Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, originally written April 23, 2004 updated November 2015
Based on an idea from Gary Keller, “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent”
“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken!”
What a profound statement! Think about it. “The chains of habit are too light to be felt…” We create habits in everything we do. It can be over-eating, smoking; drinking of alcoholic beverages, our personal relationships, our business relationships, our business practices, our hobbies, the list is endless.
I looked up the word “habit” in Webster’s Dictionary:
7 a : a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance b : an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary
As you can see by the number, there were at least seven definitions of habit, actually there were 9. What was interesting was that at the conclusion of the above definition, it was suggested that the reader click on the next related word and that was “ADDICTION”, how scary is that? Think about what it says, “An acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary” is only one step away from being ADDICTED!
What it does NOT suggest is that the behavior or habit can be either GOOD behavior or BAD behavior.
For the smokers who are reading this let me ask you, when you lit up that first smoke, did you truly enjoy it? If not, why did you persist? Primarily because everyone else was doing it and it made you look cool. I can vividly remember my first taste of beer – it was awful! To this day, I do not consider myself a beer drinker. I know of no one who said Scotch or Bourbon tasted good the first time they tried it. For the people who are over weight, do you enjoy being over weight? Granted there are some medical conditions that encourage people to be overweight but for the most part being over weight is a result of eating too much and not exercising enough. It can be said that smoking, drinking, over-eating are bad for us yet so many of us continue to do it anyway. Why? Because we have created habits, we involuntarily do the very things that could be hurting us.
As Warren Buffet suggests, we start out so small that we do not feel the “weight” of the habit that we are engaged in until such time as the habit becomes so heavy we cannot break it. The following are some “habits” that I have observed that I am quite certain started as a weightless chain but are now weighing many us down much like Bob Marley’s ghost in “A Christmas Carol.”
· Unhealthy drinking of excessive alcoholic beverages
· Over eating
· Constantly clearing one’s throat
· Repeating certain words in our conversations
(3) “you know”
(4) “do you follow me?”
(5) “do you understand what I am saying?”
(6) “do you know what I mean?”
· Saying “love ya” as if we actually meant it with feeling
· Using curse words
· Throwing cigarette butts on the ground as if they magically clean themselves
· Throwing trash on the ground
· Driving in the left lane
· Failure to use turn signal
Where do we get these habits? We tend to get them first from our parents then our friends and then the movies and television. It never ceases to amaze me how many athletes when interviewed say the same worn words time after time, year after year. The most amazing thing is that most of these athletes have graduated from college or have at least attended college. You would think that they would create a class, “Interviews 101 – what to say, what not to say, you know?.”
What can we do about our habits? For the good habits, by all means continue doing what you do, in fact improve upon the good. But what about the bad habits?
The toughest part is knowing what you do that annoys others or that could be bad or hurtful to ourselves. How do you know what annoys them?” Ask them! Before you ask them, make sure you establish the ground rules in that nothing they say will harm your relationship with them otherwise they will NOT be truthful with you. How do you tell a friend that they do something that annoys you without being asked? Take the initiative, sit down with a good friend and simply ask them if they would want to know. Do you think they will say no? If you want to reinforce YOUR good side, also ask them what you do that they particularly like or dislike.
Once you understand that you may have some bad habits what can you do to correct the situation?
Being aware is the critical first step. Just knowing that you do something is the start. As an example, some people have no idea how many times they use a phrase, “you know” over and over during their conversations. I took a chance on one of my associates and I asked her if she knew how many times during a conversation she used the phrase “you know?” She said she never used it. I asked if she would agree to pay me a quarter every time I caught her saying “you know?” She agreed. During the first hour while we were touring homes with a group, she owed me over $8.00. The other members of the group caught on what we were doing and they too said that she used the phrase over and over. What happened next was truly amazing. Within two hours, she had completely stopped using the phrase.
So here is what I would consider the steps to “recovery”:
- Get into discovery; find out what you do that you may be unaware that you do
- Keep track in a log book of each time you do something you want to stop
- Add up the number of times you do the activity each day
- Watch the number begin to reduce itself
- In time, you will catch yourself BEFORE you do the activity
- In time, hopefully you will stop OR start whichever the case may be in case you are not doing something enough like saying “Thank You”
For some habits such as smoking, drinking and over-eating, you may want to seriously consider getting professional help because the habit is no longer a habit. As Webster’s Dictionary inferred, it may now be an addiction.