? Barbra Streisand sums it up, “Why does a woman work ten years to change a man's habits and then complain that he's not the man she married?”

What habit are you trying to break and/or make? Leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.