Changing habits is something that I’ve always struggled to do, despite my best intentions. I’ve pondered why, and have determined that the struggles are due to my ego’s interference.
It’s afraid of becoming irrelevant.
When I attempt to ditch habits that keep me distanced from Self, it gets clingy. It’s like the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. The serpent in the story is my ego, and the forbidden fruit is the habit that I’m trying to break.
My ego’s preferred methods of sabotage:
Alarm goes off at 5, ego reminds me that I didn’t sleep well and should stay in bed instead of getting up to journal or study my yogic texts.
I’m enjoying my bit of morning solitude, but it’s time to transition into my morning yoga practice. Ego encourages me to stay in my chair and check Facebook instead. “You can do yoga later,” it says.
I am hungry and don’t have any steel cut oats prepped in the fridge. Ego reminds me that my hunger shouldn’t have to wait a half hour for me to cook up a batch – it needs food NOW, damn it! – and an English muffin slathered in butter, almond butter, and jam would be really quick (not to mention delicious).
Enjoying wine while reading, reflecting, or working on personal projects is my evening ritual. Ego reminds me that this is valuable me-time – self-care, even – and that replacing wine with tea or just going to bed early will not be nearly as indulgent of an experience.
How I’ve successfully changed habits:
I’ve contemplated the times when I’ve successfully broken a habit, and have come to these conclusions:
- I need to know my why;
- I need to appreciate the pain of failing to change a habit; AND
- I need to create new structure that is flexible.
Replacing my late-night wine drinking habit was perhaps the most challenging. It was a habit that was deeply embedded into my lifestyle, and I loved nearly everything about it. The solitude! The contemplation that accompanied each luscious sip! The thoughts! Well, at least some of them…
But, what had started as one glass of wine turned into the better part of a bottle, and I knew that I was headed down a slippery slope. Plus, wine isn’t cheap when I drink like that, and I needed to curtail my spending. Finally, wine destroys my filter. The result is rarely good for my relationships.
My daily vino imbibing was a habit that I needed to surrender.
But what new structure would I create? Solitude had to play a role, but at this stage of the game, staying up late without my wine would be setting myself up to fail. So, I decided to fill my need for solitude by waking while the house still slept.
And so I did. My initial plan was to get up early to do yoga, but the yoga part failed. Yoga aside, I managed to keep getting up at five because my desire for solitude trumped my desire for rest. It’s been maybe three months now, so I’ll cautiously say that I’ve succeeded..
The key is that it’s not too rigid. I didn’t give up when the yoga part wasn’t happening (now I do yoga at lunch), and I drank bubbly with Bob after the election results came in. When I sleep poorly and need the extra rest, I honor my body. Life happens. But, I always get back on track.