Making a change involves acquiring a new skill and that takes practice.
Practice makes perfect. Think about how you don't even have to think when you tie your shoes! But when you were learning that skill you had to use up a lot of your conscious mind to get the suckers tied.
Now, while you tie them, you can be thinking about whether or not you're going to ride the ferris wheel at the fair today or what you're going to order when you go out to breakfast this morning.
Everything that you've practice into a habit you now do unconsciously. So what are some of things you practice every day that have become habits? Do you pile papers to file later? Do you leave your cloth bags in the car when you grocery shop? Do you put your keys, purse, cell phone and glasses just anywhere?
A person who practices filing paperwork every day will never have piles. A person who always takes cloth bags into the grocery store will never have a huge supply of plastic bags. A person who has a place for everything and everything is in place never has to look for stuff.
We’re so good at routine living. When we don’t like a certain result from a habit we've establish then that habit isn’t serving us. Unless we toss in a decision to change a habit, we’ll continue to get results that don’t make us happy. The good news is, WE CAN CHANGE. Being able to change behavior is a God-given gift. And it’s really not that hard to do, if we make up our minds to it and find ways to make it fun until it becomes a habit.
Let’s say you’ve just learned that pop (in the northwest that’s what we call Coke and root beer) isn’t good for you and you’ve read that it’s addictive and you have an inkling you’re addicted to it. Addiction is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics and sugar are.
Being enslaved sounds so ominous because it infers you’ve lost your freedom of choice or action. The truth is, we become enslaved by our habits and that’s both good and bad. Good when it’s a good habit and bad when it’s a bad habit.
Baby Steps to Changing a Habit
A really good baby step is one AA uses…one day at a time. So instead of saying, “I’m never going to drink Dr. Pepper again,” say, “Today, I won’t drink Dr. Pepper.” (You could also add to that “…or buy it.” If you don’t buy it, you won’t have it to abuse.
When you start on a plan to break a habit and you only focus on one day at a time, you’ll find that each day it gets easier. That’s because as the days go by you’ll think less and less about its absence and more and more about the new habit you’re establishing. Scientists say that 21 days is the magic number. It takes approximately 21 days to establish a habit. That means if you turned down having a Dr. Pepper for 21 days, on the 22nd day, it would be really difficult to have a Dr. Pepper.
On January 8 of this year, Terry and I quit drinking alcohol. We didn’t have a “drinking problem” so the decision didn’t have a lot of momentum behind it other than curiosity. Speaking of momentum, if we'd both been bailed out of jail on DUIs, our decision on January 8 would have had a lot of momentum.
I decided to keep a notebook on my thoughts and right in line with the 21 day theory, my last note was on Monday, January 29 and I wrote: “I really don’t need to write anything. Actually I don’t have any thoughts on this right now.” And I never wrote in it again.
Do you want to start a new habit today?
Today’s as good a time as any to make a decision to start a new habit and do it just for today. Get a little notebook and, as the day goes along, write your thoughts down that pertain to the change you’ve decided upon. Think of ways to make your new habit fun to keep doing. For me and the alcohol, in the beginning, Nelly (my inner child) wanted me to keep track of each day we didn’t have alcohol by putting a pretty bead into a pill organizer and when a month of beads was collected she wanted them strung and worn on my regular appearance on a local television show for all the people to see what she did. Whatever works do it.
Today, July 16, as I write, Terry and I are on 188 days with no alcohol and I probably think about it once every two or three weeks and that's usually when someone in a television show is drinking and it looks good and fun. I haven’t written in my notebook since January 29 and Nelly doesn’t need to get a bead every day. I’ve become enslaved to my new habit of not having alcohol and in that enslavement I’m free of the old habit.
I’d love to hear what new habit you'd like to enslave you just for today. Please write to me at! firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. If you like audio books on CDs I have a few of "The Mouth Trap" and" The GOOD Book" and when you buy the CD I'll give you the printed book free. Since we have a limited supply, I'm watching for those orders that come in and I personally put the printed book in with the CDs. To purchase the CDs just click on the cover of the book you want.