Habits free our mind for other things
Habitual ways of doing things can be efficient and effective. We do a complex task such as driving a car without having to figure it out each time, because we have learned so much of it as a habit.
But we may also indulge in obviously negative or self-limiting habits like smoking and drinking, other forms of substance abuse, and too much television, shopping or online gaming.
And there are more subtle and insidious habitual patterns of behavior that can hold us back from living as fully and realizing our abilities as completely as we could.
“Habit is really how we govern ninety eight percent of our lives on a daily basis. We do so many things that we don’t have to think about. That’s what sets us free. Habits are a wonderful invention.”
That is a quote by psychologist Kenneth W. Christian, PhD, from our interview Striving for achievement.
Our own worst enemy
But he notes in his book Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement, that highly capable people often hold themselves back in life because of repetitive patterns of action and thinking.
“Self Limiting High Potential Persons etch enduring pathways over time by repeating their characteristic self-defeating methods… this tendency can evolve into a general self-limiting style.”
In other words, bad habits.
He describes factors such as temperament and family situations that influence our styles – the ways we take action, or don’t.
Among the styles he defines is “Self-Doubters / Self-Attackers” who “block their success by holding high standards they feel they can never possibly meet and for which they therefore seldom strive…
“Paradoxically, they use self-criticism to defend themselves. By attacking themselves, they say, “Though I did not achieve all I could, at least I do not accept myself.”
More styles are listed on the page Self-limiting.
Change takes time
Dr. Christian also details strategies to become more effective and self-actualizing in life by gaining more awareness of these patterns of behavior, and refining or replacing them.
But he warns, “Change takes time, and early results are unpleasant. Many attempts to change end because this is not understood or accepted. Your existing system of thoughts and habits operates in the background of consciousness.
“Change involves reaching in and making adjustments to that system. You have some temporary hell to pay for tampering with it… Change begins with noticing your ability to choose new actions and then acting.”
Dan Robey’s Cognitive Re-Structuring
Dan Robey has developed a program for adding “positive habits to your life with the great power they have to change it,” as he puts it in his article Positive Habits.
He describes the two years that he was developing his Power of Positive Habits program, based on Cognitive Re-Structuring: “I researched literally 100’s of medical and scientific studies, journals and books.
“I interviewed the top Doctors and Scientists at such prestigious institutions as Harvard Medical School, New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Journal of the American Medical Association just to name a few.
“I researched the top books and scientific references on Success, Motivation, Self-Esteem and Relationships. I was in search of valuable information that could easily be ‘actionized’ into a new permanent habit, routine or thought pattern in your life.”
See more about his program on The Power of Positive Habits site.