I believe deeply that we have the power to change anything and everything in our lives that isn’t working through the practice of three simple action steps. They are simple, but not easy. The action steps are:
1. STOP. Pick one thing- one thing! in your life that isn’t working- a routine behavior that is a hindrance to your well-being instead of a help, and STOP doing it.
2. START. Substitute a new behavior to replace the one you have given up – one that better serves you- and START doing it.
3. SUSTAIN. Continue the new behavior until such a point that it becomes automatic and involuntary- in other words, a “habit.”
The stopping step is hard and requires self-honesty. In order to stop doing something that does not serve us we have to stop pretending and justifying and playing the victim in regards to whatever that thing is. We have to identify that we want something better in our lives than what we are currently experiencing, and become willing to make changes to achieve the goal. This takes honesty. The starting step takes courage. In order to start a new behavior, we have to overcome our fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar and become willing to move forward in the direction we want to go. It is excruciating at first to abandon what we have clung to, and uncomfortable to perform a new routine, but the rewards are waiting for us if we will only step forth. The action itself will support us once we begin. We have simply to sum up the courage to make the initial move. To sustain the new behavior takes discipline, especially at first. And discipline is a concept that gets a historically bad wrap in our culture. We tend to think of it as “punishment” instead of Webster’s additional definition, “training that corrects through orderly conduct.” That’s the way we need to think about it for our purposes in changing our lives. It is through discipline, ultimately, that we thrive. The repetitive motion, if we can only stick with it long enough, eventually becomes habitual, and ends up supporting and sustaining us, so that we can’t believe that we used to be so controlled by our old ways. At this point, we can move on to the next thing that we need to change and then the next. These steps- stop, start, sustain- accompanied by the corresponding spiritual principles of honesty, courage, and discipline, can be applied to any habit we want to change. And the habits are all-inclusive. They may have to do with our diets, exercise, or a negative mode of thinking. Or perhaps we have habits of self-sabotage, pretense, catastrophic thinking, over-apologizing, or over-scheduling. I have applied them across the board in my own life- to body image, relationships, financial fears, rushing, boundary setting, and communication just to name a few. This process as described above I have come to understand as The Art of Good Habits, and it is the topic, the title, and the substance of my latest book. If you are interested in exploring the subject further, please check it out at http://amzn.to/1T9ef08.