“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” Sigmund Freud
Developing Bad Habits
Amy grew up in a very abusive home with five kids. All of the siblings were about a year or two apart. The parents were very overwhelmed with all the kids and responsibilities.
Dad wasn’t much of a homebody, but when he was home you could find him on the couch with the TV on and a stack of beer bottles on the floor.
Mom worked nights and slept in the daytime while the kids were in school. During the summer it was up to the older kids to take care of the younger ones keeping them outside so mom could sleep.
Basically, they had kids raising kids.
Amy, the middle child, had the middle child syndrome which is the feeling of exclusion. She wasn’t the baby and not one of the older children who were in control. She felt “left out” most of the time.
She developed very negative beliefs about herself which were carried into adulthood. Her negative beliefs kept her from even trying to go to college and achieve her dream of being a doctor.
She did go to school and became a lab technician in the local hospital. The hospital had a counselor/clergy on staff for the patients, families, and staff. Amy became friends with the counselor who encouraged her to take steps to change her negative thoughts and feelings about herself.
After following the steps, similar to those below, she was able to change her negative beliefs and feelings about herself and gained the courage to go back to school to fulfill her dream of being a medical doctor.
If Amy can do it, you can do it.
Preparing For Changing
In order to make changes in your life, you have to take responsibility for your life. Nobody else can do it for you. So, do you really want to change? Like I’ve said many times before, it’s a choice. It’s Your Choice!!! You can do this!!!
Journaling plays a large part in taking control of your habits and successfully making changes in your life. Journaling will help you become aware of your habits and create an action plan to exchange your bad habits for good ones.
Aristotle once postulated “horror vacui” (Nature Abhors a Vacuum). It turns out nature really can’t stand a perfect vacuum. Therefore, it is very difficult, perhaps, impossible to just stop doing something. You need to replace it.
Get a notebook or open a page on your computer, tablet or phone. You will receive specific instructions on what to write in your journal as we go through the steps.
Focus On One Habit To Change
You can only change one (1) habit at a time.
A habit is actually made up of three (3) components:
All habits have a reward or they wouldn’t have become habits. We rarely, if ever, do something just because.
Step #1 Identify Your Habit Loop
The Habit Loop – Name your habit:
For example smoking, drinking, procrastinating, cursing, worrying, feeling insecure in certain environments causing you to sit in the back quietly, etc. When determining a habit to change, first ask yourself the question: does this habit serve me well or does it hurt me? Seriously look at the habit.
Identify The Trigger:
- What happens right before you get the urge?
- What were you thinking about just before or when you got the urge?
- What were you feeling?
- What did you do?
Identify The Reward:
- Describe how you feel during the habit?
- Immediately after?
- Describe the psychological reward you get from the habit?
Monitoring Progress – Answer the following questions
- How I’ll prepare and set myself up for success?
- How I will track days when I succeeded?
- How I’ll be firm but fair with myself on days I do not succeed?
- Who I can ask to support me in the process?
We all have automatic thinking, like when you drive a car. You can go from home to work without really thinking about what you are doing, the trip, and everything you pass along the way, unless, something happens that is unusual.
We also have habit thinking similar to automatic thinking. Basically, they are habits that you have developed, usually as a child, that go unattended, rolling along willy-nilly throughout your life, doing their damage, because they are never questioned. Some habits don’t really cause damage, where others do. But in both cases, they are based on habitual thinking.
For example, I watched my husband at the dinner table the other day. He arranges his plate of food in a certain order to get the most out of the flavors. He had the pancakes cut and stacked with the eggs in a clockwise position to the pancakes, then the ham clockwise to the eggs. As he ate, he cut perfect squares from the pancakes. He developed this habit as a child and still does it to this day without any prior thought – habitual thinking.
Step #2: Identify Your Weaknesses (All habits are resistant to change)
Habits like to be in control. By that I mean, they don’t give up control easily. When you start looking at your designated habit it will throw reasons at you of why it should stay. Look for these Expressions of Control:
- Yes, buts
- Worrying or what-iffing
- Not caring or apathy
- Mountain-out-of-molehill generalizing
- Fatalistic thinking/doom and gloom
In your journal list any Expressions of Control thoughts that enter your mind. Remember, you are in control. Don’t allow any of these control thoughts to stay in your mind. Kick them out. Tell them to leave. Evict them.
Step #3: Identify Fact Or Fiction
Does it ever feel like there are two people living inside your head, both trying to talk at the same time and convince you to go their way (healthy, spontaneous, trusting self vs. insecure, distrusting controlling self)?
Or perhaps the Angel-Devil Thoughts:
- Yes, I can. No I can’t.
- Maybe I could try…but what if I fail?
Write down all the similar thoughts that go through your mind. After each though, write whether it is Fact or Fiction.
For example (check the right one):
- I can’t handle this job. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- At fifty-four years old, I’ll never find a boyfriend. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- If she spoke to me like that, obviously, she doesn’t like me. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- One can’t be totally happy as there is always something that goes wrong. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- Life is tough. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- Showing emotions is for weak people. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- Opportunity only knocks once. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- I’m too old, I’ll never be able to achieve my dreams. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- I’m helpless and have no control over my life. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- I don’t deserve it. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- Nobody loves me. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- I can’t. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
- It’s impossible. ___ Fact ___ Fiction
Step #4 Stop Listening To The Noise
It’s time to stop listening to all the negative noise in your head. It’s time to stop thinking like a failure. Healthy positive thinking is a choice.
Visualize in your mind doing something to stop the noise. Here are some examples that you can choose from or come up with your own:
- Shutting the watertight doors.
- Turning a drippy faucet off.
- Kicking the soccer ball – kick your negative thoughts out of bounds.
- Body Punching – every time you say no to negative thoughts you are inflicting a body punch to your opponent.
- Disciplining the child in your head – With an out-of-control, manipulative child you need to be strong; consistent; and, most important, clear, “I said no!”
- Letting go of the balloons – Imagine your negative thoughts as balloons that you are setting free. Watch them grow smaller and smaller until they finally vanish.
Step #5 Change The Channel (THINK THE OPPOSITE – SAY THE OPPOSITE)
You have a list of thoughts that go through your mind from Step #3 Identify Fact Or Fiction. Take each negative thought and flip it to the positive. For example:
- I can’t handle this job. I’m not going to think that, I can handle this job.
- At fifty-four years old, I’ll never find a boyfriend. I’m not going to think that, I will find the perfect boyfriend.
- If she spoke to me like that, obviously, she doesn’t like me. I’m not going to assume she doesn’t like me. We’re going to be good friends.
- One can’t be totally happy as there is always something that goes wrong. I’m not going to think that. I can be totally happy. God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7
- Life is tough. I’m not going to think that. In quietness and in trusting confidence I find strength. Isaiah 30:15
- Showing emotions is for weak people. Jesus wept and sometimes chastised in anger.
- Opportunity only knocks once. I’m not going to think that, because the hand of the diligent rules. Proverbs 23:24
- I’m too old I’ll never be able to achieve my dreams. I’m not going to think that because age is just a number. With God’s help, I will achieve my dreams.
- I’m helpless and have no control over my life. I’m not going to think that because I am not helpless. I have the power of choice.
- I don’t deserve it. I’m not going to think that because I do deserve it.
- Nobody loves me. I’m not going to think that because I am loved.
- I can’t. I’m not going to think that because I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
- It’s impossible. I’m not going to think that because with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26
REPEAT STEP #1 THROUGH STEP #5
Continue repeating the steps, one habit at a time, until each negative habit is changed. If sometime the old habit sticks its head up, go through the steps again. It may try to come back, but don’t allow it.