Habits: Working for or against you?

Habits: Working for or against you?

Research shows it takes at least 21 days to create or break a habit. Today is February 24th. You are on the eight week of 2009. Fifty days have gone by already since the first of the year.

What have you accomplished in these 50 days? What New Year Resolution(s) did you forget or postpone for next year? What habit do you need to break or create ASAP?

I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest asset or heaviest burden.
I will push you up to success or down to disappointment.
I am at your command.
Half the things you do might just as well be turned over to me,
For I can do them quickly, correctly, and profitably.
I am easily managed, just be firm with me.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a
machine and the intelligence of a person.
You can run me for profit, or you can run me for ruin.
Show me how you want it done.
Educate me. Train me.
Lead me. Reward me.
Be firm with me and I will place the world at your feet.
Be easy with me and I will destroy you.
Who am I?
I am a habit.

The author of the above riddle is unknown, but the words are right on point. Habits can make or break you. They can have a positive or negative effect on your emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health. I hope you agree with me that these four health areas of your life have a direct effect on how you feel about yourself, your relationships, your career, your wellness, etc. The connection between habits and health is inseparable; good habits usually lead to good health, whereas bad habits usually lead to bad health.

Good habits will produce joy, happiness, confidence, focus, and fulfillment. Maintaining good habits will most likely lead to a healthier and longer life. Bad habits will eventually catch up with your overall health. They can produce inaction, guilt, doubt, fear, and even death.

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

It has been said that “People do not decide their future. They decide their habits and their habits decide their future.” Your habits can support you in your future or they can enslave you. The first step is to acknowledge the habits you have that are not good or productive. It is in you to decide which habits you want to cultivate and which ones you want to weed out. Once you decide what has to go, you must implement a plan to quit those habits.

You are the sum of your good and bad habits. Bad habits can be broken. Good habits can be learned. Stopping a bad habit, like smoking, requires that you create a new habit, nonsmoking. Losing weight and toning your body requires new habits, exercising and healthy eating.

Habits are important because they become automatic behaviors. Your brain is wired with the tendency do the same things repeatedly. This becomes more prevalent when you are weak, stressed, or busy. Your self kicks into cruise-control and carries you along. If the habit is good, great for you! If it is bad, it will drive you in the wrong direction.

Good habits will also ensure you stay sharp when challenged. If you have a habit of exercising 3-4 times a week and go on vacation, finding the time to exercise will be a priority because your body (and mind) have been conditioned to exercise. If you break your habit, your body will respond. Without the usual dose of weekly exercise, you will not be at your best. Or if you are into the habit of not eating complex carbs, you will not be tempted to eat those morning bagels at work. If you are in the habit of doing your homework ahead of time, you will not run into a late-night marathon to write a term paper the night before. If you have the habit of getting to know someone well before moving forward into a relationship, you are more likely to make better decisions and protect yourself emotionally.

In closing, consider reflecting on the quote from French biographer, novelist and essayist Andre Maurois (1885-1967):

“If you create an act, you create a habit. If you create a habit, you create a character. If you create a character, you create a destiny.”

Follow-up Questions:

  • Which habits are “killing you softly” in life and at work?
  • What habits do you need to break or create now?
  • What is preventing you from taking immediate action?

Remember, creating or breaking any habit is possible with the right attitude. The process can be mentally and physically exhausting when you realize it doesn’t happen overnight. Changing habits requires effort, discipline, and conviction. You are more likely to succeed if you have the right support group. Let me help you in your journey. Whether you want to stop procrastinating, lose weight, get out of debt, find a mate, change careers, or quit smoking, a life coach can help you. Personal coaches are in the business of helping people “how” to go about making changes in their lives and career.

Click for my 2009 special coaching program!

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