Forgotten habits exist right under the skin.
We think we’ve got them licked, but they’re always immediately beneath the surface, ready to emerge whenever we get careless or ignore their symptoms. Or look at them this way: We never get rid of them; we put them into deep freeze and can defrost them whenever we get sloppy.
We would all like to think we have “our acts together,” certainly in how we present ourselves to others. As I said we would like to think that, but equally certain is that within each of us there is a nagging — oft times scolding — inner voice pointing out our shortcomings; loath to congratulate and pretty darn quick to disparage. No one likes being critiqued with unrelenting regularity, so what do we do?
Simple, like teenagers not wanting to be scolded by critical parents, we tune it out. Call it “denial;” call it “defense mechanism;” or call it “mental health,” after all, a rose by any other name…
However, despite what children protest, sometimes, we parents know of what we speak and the warnings we provide could save them a bucketful of hassle — if only they’d listen. Alas; they, as did we, find out too late.
Being a “wrinkled kid,” I ignored my internal parent and was unintentionally thawing out some past routines.
It began innocently enough with five little words (six, if you count the contraction as two): “One small bite won’t hurt.”
And it doesn’t.
Neither does the next; or the next, or even the fourth. But upon the frightful realization that I had waded in so deeply I could no longer see the shoreline, I needed to face reality.
See, that’s the thing about habits. They’re so dang insidious and sneaky — not a dog rambunctiously pouncing on a ball, rather a cat secretly, stealthily, silently stalking its victim. We’re not eating a free-range, organic, non-processed, all-natural, high-fiber, low-sodium, fat-free, no-artificial-ingredient-diet one day; gorging ourselves on a family-size bag of cheesy chips dipped in lard, while washing it down with a tub-full of sugary soda on the next. If only it was that obvious and sudden. No, it’s way seductive, providing us with plausible deniability…until your pants don’t fit, or you no longer believe your own excuses about the scale’s accuracy, or you’re panting when you walk, or…
Well, I am proud to say I have emerged from my self-inflicted fog and the feeling of a regained sense of control is even better than the tighter belt I’m wearing again. I’m at the lowest I’ve been in a year, and at this pace, I’ll be at the lowest I’ve been in about a decade by summer’s end. Woo-hoo!
So, ever the helper, in the interest of assisting others to find their sunshine again, I offer some hard learned observations:
- Habits “coalesce;” not “pop.” Like dew on a glass of cold iced-tea on a summer’s day, they don’t just — Poof! — appear! Little by little, before you know it, without observation, the glass is soaked. It happens so slowly you don’t notice it, but that doesn’t mean it is not happening.
- Once we reign in control, we realize we were a lot further out of control than we admitted. We justified it, saying, “It’s not a problem, I can change whenever I want.” But if that were honest, why would we wait?
- We do not need to upend our lives to feel better again. Since habits arrive in small increments, we can send them packing by developing simple but consistent behaviors.
- We’re human – and therefore we will never be “done.” We are works in progress; always learning. Self-flagellation is in direct competition with self-improvement. We will repeat this education process until we pass on. After that, it won’t really matter, will it?
Keep it in perspective.
Scott “Q” Marcus is a motivational productivity expert and weight loss speaker. He is the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com and founder of 21DayHabitChange.com, guaranteed to help you change a habit in just 3 weeks. He can be reached at 707.442.6243, email@example.com or facebook.com/ThisTimeIMeanIt.