Why Are Habits So Hard to Change?
Why are habits so hard to change?
Simple: because they are habits.
As flippant as that seems, it is a profoundly true statement. Last week we started talking about the formula for building a new habit.
First, we must recognize our ingrained habits. Some habits are extremely hard to change, break or replace because they have become, through repetition, so deeply embedded within us that we are, all too often, completely unaware that we are repeating them until after we have done so.
In fact, it may surprise you to learn we are frequently blind to many of our habits until they are pointed out to us.
We all know people who have mannerisms we find annoying or distracting. Perhaps they unconsciously point their fingers at us while talking, or maybe they are unaware of how loudly they speak, or they talk with their mouths full of food, inadvertently sharing their meal with anyone within firing range.
If it is indeed true that all behavior is learned then these behaviors, once learned, have been finely honed through years of practice to the point where they are as consciously unaware of their behaviours as their observers are consciously aware.
It is true that we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge and sometimes, with habits, the road to change is made more tenuous by the fact that we won’t change what we are not aware of until such time as we become aware. Then we can (hopefully) acknowledge.
Hard to Change
I remember, way back, when I first began conducting seminars, I had an awful habit that would undoubtedly impede my success, yet it was one with which I was completely unaware until a kind participant took me aside during a break and pointed it out to me.
Like many, standing before a group was both a terrifying and uncomfortable experience for me and yet, it was the pathway I had chosen to pursue when I first started my seminar company.
Perhaps as a means of attempting to hide my discomfort, I spent much of my time at the front of the room with one of my hands in front of my mouth effectively muffling my already soft voice.
Once I was made aware of this distracting habit, I enlisted the help of a friend who accompanied me to my speaking engagements and stood at the back of the room signaling me whenever my hands gestured up towards my mouth.
It took a long time to replace this habit with a different one because, despite being acutely aware of the damage it was wreaking on my career, I kept “forgetting” my hand was frequently positioning itself in front of my mouth.
Arguably, I had developed a blind spot to something right in front of my very eyes.
Which is why I implore clients to make self awareness a non-negotiable habit so they can see their own blind spots and begin the process of changing them.
Each of us can benefit by doing this: becoming inquisitive enough to discover our own habits, and then selecting the ones that have become road blocks preventing us from being who we want to be.
“There but for me, go I”, it is a powerful reminder that until we get out of our own way, the journey will remain fraught with challenge. The habit is simply hard to change.
When you are ready to evolve your life and live less out of habit and more out of intent, it’s time for you and I to meet.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
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