Want to Change a Habit?

When a snowstorm rolls toward the White Mountains, the wind picks up. Powerfully. Strongly. Forcefully. At times, the gusts are over 50 miles an hour. The trees bend as this force of nature puts the towns in these parts on notice. The temperature drops and icy fingers of cold creep around doors and windows. A winter event is on its way. This condition goes on for two or three days.

The Duff and I walk in the early mornings. He hunkers down and moves along. But when the wind surge is strong, I have to almost bend over double to continue on my way. I marvel at the power of the weather at that time. When the storm reaches the Mountain, the wind ceases. Sometimes suddenly. Totally. And the snow begins to fall softly and gently to provide much-needed moisture.

To me, the wind before a storm is similar to gathering the energy to end an old pattern. When I realize something in my life is not working, I gear up. I become the power of the wind before the storm. Be it weight loss or exercise, over investing on a shopping spree or spending less time on the Internet, I stop. And figure out: where did this habit come from?

For me, and perhaps you too, bad habits are the result of stress or boredom. And all of these behavioral patterns are in my life for a reason. They serve a purpose and fill a need in some way. As a result, it’s difficult to simply eliminate them. “Just stop doing that” often brings up a lot of resistance, right?

How to get past that old way of doing and break that habit? Here are some tips:

  • Start with awareness. It’s easy to get caught up in my feelings about those pesky habits. But these thoughts take me away from what’s really happening. Instead, I focus on when the habit happens. How do I feel? Who am I with? Clarifying the activity will give me dozens of new ideas to stop it.
  • Choose a substitute for that bad habit. Just as the wind’s intensity before a storm, I make a plan and gather energy for something new. For me, it needs to be just as attractive as the old habit, or it’s a no go.
  • Shift as many triggers as possible. For the wind to introduce my storm (the U-turn,) I change my environment. I worked with a woman to quit smoking. Instead of sitting in her favorite chair to smoke, she took a walk instead. Result? She dropped 25 pounds and stopped The outcome was attractive to her.
  • Visualize yourself succeeding. When I geared up to start walking again after the recent Major Storm, I pictured myself stepping into my boots and walking out of the door. And the rest was easy.
  • Use the word “yet” to overcome negative self-talk. One thing about battling bad habits is it’s easy to judge myself. Every time I slip up, I’m oh-so-quick to tell myself I failed again. Instead, substitute the word “yet” and notice how it feels. “I haven’t cleaned up that corner”¦yet.” What a difference.
  • Plan for failure. Rather than beat myself up over a mistake, I plan for it. Sure, I can get off base. But I’ve noticed what separates top performers from the rest of us is: they get back on track very quickly. My favorite example? A football quarterback with an intercepted pass. He shakes it off and runs another play. Pays off in the long run.

Be the powerful wind before the storm and end old patterns. Get unstuck.

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