When we are faced with a habit we are trying to break it can often leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. We want to change, we have had enough, we want to give up what we are doing, and we have tried really hard but to no avail. We know why we want to give up and we know what we are trying to achieve, but again and again we get in our own way and our attempts to change are sabotaged with what often feels like a force that is out with our control. I have heard it so often, the despair as people try to maintain a healthy weight, give up alcohol, stop smoking or any other habit that is not improving their health. The unknown force that seems to take over and compels them to do something they do not want to do.
If someone arrived from another planet and you had to describe this helplessness in the face of a power out with your control, telling them you want to give up, but you cannot help yourself, it might go something like this:
Alien: “So, what do you mean an unknown power is forcing you to do things you don’t want to do? Is this power tying you down and forcing the food or drink down your throat? Are you unable to fight them off?”
You; “No, it is an unknown power that is stronger than me, I cannot see the enemy, but it is there forcing me to act out my habit, I can’t help myself, I have no power against it”.
Alien: “And how does it make you do something you say you don’t want to do”?
You: “I have no idea; I am compelled as if hypnotised and there is nothing I can do to stop myself.”
Alien: “Nothing at all? Are you sure? From where I am looking it is your hands that are picking up the glass and filling it with alcohol, you are the one taking the drink, and it is you who goes back to pour another glass when you have finished the first one. I can’t see anyone else in the room, holding you down and forcing you to do this – Are you really sure that underneath your protestation of not wanting to do this, there is a reason that you still do?”
If this sounds familiar then it is time to recognise that we have a lot more power in our life that we are willing to recognise. What happens to us in life is down to us every step of the way. We are in the car and in the driving seat. No-one else is responsible for our life, every thought we have, every choice we make and every action we take is step by step creating the life you are living right now.
It is understanding that while we do want to stop our bad habits, underneath we believe that there is still an advantage in continuing. Unless we can bring those reasons out into the light and acknowledge them and find ways of dealing with these beliefs then our habit will continue to control us.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”.
Life is not a matter of unrelated events or fate. It is up to each of us to be the master of our lives.
Every single glass of alcohol, every cigarette, every slice of chocolate cake that you put into your mouth was you – it was never forced on you in any way – any of it. 100% your decision to go ahead and act out your habit. You had a choice; you always have a choice. To act or not to act, it is your hands on the steering wheel of life, there may be a back seat passenger coaxing and cajoling you, but at the end of the day unless someone ties you down and forces open your mouth – it was your choice and your decision.
So why? Why do we do things that we have decided that we don’t want to do. We get up in the morning and we decide to give up smoking. At 10 am coffee break time, we usually have our first cigarette, we start to feel uncomfortable, we don’t want to smoke but we know if we don’t we won’t feel like we have had a break, the rest of day will be longer, and hey work is bad enough without your treats to get you through – so you give in and have your cigarette or chocolate donut or whatever deep inside you, you believe will improve you life. It is 5 pm you are stressed and frazzled as you head home, you have decided not to drink tonight, but hey you have had a hell of a day and are feeling really stressed, what else is going to take the stress away, and anyway I work hard and deserve my occasional treats – how else am I going to cope with this life.
Here lies the problem, trying to give up your habit while not accepting that you are using your habit to cope with a whole list of emotional responses and situation and each one is just waiting there to trip you up and take you back into your addiction.
- You are stressed.
- You are depressed.
- You are bored.
- You are fed up with life.
- You find yourself in a social situation and need your props.
- You are on holiday.
Everyone will have a different list of times they act out their habit but also of different emotions they feel and different situations they find themselves in, and we need to deal with each one of those on the journey to freedom.
You create your life decision by decision, choice by choice, every hour of every day. The choices you make and the actions that follow on from those decisions.
You have spent a lifetime making choices and there is nothing you can do now to go back and make changes, the choices you made have led you to where you are now, what you can change is what is happening now, making the choices and taking the actions that will lead to a chain of outcomes that will affect the rest of your life and will deliver the future you want.
This is where your power lies, in the ability to make those decisions every day to create the life you want.
If you want to free yourself from a habit then you have to take 100% responsibility for your actions and stop blaming anyone else. You can spend your life blaming the alcohol, blaming the sugar, blaming your addiction, blaming your childhood, your family, your friends. You can blame your life, your job, your finances. But this is a victim mentality, where you are now is no-one else’s fault but your own, you made every decision that led you to where you are now, and when you accept that it is time to move forward.
The first step to walking away from a bad habit is accepting that you always had the choice, but that you always chose the habit, and each time you chose to act out your habit you re-enforced it. It was always your choice to use alcohol to cope with stress after a long day and not to light some candles and loose yourself in a good book or film. It was your choice to spend an evening eating chocolates and not going to the gym. It was your choice to smoke after you ate your lunch and not to go for a walk instead. Your choice, because underneath all your protestations about wanting to quit there was still a reason that you wanted to keep going.
If you have made the decision to give up an addictive habit then now is the time to take charge. Make the decision and take the actions that will take you to where you want to be.
There is a lot in life we cannot control but there is a great deal that we can control including our mind, what we think and what we do with those thoughts. Which thoughts we grab hold off and let affect us and which thoughts we let float away. You cannot help the thoughts that come into your mind, they come along one after another all day, but you can decide what you want to do with those thoughts. You can decide to let them effect you in a negative way, to stress you, to make you reach for you addiction of choice or you can let them go without a backward glance.
This is where you have the control, where you have the power. Do you listen to your thought that is encouraging you to go ahead and act out your habit, or do you ignore the thought and focus instead on your goal, on where you are going, on where you want to be.
Every day we have a choice to choose what we want to focus on. The thoughts that come into our mind are just raw data, it is up to us how we interpret that data, and how we interpret that data effects our whole life, it effects how we feel, our emotions, and more importantly our habits both good and bad. By changing how you interpret your thoughts you have the power to change your whole life.
When you have a thought enter about drinking alcohol do you think:
- Temptation to nectar, how wonderful or
- Drink is a poison, why would I want to put that in my mouth.
Or any other interpretation that you choose to put on it – your choice. Every single time. You cannot change the past, but you can make changes to your life right now, in this moment by the choices you make, by the interpretation you give to your thoughts. The interpretation you give to your thoughts will determine the actions you take – so choose wisely.
Every single day you have the power to change your life by the choices you make. It is your responsibility to make your choices now, because now is the only time you can make those changes. The past is gone, you can only learn from it, but you cannot change it. You can only change what is happening now, right in this moment, you cannot change yesterday, you cannot change tomorrow only today, only now.