The ART of Habit
As a martial artist I have learned quickly the art of habit; keeping your hands up to protect the face should become a habit, reacting to a takedown by scrambling to the knees or recovering guard- habit, making it to class every week – habit, calling my instructor Sifu and bowing after class- habit. With out these things the arts I study, the abilities I hope to reach and the time I spend training would mean nothing. Habit is a then good thing – right?
In the fitness world every great figure model I ever knew, every accomplished athlete or any person that has seen real changes from training has relied on a form of habit. Be it clean eating, systematic training or even the simple habit of ‘getting to the gym’, these habits keep people on track. Good habits get us and keep us at the top of our physical, physiological and mental game. Habit is therefore a great thing- right?
On the other hand, poor habits like dropping your hands when you kick, going to sleep at three in the morning every night, eating a tub of ice-cream after dinner, or falling into a habitual comfort zone on your couch is perhaps the worst type of habit one can acquire. Doing the things we loaf about ourselves instinctually, over and over again until our poor habits eat away at us kills the very essence of what we are trying to accomplish. Habits too often keep us reliant on them. Habit is then a bad thing?
Good Habits can make us Great, Poor Habits can Break us down
DISCLAIMER: There is no one reading this that has only good habits. No one. Not your mother, not the president, not your trainer, your Sifu, your doctor, not Justin Beaver and not even the Dalai Lama. We are human and that label is synonymous with a very real feeling of being mortal.
The Art of Habit is a consistent fight between the forces of good and evil for everyone! Okay this is not an epic novel, its your life. And perhaps you are now looking over your own patterns of good and bad behavior, or perhaps you know exactly where the horn in your heal is. Lets say you have been trying to get rid of the 5 coffees a day habit for the past several month. Like a splinter, a poor habit can keep everything else in your life from reaching its full potential.
So ANYWAY- whats to be done about all this?
Now that we finally admitted to ourselves that human nature can get the best of us, what is to be done about this?
A while back I went to a charity event my sister was having for her passion project, the Y Society (charity after work – a good habit) . They were hosting a series of speakers, one of which was a man who had written yet another book on Happiness. The concept however was a perspective of how habits can either make us happy people, or they can keep us miserably doubtful of ourselves.
I took away several small things out of his speech:
1. Identifying your bad habits
2. Deciding that these things will be changed
3. Creating a path to changing these things (yes, yes I will elaborate here)
4. 25 days and its your new habit?
Research studies show that if you do something for 25 days straight it will become your habit. I am not asking anyone to be in KB class twenty five days in a row, we are closed on Sundays and- well, you’d be nuts. What I am saying here is that if you make it a habit to come to KB class three days a week and the rest of the days ‘Be It’, ‘Embody It’, ‘Think About It’ – the habit of getting into training and looking forward to it every time will be yours. That is why there are those ‘crazy’ people out there that are always looking forward to going to the gym – they made it a habit, a good habit makes you happy! We all know our human nature LOVES habit.
Trick yourself. If you want to watch less TV and read more, hiding the TV remote control and placing a book on your coffee table instead will help you pick it up and start a path to a new habit. Erasing all the music from your ipod and downloading Japanese 101 onto your phone instead will help you learn another language.
Creating a path to changing things is as simple as tricking yourself and making good habits more available. Basically- place the things you want right in front of your face, and HIDE the bad ones. If you drink ten coffees a day, get rid of all the coffee in your house and don’t carry spare change in your wallet on the way to work (I know Starbucks takes credit cards!). So, take an alternate route to avoid your favorite Starbucks. Allow yourself one ritual coffee in the morning from a deli and then stock your work fridge with alternative things like natural green tea. Announce your new habit to people so that friends can ‘hold you to it’. Finally, reward yourself after a good habit is done. As an example, after your third day of working out every week take yourself out to your favorite Sushi restaurant. If you are trying to pick up green tea instead of a coffee, pair it with a favorite snack. Allow the body to identify the reward with your new habit.
Finally, THINK- Just twenty five days and – the poor habit is gone!
I have gone to far lengths to create good habits. In martial arts I drop my hands, so I asked my partner to kick me harder then usual every time my right hand dropped. At home I asked my fiancée to place a treadmill in our bedroom!?! (I know). And he did (it has since moved to the office) but hey- at the time I needed to facilitate my habit.
I see students that have transformed themselves because they made coming into the Academy a life habit, creating that warrior code in their lives as they took up martial arts and physical training like KB.
Remember: Creating good habits is evolution. Staying in poor habits is deterioration!
Okay on that note- POST your ways of getting rid of bad habits below (if you want!).