The beginning of a New Year is a good time to evaluate what we want more of in our life, as well as what we want less of. If we take a close look at our lives we will begin to see patterns of behaviours — in essence habits — that shape us. Some of these habits are helping us achieve our goals, while others may actually be taking us further away from the life we want.
Habits are habituated behaviours which are acquired by frequent repetition — these “habits” then become a regular part of our functioning. These practices can slip into our lives without us even noticing as they feel so natural. It can be very difficult to give up or break a habit. We often hear people talking about wanting to break a bad habit, but we shouldn’t forget that habits aren’t always bad for us.
Many habits are helpful. Brushing our teeth and washing our hands are habits, and these are very good for us. This enables us to take care of ourselves without even thinking about it. Once we do something enough times, it becomes a natural reaction to a specific situation. It is helpful to identify the thinking patterns and habits that take us closer to achieving our goals — and then to develop these habits in a conscious manner.
A healthy habit can support us in functioning well in life. Successful people learn the habits that help them achieve their goals. But there are some habits that are not healthy, and can get in the way of achieving goals or living a successful life. These are the patterns that often have their origins in self-protection, distraction or indulgence. Although these are natural reactions to certain circumstances, if the behaviour becomes habituated then we get stuck in a negative practice that begins to feel normal.
In order to become more aware of our habits, I would encourage everyone to review the following points, and work on breaking the negative patterns and embracing the positive habits that can keep us moving forward in our lives.
3 Habits to Break This Year
1. Let go of defining yourself through others.
You can be caring of others while still being true to yourself – but to do this you need to let go of defining your worth through how others perceive you. If you allow yourself to get caught in the trap of primarily seeking approval and validations outside yourself you will not have a strong sense of self. Learn to hold onto yourself rather than always changing and adjusting to please others. Take responsibility for yourself and your decisions. Stand up for what you believe, suffer you own consequences, experience your joys and celebrate your accomplishments. You can do all of this and still have compassion for other people.
2. Let go of getting caught in the quicksand of negative thinking.
We can get caught in a cycle of negative thinking that draws more negativity to us. Too much criticism and negative thoughts change our brain chemistry and actually create negative “thinking ruts” that are very difficult to get out of. Our perception starts to change and we begin to see the negative in everything and everybody. Negativity begets more negativity. This is a big energy drain and can take over your life. After a while the only people that want to be around you are other negative people.
3. Let go of dwelling in the past.
If we put most of our energy into thinking of past “glory days” or past hurts, then we are not living our life in the moment. Dwelling in the past takes us out of our present life, and keeps us from moving forward. This truly wastes our time – and time is the most precious of all commodities.
3 Habits to Make This Year
1. Embrace curiosity and risks.
If we only play it safe and stick to the “same old” we will limit our lives and growth. Caution is positive in many ways, but too much caution keeps us stuck. Innovation only happens through curiosity and risk. Take risks, make mistakes, learn, laugh, cry and live this precious life we have. Grasp the opportunity that is in front of you, and make new opportunities. Build resiliency, and believe in your ability to handle both failure and success.
2. Embrace practicality and get to work.
Get to work and get things done! Practicality is the new orange! Being practical is not boring, in fact it is a lot of fun to celebrate a job well done. Nothing builds confidence and competency like real life contribution, and the accomplishment of a goal. Allow yourself the satisfaction of a job well done, an effort exerted, and the growth that comes through “working” through something.
3. Be in the moment.
Create a daily practice of mindfulness and gratitude. Pay attention to your surrounding and your senses. You can practice meditation, go for a walk, exercise or even listen to music – all while being mindful. If you need a quick fix of mindfulness just check into your 5 senses – what do I see, smell, hear, taste and touch. Look around and remind yourself of what you are grateful for. That will get you back in the moment right away. Science and research has shown us that there are huge benefits to even brief moments of mindfulness, gratitude and being in the moment in your life.