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Overcoming Habits

I suppose if I'm going to have any credibility on this topic, I should start by being completely vulnerable and honest. Here goes nothing!

I have some deeply rooted habits that I would love to transform and I'm going to list them here:

  1. I give more than I allow myself to receive.

  2. I tend toward co-dependence in romantic relationships.

  3. I sometimes smoke cigarettes.

  4. I watch TV every day.

  5. I am an over-thinker.

  6. I am over-responsible.

  7. I get bored easily and jump from one project to another, sometimes without focus.

  8. I don't floss enough.

  9. I eat late at night, often right before bed.

Nine seems like a good number. I could keep going here, but I think you get the point. We all have habits that we would love to overcome. These are the ones that come to mind for me right now, but at any given moment my list might change.

In spite of the fact that I would like to transform these habits, I don't want to misrepresent myself. I do not think that any of these things makes me a bad person or "less-than" in any way. While the phrase "bad habits," might be popping up for you right now, I urge you to take the word "bad" out of it. You have habits. You are a human being. We all have them.

Every single one of the things on my list comes from things I have experienced or learned at some point in my life. In many cases, these are things that burrowed themselves into me before I had a choice in the matter. These things are a current part of my nature in some degree or another, but they come from a place of nurture. Knowing this makes it easier to accept them for what they are- a part of me.

I like who I am. In fact, I LOVE who I am. It took me a long time to be able to say that, but it's true. In spite of my flaws or eccentricities, or this massive list of habits I would like to overcome, I am totally in awe of myself. I sound totally full of myself right now, I know. I am 100% great with that. I have spent a lot of my life being down on myself, and I choose not to live that way anymore.

In the past, I would have looked at my list and allowed myself to be defeated. I would convince myself that because those things are a part of me, they would always be a part of me. My belief in the ability to slowly transform and grow and alter the fabric from which I was woven just didn't exist.

Even now, it's a challenge to try to face these things in any sort of actionable way; but I am determined to do just that.

I like to have an easy to follow process and I think many of you reading this might enjoy having this as well.

Let's talk about the first thing on my list.

Step 1: Notice the habit. "I give more than I allow myself to receive."

Step 2: Give yourself love and compassion. Speak these words out loud as a mantra whenever you notice yourself in your habit, no matter what your particular habit is. "I am worthy of love. I am amazing. I have a huge capacity for growth."

Step 3: Reflect on where this habit came from. Grab a journal and start writing or sit in silence and think and breathe. Here are my thoughts: I grew up believing I was unworthy. I bought into a notion that the only way to get anything was to give and give and give. This depleted me in a profound way.

Step 4: Make a list of times in your life when this habit was driving your behavior. These can be tiny reflections or huge things. Don't judge yourself while making this list. It's not about that. It's just about noticing a behavior. I have said yes to projects I don't want to do, even when I know my time would be better spent in some other way.

I allow myself to stay in unhealthy relationships because I believe that if I keep giving, I will eventually receive what I am looking for.

Step 5: Make a list of times in your life when the opposite of this habit drove your behavior. It may be harder to come up with this list, but I'm sure if you dig deep enough you will find something.

I turned down an unpaid project because I knew what my time was worth.

I left a bad relationship. I may have done it five years later than some thought I should have, but I got there.

Step 6: If you couldn't come up with any positive reflections of your habit, work with a visualization exercise. Close your eyes and picture yourself being the ideal version of yourself in a tough situation. What are you wearing in this movie of your life? Where are you? What do you smell? Allow this to be a totally sensory experience. You can create any environment you want, so let your imagination run wild.

Here is mine. I am standing in the middle of my family's olive grove in Greece. It is a beautiful fall day. The sun is shining and there is a gentle, cool breeze. The phone rings and it's someone I have been wanting to connect with. I immediately pick up the phone. This person offers me something they are selling to me as an amazing opportunity. The more I listen, the more I start to feel like this opportunity will not enrich my life in any way. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I see myself and hear myself saying the following words, "Thank you so much for reaching out. I would absolutely love to connect on a project in the future, but this one doesn't feel like the right fit for me right now." I then imagine that a crowd of my friends and loved ones rush toward me and engulf me in a giant group hug. Everyone has a giant smile on their face and so do I.

Step 7: Start to brainstorm things small things you can do to slowly break your habit. Recognize that total transformation isn't going to happen overnight, but there are small things you can do each day that will get you closer to the version of yourself you want to be.

In my case, here are some things I have implemented:

-Every day I do something for myself. Even something as small as a face mask or gently putting lotion on my hands counts.

-For each hour I spend doing something for others, I spend an hour working on something for me. This involves time tracking and using a planner, but those things work for me and keep me motivated.

-At the end of each day, I will make a list of the things I did for myself that day.

-At the end of each week, I look at those daily lists. A sense of accomplishment is such an important motivator!

Step 8: Be patient. Stay aware. Be kind to yourself. Transformation will come. Have faith. You have set the intention and you are taking action. The universe will take care of the rest!

If any of this seems confusing or overwhelming, I recommend you work with a coach or a therapist. I am here to guide you on your journey, whether that be in working with you individually or pointing you in the direction of someone else who can empower you.

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