Habits; you have them. Habits; not all you are aware of.
One hundred years ago, the famous mathematician Alfred North Whitehead said: “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”
More recently, be it from Stephen Covey, Tony Schwartz, or Zen Habits, there seems to be a growing understanding that a key (maybe the key) to building long-lasting change is to create and maintain healthy habits. Why habits? Because once something becomes a habit it doesn’t require conscious energy to do, that is, it shifts from conscious to unconscious.
Let’s explore one of the most simple yet difficult changes to make; consistently waking up early.
You know how to do it, but when it requires conscious thought each morning, it becomes nearly impossible. Why? I read an post which articulates the problem well: The 6pm you that decides you want to wake up early is not the same person as the 6am you who has to do the waking up.
The 6pm you may have earnest desires to wake up early, exercise, and get a head start on the day, but your 6am you does not care about any of that, oftentimes regardless of how much sleep you’ve gotten the night before.
So what to do? Fire your 6am coach. Yea, fire his (or her) a**! Do not press snooze do not collect $200. How? Make getting up early an unconscious habit that doesn’t require any mental thought.
You can accomplish this in a variety of ways:
-Condition your body to the sound of your alarm (i.e. practice during daytime lying down and hearing the alarm and immediately getting out of bed)
-Put the alarm in the bathroom and create a ritual of immediately brushing your teeth
-Have a ‘wake up buddy’ who you have to text at a certain time each morning
The method is up to you, but the result should be that no decisions are made in the morning, you just let the habit run its course. What happens over time is that waking up early takes less and less energy, and you are freed to think about other things.
I think the general idea here is that your mind can be wildly inconsistent, and that until you reach complete consistency of full awareness (Ommmmm) you have to face things like the 6am you. But the 6am you is not the only ‘coach’ that you should be aware of.
How about the feeling you get when you meet new people? Do you make judgments of them based on how clear their skin is, what clothes they are wearing, or how you were introduced? The Dalai Lama once said “I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion” This can become a habit too. You can practice your response to meeting new people and work to view first the many things you have in common as human beings.
How about listening to others? When someone else is talking how often do you just wait to talk, having formed an opinion shortly after they began and then tuned out the rest? This can be changed with habits as well. You can practice taking full breaths to yourself each time you’re feeling anxious to get your point across.
Expanding your awareness to the areas you’d like to work on and creating innovative habits to accomplish them…oh the joys of (attempted) self-mastery.