Jenny loves to sleep on the left side of her bed; Debabrata shakes his legs when seated; Neha folds her arms, while Subendhu runs his fingers through his hair when talking to someone; Ravi brushes his teeth twice daily; the first thing Tarun does after returning from office is to log in Facebook; Anita checks her mobile phone in every 10 mins, even though there is no new notification; Sayantan likes to light up a smoke and read a book before hitting the bed at night; Amit checks his pockets frivolously before going out of the house; the singer in Vivek comes alive when he takes a bath; after checking a new mail, Greg re-reads previous mails and/or surfs the net for sometime before resuming work.
All of the above have one thing in common, the respective behavioral patterns of the individuals, keep repeating when faced with the identical situations, almost involuntarily; with time, they have grown to become our Habits. Stress must be given to the ‘almost involuntary‘ part, as with our habits we have a control over our choices e.g. jogging every day is a habit which we may skip for a day. If we observe our daily life keenly, it’s not hard to tell that most of out actions are related to identical situations faced and are governed by our habits, e.g. brushing our teeth once we wake up in the morning, shaking hands when we meet someone, washing our hands before having a meal, charging our cell phone when the battery is low etc. Most of our habits are desired by us, while some are not quite like say eating between meals, shaking legs when seated. And then there are some where we lose the control over our choices and which outgrow to become an addiction, like gambling, smoking, even being hooked to Facebook for hours. More often than not, our habits define ourselves.
I vividly recollect a particular class of my 6th grade back in 1998, taken by Mr. Roy. It was raining outside, and Mr. Roy came to take our English class as a substitute teacher. Once done with the roll call, he picked up a chalk and headed to the blackboard, and in bold capital letters wrote down ‘HABIT’. He turned towards the class and asked us to read it aloud, and we unanimously yelled out ‘H-A-B-I-T’. “Right”, said Mr. Roy, “and habits form an integral part of our life,” he continued as he turned towards the blackboard. Next he rubbed of the ‘H’ and asked us spell what was left. Though a bit surprised, we yelled ‘A-B-I-T‘. “Exactly”, exclaimed Mr. Roy, “even if we manage to rub off a part of HABIT – a bit remains!” Then he rubbed off the ‘A’, and said, “see, even if we rub some more off, ‘B-I-T’ of it remains.” He then proceeded to rub off the ‘B’ and all that was left jotted down on the board was ‘I-T’. Once done, he turned towards us and said, “no matter how much we take out from a habit, IT still remains. Habits stay with us forever. While most of them are desirable, some are not quite.” That day the class got over in another half-an-hour, the lesson stayed on.
As life moves ahead we keep evolving and so do our habits, most times unknowingly and at times consciously. Everyone of us have some habits which we want to shed off and some which we want to develop, and quite amazingly some of these have been there at the corner of our head since long. Vishal has been planning to hit the gym since our college days, Rupali wants to play the piano since she was a kid, Sumeet is contemplating to quit smoking for the past year-an-half. The one and only way to shed off any undesired habit of ours is to grow a new one which blocks the older one, and to grow a new habit consciously we need loads of motivation, will, effort and patience. Some points to consider in order to develop a new habit:
- Start small – While picking up a new habit it’s necessary that we don’t rush to achieve it, instead start small by developing a tiny habit and then build on it. If you are planning to do sit-ups, better start with doing 5 a day and build on that than start with 20 and call it quits in 3 days. Set small goals and celebrate your achievement, you deserve it.
- Commit yourself – The time required to develop a habit varies greatly with the habit and the individual concerned. Commit yourself for 4 weeks, if you don’t pick it up, it will at least be in your comfort zone. Do NOT quit, don’t worry if you fail, you can always recommit .
- Remind yourself – If you are building upon a habit it’s necessary to keep yourself reminding pretty often of the same and the improvements it brings with it, jot it down in your diary, use reminders, use notes. The best time to remind yourself is during morning and evening, daytime are pretty hectic.
- Kill the Temptation – Kill all the temptation that hinders your path, this would ease out your mental battle a bit. If you are going to jog in the morning you have to get up early and kill that desire to sleep a little more.
- Believe and Build – Believe in yourself and build on your believe. Put up all your efforts. Remember there are 365 days in a year, so you have 365 shots to get it done.
P.S. Old habits die hard, and then they do die.