Our destiny in our life is controlled by our habits in a very major way. Unless we master our own habits, they will control our lives.
Let us take health as an example. People get healthy or sick by the health habits that they have developed. The moment health breaks down, then practically everything stops. One may resign from work, no longer be able to travel, and dreams and ambitions can no longer be pursued. If they smoke, eat a lot of meat, drink liquor, sleep late, don’t exercise, etc., all of which are habits, what will they expect after the age of 40? I know of people who are already taking heart maintenance medicine at 40 years old, or has high sugar level, kidney problem, etc. All these are largely preventable. How? By forming the right health habits early in life.
Let us take happiness as another example. Some people have grown up developing the habit of being angry when there are problems. A few people don’t have that habit. What is the effect? Those prone to anger will have problems in their family life, work relationship and their state of happiness or unhappiness. Some are in prison right now for acts they did during moments of rage. They know that they want to be happy. Yet they cannot help but be overcome by the habit of anger. The older we are, the more difficult to change our habits.
But the good news is that habits can be changed. How can we do so?
We must be clear first about the kind of life that we would like to live. Do we wish to be loving towards our family and other people? Is this really important to us? Then make a decision that we will practice daily habits of being kind or using positive words when we interact with members of our family or co-workers. In this example of one’s goal, here are suggested steps:
1. Decide on behaviors that you will do every day, such as smiling, saying thank you, saying neutral or positive words at least 95% of the time.
2. Create a powerful leverage so that you will be motivated to develop this habit. For example, (a) tell your wife or husband about your decision, and ask him or her to give you feedback if you are not being kind and positive. Ask them to remind you. (b) Visualize yourself constantly being positive, smiling and cheerful. It may feel awkward at the beginning. But remember that you are battling a negative habit that had been formed for 10, 20 or 30 years. (c) List down the advantages if you are successful in becoming a cheerful and positive person. Then make another list of consequences if you continue to be prone to anger, resentment or being critical. This will encourage you to persevere even if there is difficulty.
3. Give it at least three weeks of constant practice. Do it every day. When the behavior is repeated for three straight weeks, you will notice a change. You no longer need to exert effort in order to be positive and cheerful. The habit has taken over and your spontaneous behavior has changed. But it must be sustained consciously even after it has become a habit.
4. Then choose another set of habits that you would like to develop in yourself, such as exercising everyday, stopping smoking, reading books regularly, etc. Do such habit development program one at a time. Make sure you succeed each time. Then you will gain confidence and your personality will become obedient to your decisions.
Remember that our body, emotions and ordinary mind are like automatons. They follow the grooves of habit — how you think, feel and act. They behave unthinkingly out of habit. They determine in a significant manner the destiny of our life. We have higher levels of consciousness beyond habits, but many people have not sufficiently developed the powers of these higher levels, and hence are more subject to the control of habits.
Take charge of your habits. You take charge of your life.