Breaking the Stubborn Habits

By Yong Kok

New year resolution – An annual activity that some of us do at the turn of the new year. How many a times these resolutions are actually followed through and achieved? That’s a nil for me almost all the time. It was only last week it dawned on me that on many occasions, we often set our goals too high thus not able to overcome these entrenched bad habits, or form good habits . For the latter, it is usually coupled by breaking the old habits to form better ones. Thus, this article serves to share my recent new found perspective.

Bad Habits – they are formed as a result of greed, anger, ignorance, conceit or suspicion. They often start small. If we do not nip them in the bud when they first sprouted, they will flourish and eventually become poisonous fruits. Seeds from these toxic fruits will be sowed and more of such fruits will be bore. Conversely, the reverse is true as well.

Advent of Facebook. When it was first launched, I recalled checking the website once every few days. Initially, it was just pure curiosity. Eventually, without realizing my growing attachment to Facebook, I started to post pictures, comments and also ‘like’ comments and pictures posted by friends on the social media platform. More often than not, pictures chosen are often the better ones – in hope that I will receive more thumb ups / compliments. Looking back, this was to feed my developing pride. The desire to be recognized leads to an addiction to the social media. The cycle just repeats itself. And now I am stuck in this vicious cycle of habits. Getting out will not be as easy as treading into it initially. 

Something I read recently changed my perspective on breaking habits. Though it may sound simple, it took me 30 years to understand it. This works for someone like me, who has quite a low level of discipline to see through my new action plans. Our habitual tendencies are developed over countless of lifetimes.  Hence to break bad habits once and for all, you got to be kidding me! So what we can do is to start small and the effect of the good habits forming will compound with time. 

Starting small –> we are all equipped with survival instinct. In the face of danger, we will either ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ from the situation. If the task or challenge proves to be insurmountable, we will often run away from it rather than going head on with it. Similarly for our bad habits. To create a plan to break the old habits — you will have to do it such that it does not trigger such a response from the brain. Thus, introducing gradual change will ease you out of your old and bad habits by forming new and good ones to negate it. This is what I experienced this morning:

After coming back from a holiday , I realised that I have added some centimetres to the waist line. It is of a concern to me as I will probably need to change my wardrobe –> too much of a hassle to me. It spurred me to do something. Running. However, putting on running shoes and hitting the road will take a lot from me, especially so when the bed is so enticing. My past experiences of running are often painful, as I am working against my body to push for better timings and longer distances. Usually, I will set a target of a certain distance to run. Thereafter I will bite the bullet and complete the run despite it being painful. This triggered the ‘flight’ mechanism within me. It made me dread going for another painful run subsequently. Hence, as I was lazy and scared of pain, the running regimes did not survive by the end of the schedule month.

Today, I have decided to take a different tack. I ran at a comfortable pace. After running for 15 minutes, I decided to reward myself with a 15 minutes walk home. No stress, just enjoy the process. This is a little different from what I used to do. I had started small, by running at a comfortable pace and did not set high expectations for myself. This made the run enjoyable. So, as long as I continue to enjoy the run, I will not dread the next run and not come up with excuses (i.e. being lazy) to stop exercising. Overtime through consistent exercise (i.e. forming good habits), I will build stamina and strength and thus will be able to endure and manage pain better.

With today’s experience, I am looking forward to the next run – and it will be a good start to getting my fitness back to shape again!