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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Forming habits....breaking habits

Well, so....

My son says that all the time "well, so...."  and I think I have mentioned this before, but I had wondered for a long time where he got it from.  Then one day I caught myself saying it and realized that I say it ALL THE TIME without even realizing it.  I have also realized that I type it often without realizing it.  I am not even sure I think about it in terms of context or anything else.  It is just something that I say unconsciously.  Funny the way the mind works....

Anyway, SO....Habits!

Habits are so much a part of life that we tend to not even think about them until we are trying about to change something in our lives.  Nearly everything we do in our basic, daily living routine is done by habit.  That nice repetitive way we make our choices and structure our day.  Even our interactions with our family, friends, and co-workers are based on habitual behavior and thought patterns.  From what we eat or drink to what time we leave for work (are you always running late too?--its habit), to what clothes we wear, when we call our mother, and what we think about the weather.

According to the HABIT is "Definition: The usual condition or state of a person or thing, either natural or acquired, regarded as something had, possessed, and firmly retained; as, a religious habit; his habit is morose; elms have a spreading habit; esp., physical temperament or constitution; as, a full habit of body. "

According to the World English Dictionary Habitat is "the environment in which an animal or plant lives or grows; and the place in which a person, group, class, etc... is normally found."

Habits, the unconscious patterns that give each of us our individual habitat....Because it is by our habits that we end up where we are usually found.

So, why all this talk about habits--well, as we all know losing weight (or any other major transformation) required we make changes in the way we do things--the way we eat, the way we use our body, the patterns of our sleeping, etc...  And for that change to truly be a lasting change and thus a transformation, it has to be a change in the habits of our thought patterns as well as our actions.  If you only change the actions but the underlying thought patterns have not changed, it will not last.  For example, if you want to lose weight and you go on, say the Atkins diet, doing low carb everything, follow the plan exactly as written and get down to your ideal weight, even if it takes many months.  Well that is a great accomplishment.  But if your underlying conscious and subconscious thought habits still think about food in the same way you did prior to starting the Atkins, you are going to eventually move back into your old eating patterns (say you still believe, even after Atkins, that you need a particular amount of grains in your regular diet as depicted by the food pyramid) then you will move back into eating a more habitual, grain heavy diet and slowly build back into the same situation you were in, or find yourself battling against the return of the weight instead of enjoying your new, healthier body with new habits and new habitual ways of thinking.  It is why "dieting" is only marginally successful.  You see it all the time, people lose the weight on this diet or that diet, only to gain it back a few months or years later.  I think the major reason for this is NOT that the person had no will power or what have you, but rather that the basic underlying habits in thought did not change while the conscious actions of the body were changing.

I find this in myself as I am trying to create new habits.  They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit, others say it takes doing something around 21 times over a 40 day period to create a habitual change in action.  I believe that it is possible that both of these are true.  There is something about that three week mark when doing something diffrent that it starts to really click and become part of you.  I remember a sermon at chapel in college once that talked about praying the same prayer (a 3-6 word, succinct prayer) every day for 30 days, and how you could literally see the steps that were making that prayer come true unfold before you.  It is the consistency of thought and focus that brings God's power and your awareness together so that you can open your eyes and see it.  It is the change in the habit of your thoughts and spirit that facilitate that.  The teaching in the Law of Attraction ideas are based on the observation that the more you focus on it, the more it comes into being for you.

So....I have found that after over 10 days of a vegetable, fruit, and algae smoothie a day (which I loved), I had a couple of days where I got up late and did not have time to make it, and low and behold I have dropped right back into my old habit which does not include a morning smoothie.  Even though I LOVED the smoothie and have on occasion made one in the afternoon, that habit I had started building of getting up early and making a fresh green smoothie to take on the road with me has not become a habit.  So I need to get into the commitment and motivate myself to overcome the habitual patterns that make me NOT get up and make a smoothie in the morning.  This transition time is a time which requires persistence, motivation, and the brute force effort of will power to overcome those ingrained habits and replace them with habits that I WANT for my life...both externally and internally.

