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Ditching Bad Habits

We human beings are creatures of habit…. how we LOVE the familiar and repeating behaviour makes it known and expected…. familiar. Repetition is the building block for creating any habit, good, bad or indifferent. If you are or have previously been a smoker, it wasn’t the very first cigarette that got you hooked, but it probably didn’t take too long before it became a habit. In part that’s because smoking has a high pattern of repetition - something you might do 10 times a day or 20 as opposed to a habit like brushing your teeth, that most of us only indulge in twice a day.

Habits are formed, by repetition like a track through a field - the first time someone walks through, the grass springs back, leaving no sign that anyone’s been there … but look at that same field after the same path has been walked 20 times and it becomes easy to follow. We are drawn to these established tracks just like the neural pathways created in our brains by repeating tasks or behaviours until they feel ‘automatic’. So all habits are learned patterns which have become automatic or unconscious and the good news is that if you want them to, they CAN change.

Unhelpful habits move us further away from what we say we want and helpful ones closer towards it. Unpicking habits or creating new ones can be quite an art, but it’s always possible if you have the motivation to go through unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable territory to get there.

And motivation to make any change is fuelled by benefits and consequences - what do I stand to gain if I stop doing this habit or adopt this other one? And what are the consequences if I don’t make this change? The truth is that it’s these consequences that drive our behaviour in a much more powerful way than any perceived gains. This is commonly known as ‘fear of loss’ as opposed to ‘desire for gain’.

And that’s why I primarily see people in my practice who want to be rid of unwanted habits… habits like overthinking and worry, fears and phobias: things that are having unwanted consequences in their lives. Let’s say you’re afraid of frogs… and you live in a town in an apartment; that phobia is unlikely to have much impact on you. You might not like it, but you’re very unlikely to be motivated to sort it out are you? But what if you’re desperate to become a zoo keeper and the only opening is in the Amphibian House? There’s your ‘burning platform’ right there… and suddenly the motivation is there to overcome the fear.
So if you want to change your habits, the very first place to start is to find your ‘why?’.

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