The predominant part of our lives are led by habits. This is fundamental in being able to live a normal life i.e. driving a car, walking, running brushing your teeth. If all these habit formed routines were suddenly actions that required deep concentration, how hard would everyday tasks become?
The ability to be able to form and create habits is one of our most defining qualities as human beings. We make complex tasks autonomous to achieve even greater complex tasks. However, what happens when we become complacent with this process to a point where we lose control of our habits? This realm of living is called addictive behaviour. Addictions simply put, are any habit out of your control. For instance, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, being snappy in the morning, passive aggressive behaviour or simply too much drinking coffee. Addictions cover a multitude of scenarios because they are simply YOUR habits. When it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad it can be quite destructive.
Essentially there are two versions of yourself. The one that always thinks to the future, and the one that wants to be happy right now. For your future self, it’s new year’s resolutions to stop eating badly, or quit that job you keep going back to, or beating your shopping addiction, or Netflix and social media addictions. For the present self, it’s “I’m too secure in this job to risk changing”, It’s scary meeting new people when I’m comfortable how I am”, “I’ll start dieting tomorrow. I’m just going to treat myself”. Your present self, if left to its own devices, will destroy your future self. This is what makes addictions hard to break. We make these actions a part of ourselves, and before we know it, it’s who we are. “I am shy”. “I am a cold person”. “I am not smart”. We are these things and worse because change is the unknown, these things you could hate about yourself but strangely, they are familiar, and that gives you security.
Let’s make this clear, things such as drug dependencies, gambling and excessive over eating are still bad addictions, but they are not the heavier issue. It is the addictions that fly under the radar that are more common that destroy happiness. I’ll say it like this. Murder is bad, it is worse to murder someone than to hate them, but how many of us end up murdering someone? How many of us have hated someone or even wished death upon them? I highly doubt you would murder someone if you did not have hatred first. It is clear then that hatred is the heavier issue. While reading this you may already be starting to ask yourself, what addictions do I have? It will not take you long to notice them because they are everywhere. It is the reason you can’t explain your mood swings. It is the reason you can’t truly be happy no matter what you try. It is the reason you were led to reading this today. This is the answer you have been looking for. It is no harder nor easier than changing your habits.
So how do we do this? Well, it’s quite simple. In saying “simple”, I am not pretending it’s easy but you already know that. We all make excuses to satisfy the “present us”. Be prepared to recognise your excuses. This will empower you to move forward with the change you wish for yourself. These first four steps have been said so much that it’s almost a cliché. They are needed and quite valuable but I want you to pay special attention to step number five, I guarantee it will change your life.
NUMBER ONE – Identify your addiction (What? Who? Where? Why? When?)
Most frustrations are caused by a lack of understanding. When two people try to resolve an argument, what is the first thing they do? They explain why it is they were upset.
Understanding counters anger.
Your first step is then obviously to understand yourself. While this could take a life time, I want you to start with just one thing you have noticed about yourself that shouldn’t be there. For this example, I will give you my son, (I have his permission).
What negative behaviour in your life can you not control? Answer – “Eating sugar.”
Who do you most remember eating sugar with? Answer – “my father.”
Where did you both eat sugar together – Answer “when I used to see him once every two weeks he would buy me heaps of lollies and we would watch movies.”
Why do you think eating sugar makes you feel good? – Answer “I guess it makes me feel closer to him because we never really had a proper father son relationship.”
When do you feel triggered to eat sugar? Answer – “At night watching movies”.
Commit to yourself that you will try this exercise at least once. It seems obvious at first but revelations come as you probe your mind for answers. Addictions stemming from childhood or a painful memory are the hardest to change. Be honest with yourself.
NUMBER TWO – Set a plan
Now that you understand the addiction, plan your day to avoid the situations that trigger you. Yes, changing yourself takes work. Set mini achievements in your plan. Make a date and write it down to help motivate you to stay on track. I will climb the thousand steps by the 5th of May for example.
Where your money is, your heart will be also.
Invest in this goal. If you want to beat sedentary living, buy workout gear. If you want to further your learning buy books and stationary, have a mindset that this will be long term, spending money commits us to the cause.
NUMBER THREE – Find support
No man is an island.
It’s almost a fad now to be the lone ranger, the one who does it alone and never talks about their problems. This is a Hollywood fantasy. We are social beings made for interaction. Use those around you to help guide, support and keep you accountable. Voice your goals out aloud so everyone knows what it is you are trying to achieve. Your addictions only have power when they are your secret.
NUMBER FOUR – Sweat
Moving clears your mind. Run. Sweat. Dance. Play. Take up a hobby you have always wanted to do. Put it this way, if your routine stays the same, how do you think your habit will change? Addictions are woven into the nature of our lives. It is the pattern of our routine that triggers our habits. Change that routine and you will change the habit.
NUMBER FIVE – Believe in yourself
Now this is the part nearly everyone forgets. We are our identity. If you have always been a “fat” person and that is your identity, chances are you will continue to over eat no matter how much you try these first four steps. You will more and more tell yourself this is just who you are and this is who you will always be. Remember that we have a present self and a future self. It may be one thing to say I will be a great public speaker, I will quit smoking, I will get that job I’ve always wanted, I will be that loving accepting partner I’ve always wanted to be. These are great goals but if you don’t believe it is you (your identity) it will always be something you are GOING to be. Instead of saying I WILL. Say I AM. I am a loving partner. I am a hard worker. I am a good speaker. I am a healthy person. Self-confidence is not arrogance. Do this daily as your habits are daily. Wake up in the morning and tell yourself who you are. This does not make you weird, it makes you determined.
Instead of attacking the things you cannot change, change your mind. I like to think of it this way. Do not spend hours cutting off branch by branch, just cut the whole tree down. Your addictions only hold you when they are a part of you. Change from the inside out is the strongest change you can make. Grow new roots and plant yourself firmly in your new identity. You are who you believe you are.
Last of all I will leave you with this. Change only occurs when the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same. You will not change unless you can see your own destruction.
Love and peace be with you all.