Habits and the Realm of Choice

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the maze of habitHave you ever had a startling, uncomfortable realization of some thing you do that just doesn’t work for you?  We are all creatures of habit — but some habits come with an expiration date. 

There you go.  Late, again.  Talking too loud.  Attention-seeking.  Forgot about that appointment.   Not listening.  Lashing out at a loved one.  Whatever it is, you just caught yourself red-handed.  Or, perhaps someone you trust delivered the news.  This treadmill feels all too familiar.

This is a moment to cherish, and here is a method for making it a powerful opportunity for change:

  1. Notice your impulse to fix it.  There is a message embedded in this thing you do, so welcome this opportunity to listen to it.  If you drive it away, there is a risk it will re-emerge, yet again.  The impulse to fix a habit often triggers more habits, and can even insidiously re-trigger the habit, itself, sending you into a loop.  See if you can just hang out with it for a moment.
  2. Notice the feeling.  Do you feel shame?  Are you angry with yourself?  Frustrated?  What happens, inside, when you encounter this side of yourself?
  3. Get curious.  This is your habit, so you must have started it, sometime in the past, for a reason.  It must have served you once, in some way.  Ask yourself “I wonder why I chose to start doing this, when I was younger than I am, now.”
  4. Practice acceptance.  After spending some time getting to know this part of you, see if you can welcome it, as your own.  Don’t make it wrong.  It just is.
  5. Send yourself gratitude.  Whatever this habit did for you, once upon a time, it got you to here and now.  Good job!  It worked.  You survived.
  6. Expand your realm of choice.  As this part of you becomes easier to see, notice how it is a choice.  Even if it seems to keep on happening against your will, claim it.  Then, in time, you can get curious about other choices that are pcoralStaiwayChoiceossible.  Allow them to hang out side by side, and see what happens.

There is no habit that exists that doesn’t have a mechanism for keeping itself in place, keeping itself from your conscious awareness.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a habit.  It is formed of the very pathways of your own consciousness, and the person keeping it going is precisely as clever as you.

So, give yourself a break.  You’re human.  We all have an enormous capacity to grow and change, according to our own will and intention.  Harness it by respecting the power of your habits, listening to what they have to teach you, and expanding your realm of choice.

With thanks to Noah Einteen for his patient teaching.


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