Growing up I was the one that mom had to come in to wake up many times to get me to wake up for school. It was like pulling teeth to get me to study. I didn’t like to read that much though my mother was an avid reader and had a vast library of classic literature. I was more interested in random things than I was any structure. None of this is to say that I wasn’t creative or diligent or adventurous, because I sure was. I just simply had trouble maintaining any sort of habit.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ― Aristotle
Habits form us, mold us, and create us into something that empowers us to be creators, inventors, intellectuals and great humans. It is in our nature to have and maintain habits, sometimes good and sometimes bad. I would imagine that we could each look within ourselves and see some type of addictive trait. We can get addicted to drugs, alcohol, sugar, smoking, etc. We can also become addicted to reading, studying, running, working out, networking, etc. No matter what we are currently addicted to we can change that, plus we can add new habits into the mix.
I have four lovely children, three of which can ride a bicycle without any trouble. Just over two years ago we were living in a previous neighborhood and none of my children could ride a bike. At the time my oldest was nine years old. I had worked with her many times to get her to ride, but to no avail. She would lose balance and give up. My son, our second oldest, was seven and had no interest whatsoever. Our third child was five and she was practicing on a balance bike and training wheels still, but nothing.
Often we hear the term “it’s like riding a bike”. Well, habits are a lot like riding a bike. We first need to have the interest; second, the work ethic; and then third, practice at it. Once we have done this our brains place these items into a near automatic state. Habits are stored in a part of the brain known as the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia is where we develop memories, emotions and pattern recognition. After we have worked at learning to ride a bicycle, get the balance necessary and then the control; we are then off to the races.
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” ― Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Learning new habits can become challenging for each of us. Sometimes it is fearful to change, obtain or destroy habits. Laziness and stuborness also get in the way as well. Sometimes a simple change in scenery, job, neighborhood, friends or a vacation can help us change our habits. We moved just over two years ago. Within two weeks of being in the neighborhood my girls both learned to ride a bicylce. The neighbor girls got them out and they saw how easy it was and learned right away. My son was not as motivated. This change helped to inspire my daughters to get out there and ride around with the neighbor girls.
Sometimes gaining new habits can hit road blocks. We want to find ways out of doing what is good for us because it seems hard. While searching online I found a statement that reads, “Get Off Your ‘But'”. It is easy for us to say stop being lazy, just get up and do it, but often the challenge is not our butt, but it is our but. We say “I would change this, but ….” and then the excuses start flowing. Sometimes we need a carrot, but that but can be strong. My son loves Legos so I encouraged him with a new Lego set. Well, that didn’t seem to do the trick. He loves scouts so I encouraged him with the ability to earn a new pin in cub scouts, but that didn’t work. I had no idea. This went on for 18 months. The decision needs to be ours. We need to commit.
One day we were sitting around and I softly encouraged him to get out on his bicycle. Something clicked inside of him and he committed that that day he would learn to ride a bike. That happened this spring. We got him up on his bike. He was hesitant at first, but it was “just ride down to that house”. He did it! He had acquired the skill. He just had to commit to himself and others that he would have no more excuses and he would do it. Many of our habits come from our commitment to execute them.
All three of my older children now love to ride their bikes. They ride them to school almost every day. My oldest has done a bike race and my son has completed a triathlon. This has become a habit that is now a part of who they are. They put forth the effort to learn to ride and are now adept at riding. This is what we need to do with each of the habits that we want to have in our lives. Whether you want to be healthier, be more fit, be more self aware, have greater spirituality, improve your home life or any other attribute then there is a habit that can help you achieve that.
What are some habits that you have acquired recently? How did you do it? Have you rid yourself of bad habits?