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It has been said that we, human beings, are creatures of habit. All of us have experienced the routines of going to bed, getting up, times when we eat, what we eat and a host of many others. We can experience these routines or habits at a mind level or at a physiological level. Think of many who cannot resist a cookie, or a can of Mountain Dew, or cigarettes, or alcohol or a porn image. At this point, I would like to go a step further and say that we are not only creatures or habit, but we are creatures of addiction. Because of our natural dependence on sensory feedback and the ability to feel pleasure, we are capable of getting addicted to many harmful things, however, we are also able to getting addicted to good things.
A good piece of advise
Jeff Benedict, in his book ” The Mormon way of doing business,” shares an excerpt from a letter written by J. Willard Marriott (founder of Marriott International and the hotel chain) to his son Marriott Jr. In this excerpt J. Willard gives his son two pieces of advise for a successful life. One, Always create good habits for bad ones will destroy you. Second, Pray when you need to make a difficult decision.
I read that excerpt a few years ago and it stills hits me between the eyes. There are many things I cannot control, but I realized then that I have been given full control of my habits. The habits we encourage in our daily lives will eventually dictate the path we take and the amount of happiness or misery we enjoy in this journey called life. In April 2010, USA Today published the results of a 20 year study where 5,000 British adults were followed. The study focused on four common bad habits: smoking, drinking too much, inactivity and poor diet. The results showed that such habits substantially increased the risk of death and made those who engage in them seem up to 12 years older.
Our family of origin
As children and later during our adolescent years we are a captive audience to our family of origin, meaning our parents and siblings, in at least two ways. One, we are recipients of our parents’ genetic inheritance. Two, we learn habits as we observe and participate in the different activities in our home. Our genetic inheritance includes various degrees of tolerance towards addictive behaviors as well as propensities to other illnesses. Our capacity to learn and absorb at home can be reflected in the simple use of the words “please” and “thank you.” The use of good manners is greatly fostered when such expressions are repeated over and over in our families of origin and when children have the opportunity to practice them among family members. Regardless of our genetic factor and the examples we carry in our memories from our younger years, our individuality and our capacity to direct our lives is never relinquished. This means that we still own our thoughts and actions, and consequently, we can choose the direction of our lives. As Mr. Marriott said, ” create good habits, for bad ones will destroy you.”
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I remember talking to a man in his 50’s. He told me he had been in and out of jail for most of his life, and there he was, he said, with nothing to show for. Drugs had dominated his life, however, the next statement was quite revealing. He said that he did not want and was not ready to change until now.
On a different occasion, I was present when and older gentleman told of his knee pain history and how he was able to find relief through pain killers. There came a point, he said, when he realized he was becoming dependent on those pills. He went to his doctor and told him not to give him those pills anymore and to explore other ways to manage his pain.
The caffeinated soft drink advent in the U.S. has created a devastating trend of caffeine dependence, obesity, tooth decay, weakening of the bones and other ailments. I have seen young and old become mesmerized by the clicking sound of an aluminum can being opened. I have heard those sounds at all times of the day in offices: morning, afternoon and night. Nonetheless, I have witnessed individuals that have kicked the soda pop habit and turn to healthier levels of consumption or nothing at all. It has not been easy, but they have succeeded.
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Creating new habits
Counsel in creating good habits is varied and extensive. I would like to share my view. The number one piece of information I would like to emphasize is the fact that you are a worthwhile individual. There is no one like you. You are unique in your physique, your talents and influence for good. No one will ever replace you on this planet because there is only one of you. Second, no one will ever have any influence in your mind and brain unless you allow it. Viktor Frankl in his outstanding book ” Man’s Search for Meaning,” his story as a concentration camp prisoner in Nazi Germany, concluded that everything can be taken from a man or a woman, except the power to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. Third, learn self-discipline. One important aspect of self-discipline is the need to release any tension connected with the task at hand. Meditation, mindfulness, exercise are a few techniques used to relieve tension. Once tension is manageable it is important to tackle the task. In other words action. There is no substitute for action. The more we do, the more time we will have and most importantly, we will be on our way to creating new habits. You are worth every effort. Move forward. Best wishes.