The smoothies is just one example, but my other eating habit changes are definitely still in a great deal of flux and I find it easy to slip back into old patterns rather than push forward in forging new ones. So it is time to redouble my efforts.  What I really realize though is how much our HABITS dictate what our eventual HABITAT becomes. 

So often I have heard people say "i don't know how my life got to where it is today."  Sometimes they have a great life and are looking at it in awe going "how'd I get here?!"  and it is a sense of wondering and joy.  More often though, a person is looking at crap in their lives and where they have ended up and is wondering the same question "how'd I get here?!?" 

Baring major natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, government screw ups...) or sudden traumatic personal/familial events (war, sudden death, fast developing medical conditions, arrival of a child with special needs, major accident with serious injury, house fire, running out of checks....), most people, if we are really honest with ourselves, can look at what our habits are and see how they led us to the habitat we find ourselves in.  Whether we meant to end up there or not and whether or not we were aware of how our own actions and ideas brought about subtle changes in our lives which led to where we are today, very often we find ourselves where we are because of unconscious habits of thought and action.  For example, if I am always thinking about how a particular person is going to impact my life, and keep expecting that this is what is going to happen when I see this person, stressing about it and focusing on it, that is what will happen, in part because I react to that person as though it has already happened. This perpetuates a reaction from them that validates my original thinking, which makes me react in a predictable manner, which in turn brings more of what i did NOT want, but because I focused on it and reacted to life in a way that would make it real, it then became real. 

I am in debt far higher than I can pay right now.  And you could say that it happened because of J's medical issues and the issues with his insurance during the first few months he was with us, and that would, in part be true.  There were a LOT of medical bills that we were not prepared for and there was a major paperwork snafu which lead to him not getting the secondary insurance he should have had from the get go, that he didn't get until 5 months later.  Thus leaving a lot of unpaid medical bills in the meantime.  And the fact that his issues and needs really required one of us to be home with him full time (after we tried a handful of other options, so it was a good 7 months after he arrived before I resigned from my job).  So the loss of income combined with the medical bills could fall under the acceptable "out of my hands/control" situation.  Except for the fact that a good deal of the debt I am dealing with was incurred prior to his arrival.  Yes it was incurred at a time when we had the income level that could make the payments and everything, but it was that whole "living the American dream" on credit as so many of us do.  So when disaster DID strike in the form of Josiah (whom is a bomb I would welcome at any time and place and do all over again even though the next year and a half were a blurry hell filled with pockets of intense joy and light.  He is my bomb that became a balm.) it landed on a lot of ammunition creating a bigger impact.

It was not Josiah's medical and paperwork issues that created the primary debt problem I am still dealing with.  It was not even leaving my job that created it.  It was the fact that we had been living on the economic edge prior to his surprising arrival in our lives, with our credit near the max and
 having depleted our savings and resources on two adoptions (Rustam who never came home, and Gonzo's whose legal battle gave us the second mortgage on the house), we were unable to handle such an impact on our lives.  BUT we were unaware of that at the time, and continued in our habits.  If things had gone just a little different, the impact would have been different.  If J's paperwork had been in order, he would have had secondary insurance from the get go and those first three months of emergency room runs, major brain surgery, and long stays in the ICU would have been covered.  If A had not resigned two weeks into J's hospital stays (without discussing it with me), our income might have been more stable some issues might not have  occurred.  If we had found a nanny capable of handling J and G's issues (like a nurse or something) things might have been different.  IF......if.......if.......

But it was our habitual thought patterns--X has to happen, Y is the way things should be, Z is how you  handle ABC, and if you need more money, just borrow it, we can always pay it back later when things calm down.......(famous last thoughts.....)

My life is the way it is in so many areas because of the way that my habits and my conscious and subconscious thought patterns and beliefs have been.  Yes, things happen in life we have no or very little control over, but we DO have control over how we react, and if we are not working very hard on changing our lives to be better, we react out of habit, and keep bringing ourselves into the same habitat.  It is where we expect to be, and where others expect to find us.  our habits create our habitat.  To truly change our lives, to transform my life, to get into a new habitat, i need to change my habits at their core, that the subconscious and conscious levels of thought in addition to action....

It's a long road.....but a road none the less, and if I run out of road I can bushwhack a trail if I need to.  Transformation appears to be a slow process....

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