Habits – Our Invisible Prison

I’ve been thinking about habits lately.  See what you think about this, UpGraders . . .

(Warning:  it can be at once enlightening – and frightening.)

Take a few minutes to ponder your habits and how they affect you. It truly is frightening, and if you don’t think so, then you haven’t pondered enough.

A habit is something you can do without thinking – which is why most of us have so many of them.
— Frank A. Clark (?)

Before going further, let me just state that I believe habits to be the single most determinative factor in a person’s life when it comes to achieving goals and living life according to a self-created plan. I am not alone in this belief.

It is no exaggeration to say that our habits are an invisible prison, in which we are serving a life sentence with only a slight chance of parole.

Yes, there are good habits and bad habits, but they all imprison us just the same. Are you still doubting me – thinking that I exaggerate the power that habits have to control nearly every aspect of our lives?

“Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all.”
— Georges Gurdjieff (1866 – 1949)

Answer me this:

  • Why are millions of dollars spent on “lose weight” books every year while at the same time our population grows ever more obese? Could it be that we habitually make the same poor choices over and over about what we eat, how much we eat, and whether or not we exercise?
  • Why do you suppose that with the advances in medical technology and the staggering amounts of money now spent on health care, we are still dying of preventable illnesses like heart attacks, diabetes, and other lifestyle related sickness? Do you think habitual lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking to excess, overeating, and lack of exercise are major players?
  • Why do you think that a person would literally eat or smoke himself or herself to death?
  • On less serious matters, why do you think we eat the same foods, wear the same clothes, take the same route to work, and allow each new day of our lives to become a clone of the one before?
  • Why are we even habituated down to such minor details as whether we brush our teeth or shave our faces first during our morning routines. If that’s not bad enough, we even habituate on whether we shave the right or left side of our faces first – and this continues day after day for our entire lives, without variation. I’m a guy so I speak of shaving, but you ladies engage in similar habituated behaviors each and every day of your lives. We all know it’s true.

“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.”

—John Dryden (1631 – 1700)

I assume that you are willing to concede that habits are a powerful force. Now, the scary part.

Pick out a habit. Don’t pick a major one like quitting smoking. Choose something simple, like refraining from cussing or not using the words “awesome” or “you know.”

Now, resolve to change the habit you have picked.

OK, I’ll just wait here for the next 30 days and you go on about your normal life, but don’t forget to change that “simple” habit, and do check back with me when you’re done.

[Fast forward 30 days]

Oh, you’re back. Awesome! ( 😉 )

How’s that habit? Did it change? Really? For how long? What about the rest of your routine – the same, or changed? [You can’t see it, but I have a smug look on my face.]

Yes, I am being a little sarcastic, which is not a habit I want to cultivate, but it’s all in good fun. Believe me, I have a true appreciation for how hard it is to change a habit, even a small one.

So, where are we going with this? The point I am trying to convey is that habits literally rule our lives. In a very real sense, they become our lives. Most of us are not even conscious of that fact, but you now are.

Assuming that there are changes you wish to make in your life, it will be necessary for you to identify and confront your habits, because by the time you are an adult your life consists, almost exclusively, of habit-based behavior.

The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has
acquired during the first half.

— Feodor Dostoevski (1821 -1881)

Now don’t get me wrong. Habits per se are neither good nor bad. We can become habituated to good habits as easily as to bad. OK, not quite as easily it seems, but good habits are a powerful force too.

Therefore, when starting the process of UpGrading your seniordom spend some time, a lot of time, pondering your habits and their power to control your life.

If you are to escape the prison of your habits (the bad ones), you must know your enemy well and you’re going to need some tools to use in the prison break!

The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they
are too strong to be broken.

— Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

If you really want to gain the advantage over your habits, I strongly recommend The Habit Factor. This book will give you some heavy artillery with which to blast your bad habits out of your life. As I have said, habits are a formidable opponent. Don’t go it alone. Get some help.

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