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The Power of Habit

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I have a Latin saying a day. Probably because I'm a nerdy kinda person and took Latin in high school. It occassionally comes in handy. Last Sunday, the saying was this:

Magna est vis consuetudinis.

Translation? Great is the power of habit.

I thought it was such a great saying, I just had to keep it, ruminate on it a little, then write about it. Because frankly, it's true. We talk about needing to break habits, like they are horses. And to some degree they are. Without taking the time to train our habits, they run wild and rampant like an untamed horse.

You probably have more habits than you realize. Just what you do in the morning is more out of habit, or auto-pilot if you will, than a conscious decision to roll out of bed, stumble to your coffee, visit the toilet and scrounge for clothing. (Ok, so that more describes my morning, but you get the idea.)

If you really pay attention to what you're doing, do you find yourself plopping down in front of the computer to check the news while you're drinking your morning coffee? Do you always take the same route to work? Do you habitually wash your hair before shaving in the shower? All these are the force of habit, imposing on your life.

Habits are usually described as good or bad. Let's face it, they can in fact be both. But I suggest they can be shaped and trained. But they are powerful. If you don't believe me, try changing up your morning routine and see how it impacts you. Habits are strong, and they can totally shape your behavior. But instead of resisting that power, try tapping it instead.

Want to add more fitness activity into your life. Find a precise time in your day to add it in, and consciously be sure to do it, at least for 3 weeks. By then, you'll probably find that it has become a habit and you seldom have to think about it. Not a breakfast eater? Have something small, very small, for three weeks. The habit will stick and you'll have a new routine.

What I don't suggest is trying to overhaul all of your habits at one time. Pick one that you want to add or change, and work on that one, just that one, until it really sticks and becomes part of your auto-pilot sequence. Then move on to the next one. Sure, you may not experience dramatic overnight change in your life or on the scale, but you'll be incorporating changes that will remain and transform your entire lifestyle. And lasting change is what you're shooting for. Take it from the tortoise, slow and steady wins the race. So does the power of habit.
 


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