Harness The Power Of Good Habits
A habit is a person’s routine way of thinking or behaving. Requiring no self-analysis, habitual behavior is natural and instinctive.
Have you ever wondered how successful people achieve excellence? How do they have immense self-control and discipline? The secret to their success lies in their developing beneficial physical and mental habits. Forming, executing, and mastering productive habits is a key element to attaining superior goals.
What is a habit? It is a person’s routine way of thinking or behaving. Requiring no self-analysis, habitual behavior is natural and instinctive. Habits become a part of who we are, for better or for worse. They sculpt our identity and are an aspect of our personality.
Habits – Good or Bad
Habits too can be good or bad. Good habits become the foundation of a spectacular personality and a joyful life, while bad habits create a poor character and displeasing life. Hence, whether it be weight control, learning a new skill, or growing our personality, we must inculcate good habits to realize our objectives and achieve success.
Neuroplasticity and Habit Formation
We can leverage the brain’s ability for conditioning to form good habits. When a pattern of thoughts is repeated, the brain gets deeply etched by the corresponding neural pathways. This conditions the mind, and subsequently, in accordance with the neural pathways, some thoughts arise more easily than others. This theory is called “neuroplasticity.”
Likewise, when activity is repeated, the brain self-programs itself by creating shortcuts of neural sequences. These are stored in the basal ganglia region responsible for learning and habit formation. Thus, the brain simplifies and makes its work more efficient by forming habits.
For example, our brain had to exert itself to the maximum, the first time we began typing, to locate and press the required keys. Hence, a handful of words took us a few minutes to type. However, the brain began programming itself, as we continued the practice of typing. The thought of a letter would prompt an immediate response to press the corresponding key on the keyboard. Programs for the neural sequences to be fired for the task were successfully created by the brain. And with persistent repeated practice, with a year’s training, we were typing at speeds of fifty words a minute and above.
Hence, creating habitual programs allows the brain to get its work done with minimal expenditure of energy. Habitual conditioning is responsible for human behavior as well. We can condition the mind to adopt positive thinking patterns and behaviors to form good habits.
Exerting Willpower to Form Good Habits
Just as a rocket expends more fuel during take-off than in the rest of its flight, similarly the ‘lift-off’ in the process of forging new habits is the most difficult. It requires developing and exercising the muscle of willpower to create beneficial habits. That entails refraining from instant gratification of a behavior that is seemingly pleasurable in the short-term but not beneficial, and investing in that which is difficult yet beneficial in the long run. With sufficient practice and repetition, the new behavior or thought develops into a new habit, replacing the old one.
For instance, engaging in yoga may seem laborious and its short-term benefits may be imperceptible. Going for one session of yoga on Sunday may not make any noticeable difference to your health. However, if you consistently do yoga five to six days a week, and continue week after week, then in the space of a few years, you will definitely become a much healthier person.
In this way, small moment-to-moment victories lead to larger successes. The more we exert our willpower, the greater it grows.
Breaking the Pull of Bad Habits
However, if we neglect it, our self-discipline will dwindle and wither away, like unused muscles in the body. This is often how bad habits are created. You indulge in something that gives pleasure in the moment. While the habit is forming, you do not realize the serious long-term harm it is causing, and you carelessly repeat the pleasurable indulgence. In a few weeks, the habit grips you, and you find yourself bound by the habit.
Drinking a peg of alcohol may not be bad for health in a day, but over the years, ingesting hundreds of gallons will definitely be unhealthy for us. An action when done just once is negligible but becomes very significant when it is repeated over an extended period of time.
Bad habits, once created, do not go away on their own. They are always undo-it-yourself projects. Hence, to change old habits, we must repeatedly convince ourselves of the benefits that will accrue from changing these detrimental habits. We must also reflect deeply about the pain that will be caused by not changing them. And then with effort, patience, and commitment, bad habits must be broken. But once we break out of the gravitational pull of shackling habits, our freedom acquires a completely new dimension. In this way, we can train our mind to develop beneficial habits and accomplish great feats.
Good habits are hard to come by and easy to live with. Conversely, bad habits develop easily and are hard to live with. We must become more aware of the repeated choices we make and consciously propel ourselves to success by establishing fruitful habits.
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