The power of habits is not to be underestimated. A mature understanding of habits and how to use them is fundamental to becoming a fully whole and integrated human being. Because your habits are the primary determinant of who you are and who you become:
“Repetition of the same thought or action develops into a habit, which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex” (Vincent Norman Peel)
What you do every day will change who you are. The issue is that most people have poor habits which they complete every day without thinking about them. Your habits will help you to correct some of your subconscious tendencies.
Consider that half of all of your daily activities are automatic. You do not put any conscious awareness into them. Habits are a way for our brains to conserve energy over time, and they are vital to our functioning. Imagine if you had to calculate every step to work beforehand, how to make your breakfast, open the front door, take each step to the car, start the ignition, drive in busy traffic etc.
Thankfully, our subconscious takes care of all of it. The brain is only capable of remembering between 5-9 facts at a time. The rest is passed to the subconscious for processing. When you do something once, you can complete it the next time around on autopilot far more easily. Most of your habits are driven by unconscious fears that you are not yet aware of. Correcting habits can have the effect of correcting these fears, though it takes time.
How to Master Habits
Everything that you do is no more than a habit. Some habits are incredibly deeply ingrained. The longer that a habit is put in place, the harder it is to replace. Think of the example of a person who has been smoking for 30 years, constantly used to taking smoking breaks with friends and smoking at home. But it is just as easy to make a habit out of going to the gym or meditating than it is to smoke or drink alcohol. As everybody knows it is not the gym or meditation that is difficult. It is the thought of the gym or meditation and getting to the place itself.
It takes 3 days for the body to get used to a different kind of diet. In drug rehabilitation, the first 3 days are the most difficult, and after this, the patient will have a much easier time staying away. This is because the body is physically dependent on the drug and has adapted to its presence. After 3 days, it will have adapted to functioning without the drug. However, this is only the physical side of things.
Scientific studies have established that it takes 3 weeks for a habit to become ingrained. After 3 weeks, it is likely that the person will continue doing it afterwards. So if you really want to master a habit, the 3 day and 21-day marks are the most important. After these points, it will become a lot easier. Once a habit has been installed, it just becomes second nature. It does not really matter what it is. This is the beauty of habits once you understand them and use them to your benefit.
Of course, the ultimate habit that you want to maintain is positive thoughts. The minute you find yourself thinking of a negative thought, try to change it to something positive. Overtime, even this will become second nature, and negative thoughts will have become a thing of the past. This is the ultimate habit to adopt, so it is best to start with other practices such as meditation or diet first.
Good Habits To Master
Affirmations are one of the best ways to enhance self-esteem, as long as they are done correctly. However, it should be borne in mind that the affirmations need to be believable. If the affirmation is too far from where you are, then it won’t be believed and will just remind you of what you are not. The affirmation also needs to be in the present tense and not a negation. “I am not poor” is reinforcing poverty, while “I am rich” reinforces riches.
There are an infinite amount of habits to take on board, so you will need to be selective. The best habits will depend on the person in question. It could be meditating, drinking a smoothie, visualizing your perfect day, or just making your bed before work. Also, consider turning off your WIFI at night and reducing technology usage before sleep.
The time just prior to sleeping and just upon waking is one where you have access to the theta state while still conscious. If you can try to manifest a positive emotion in these states, your day and night will run much more smoothly. Lucid dreaming is another modality which can help you get what you want.
The morning is the best time to complete a task or engage in a positive habit. Studies have demonstrated that willpower is highest in the morning and tends to wane as the day goes on. So start your day off as well as you possibly can. The worst thing that you can do is roll out of bed, look at your emails, shower, grab a slice of toast, and head to work. When you are looking at your emails you are basically downloading stress first thing in the morning. The morning time is sacred and you need to keep some space there for relaxation. Sadly, most people are stressed about work and do not even give themselves the morning to relax.
Habits are Hard
Whatever kind of habit you adopt, remember to stick with it for at least 3 weeks. And do it first thing in the morning. Over time, it will become second nature to you. Incorporate your habits one at a time so you do not get overwhelmed. Habits are very difficult to break out of once they become ingrained. They are engrained so strongly in the brain that they can even survive brain damage. On the other hand, this can be a good thing if you adopt positive habits. As per Warren Buffett:
“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken”
As difficult as habits may be to break, if you stick with it, the benefits can be phenomenal. You can find yourself on a never-ending spiral of self-development. One habit after the next can be broken, from the smallest to the biggest. But people often need to identify one keystone habit that will result in a change in all the others. You can use the power of habit to find your true self and establish unshakable self-esteem.