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Shedding Life Long Habits

By Claudette Rowley

Most of us have habits that we don't like, which stop us from being as brilliant as we naturally are. For many of us, life long habits such as avoidance, self-sabotage or excessive worrying have the power to hold us back from our potential.

Whether you're trying to stop procrastinating, worrying or overeating, you might be challenged to eliminate your habit of choice. This is because life long habits are often coping mechanisms that we unconsciously choose. For example, when you were eight years old, you didn't wake up one morning and say, "You know, for now on I'm going to avoid situations and people that make me nervous." Instead you unconsciously adapted to your environment and chose the best coping strategy available to you at that time.

So when you're trying to change an old habit, have compassion for yourself. Life long habits are usually chosen for good reasons; now many of them simply don't benefit you anymore. And that's one question to ask yourself, "What's the benefit I receive from engaging in this habit?" Is it stress reduction, discomfort or avoidance? Does the habit have positive benefits? For example, when you were 16 years old, did you fall in love with yoga and still have a regular practice 30 years later? Or did you choose to start procrastinating and now realize that this old habit stops you from pursuing your dreams.

Does your life long habit add to your life or detract from it? Once you know the honest answer to that question, you can decide whether it's time to embrace your habit or shed it like an old snake skin. To determine if your habit is helping or hurting you, consider these questions and thoughts:

  • When you engage in your habit, how does it make you feel?
  • Does it stop you from moving forward, pursuing your dreams, ideas or passions? Does it make you feel bad emotionally? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, it may be time to shed your habit.
  • If a life long habit increases your confidence, frees you up or enhances your physical, emotional or mental health, it may be a good one to keep.
  • Be honest with yourself: deep down you know the difference between habits that lift you up and habits that take you down.

Once you decide to shed a habit that no longer works for you, you open yourself up to wonderful possibilities - a new opportunity may show up, your intuition may kick in more accurately or you may feel like you have a new lease on life.

Research shows that a positive perspective actually allows us to "see" more of what's available to us. Think back to the last time you felt stuck, experienced fear or listened to your inner critic yammering in your ear. What was your perspective like? Your viewpoint was probably narrower than usual: you noticed less, you felt pessimistic and your motivation was diminished. The same is true of life long habits that no longer serve us.

Rather than allowing an old habit to run your life, cause pain and anguish or hold you back from expressing your full potential in the world, commit yourself to change. Focus on what you'd open up within yourself if you no longer engaged in the habit. Shed your habit like an old skin and release the brilliant potential within you that it masks.

Copyright © 2009 Claudette Rowley
Claudette Rowley, coach and author, helps professionals identify and pursue their true purpose and calling in life. Learn more at Claudette Rowley.com.
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