We first make our habits, and then our habits make us. John Dryden
Habits are agnostic. Whether the action that you’re taking is good for you or bad for you, they behave the same way. So, what makes some habits bad and some habits good? It’s often a matter of perspective. Here’s the question I ask to figure that out…
Is the habit adding to my happiness or taking away?
If it’s adding, it’s good. If it’s taking away, it’s bad. Of course, I don’t mean if it’s adding to your happiness in the moment that you’re doing this action. Most habits will give you happiness in the moment. That’s why you do it. But what’s the long-term impact on your happiness? If the habit harms you in the long term, then it’s bad.
Harm can sometimes be a question of scale. A glass of wine with dinner can be an enjoyable part of a meal, but several drinks can be a problem. Playing a video game can be a good way to spend an hour with friends, but it can also be the reason someone drops out of college. It’s not always the action but the amount the action. Some people can moderate their own enjoyment of an activity while others can’t.
I used to have a lot of difficulty moderating how much television I watched. Once I sat down in front of the TV, it would be hours before I’d stop watching. And I’d watch the worst crap. After I watched an entire season of Flavor of Love in a single day, I had to admit I had a problem. Some people can watch one TV show. I couldn’t. So, I cancelled my TV subscription. This was 10 years ago before binge watching on Netflix was an option, so I didn’t have another outlet for my habit. I couldn’t watch TV.
And it worked! After having no television for years, now I can watch 1 show on Netflix and stop. It isn’t that TV was bad. In fact, there’s a lot of excellent TV programming out there. But it was the amount of TV I was watching. And it was impacting my happiness. I didn’t feel good watching that much tv. Emotionally, I was missing out on other things I’d rather be doing and that would have added more value to my life. Physically, it wasn’t healthy for me to spend so much time laying around.
To solve my bad habit, I practiced the Abstinence strategy, but there 9 other strategies that I teach in the Breaking Bad Habits training. I’ll be teaching it on July 1st, click here to find out how you can participate.
This emphasis on harm is important, because there may be actions you feel like you should stop because other people have said it’s bad. Maybe it is for them. But if it’s not taking away from your happiness or your health, then maybe it’s not a bad habit for you. We are not on a quest for perfection. The goal isn’t to live like ascetic monks or hedonist fools, but to find the balance between the two where we have joy, flexibility and pleasure in our lives.
So, if you love coffee, and it’s not disturbing your sleep or causing health problems, then why give it up? If you can spend time on FB connecting with friends and family, and it’s not taking away time from other things that are more important to you, why give it up? If a piece of chocolate is a treat for you and it doesn’t cause you to binge eat, don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy it. It’s a simple pleasure that makes life enjoyable.
Do you have a bad habit you want to break? Click here to enroll in the Breaking Bad Habit training: http://bestlifehabits.com/bad-habits
Perhaps you’re procrastinating, swearing, biting your fingernails, watching too much television, eating fast food, drinking too much alcohol, spending too much on credit cards, spending too much time on Facebook, drinking too many sodas or energy drinks, obsessively checking your smart phone- especially in bed, playing too much video games, cracking your knuckles, picking at your skin, pulling on your hair, speaking with your mouth full, smoking, chewing on your pen, overeating, eating after 8pm, interrupting people, not listening, complaining, monopolizing a conversation, leaving dirty dishes around the house, sleeping in, staying up late, speeding, checking your phone while driving…
Did I miss one? What bad habit do you want to get rid of? Click here to find out why you do it and how to stop: http://bestlifehabits.com/bad-habits