The other day, my peaceful moment of reading in a nearby park was greatly disturbed when one of the two passersby made a loud snorting noise and subsequently spitting out into the drain. “How Rude!” I thought to myself. The culprit was nonchalant and so was his friend. So, a thought popped up in my mind; “Why are they acting so normal for doing something as ill-mannered as snorting and spitting in public place? May be they don’t consider it as a bad manner? Or was it their habitual act? If it is habit, then it surely is a bad habit!” As I was no longer able to continue enjoy my reading, I instead decided to learn more about habits.
So, what defines a habit? Oxford Learner’s Dictionary states that a habit is “a thing that you do often and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing”, which can be deduced reasonably, to be an act that we do very frequently over and over again and thus, given the same circumstances we tend to perform the same act involuntarily. (That being said, not all the habits are bad. Habits such as waking up early, stretching before moving off from bedside, give more positive benefits. However, habits such as spitting and shaking knees while sitting down are considered bad habits.) I am not going to discuss at length about distinguishing between good and bad habits. Let’s just assume that whichever habit we do not like to do (and would like to stop but cannot stop) are termed bad-habits. How does one break his bad-habit? Two simple steps can solve the problem.
Step-1: Establish the cause and reward
First and foremost, we have to understand the two basic things; why do we do it and what do we get from performing this habit? For example, my childhood friend has a habit of jerking/shaking his knees whenever he’s nervous. In this example, he does it because he is nervous and shaking his knees provides him with an alternative for his mind to focus on instead of the thing he is nervous about. Once he understands this cause and reward principle, he’s taken one big step towards curbing it for good.
Step-2: Break the cycle
After understanding the above cycle, it is child’s play to figure out that, removing one or more of its components from this series-of-chained-event will solve the problem. But can we really do that? Using the same example above, he cannot possibly eliminate the causes or rather avoid the circumstances that cause him to be nervous. And he still needs a way to divert himself away from nervousness. So, there’s only one thing left to do, replace the undesirable act of knee-shaking with something more acceptable, let’s say sucking on a candy or controlled breathing. (You aren’t alone; I’d take sucking on candies any day over controlling my breathing!) By carrying out this step, my friend would have kicked his bad-habit of knee-shaking and replaced it with a substitute action which is more desirable.
Above given example is just a simple one to enable the reader to understand the basic components that form an act of habit. There can be countless numbers of bad habits differing with each and every individual. A habit in itself has already manifested in you, in your daily life, in your daily actions, that is why it’s called habit. It may have even gotten to a stage that you would do it even in your sleep! Some may have been with you for decades! Nonetheless, like my favourite saying goes “Where there is a will, there is a way”, nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it. No matter how deep your bad-habit has sunken its root, it is up to each and every individual to do something and change it the way they want.
The main word here is Change. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the change we seek.” Regardless of how bad your bad-habit is or how long it had been living and breathing together with you, it all rests on your shoulders. It is up to you to change!