Congratulations! After hours of meditating, soul-searching, talking to trusted advisers, and self-reflection, you realized that you need to form a solid routine. You have incorporated new habits into your life. For the first time in a long time, or maybe for the first time ever, you are a dedicated, structured individual. Nothing can stop you as you’re on your way towards self-actualization, health, financial stability. The possibilities are endless! (Okay, I’ll tone down the sarcasm a bit!)
And yet, here you are. Just a few months later, and you aren’t satisfied anymore. The initial gusto you felt is gone, and you don’t feel that much more successful than you did when this journey first began. You definitely didn’t give up along the way. You can say with 100% certainty that you were dedicated to the cause, that you continued the positive habits you picked up along the way. How is this possible?
This is really nothing new. In the midst of picking up all your new habits, how closely did you really examine them? Did you pair them against other habits that would possibly lead to the same outcome? Did you even critique if these habits would lead you to your goal? Think hard about these habits you developed. How were they intended to serve you in reaching the desired end result? Are they truly serving you, or are they destroying your path to success?
Too often, we partake in Habit Insanity. Habit Insanity has been defined many times; it’s doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. As you can probably tell, this isn’t your typical article on habit insanity. We like to be different here, and what we’re describing is misusing a potentially good habit..
Many people fall into the trap of thinking that any seemingly-positive habit is one they should adapt. Working out, for example, sounds like the perfect habit for any of us to pick up at any time. Even if we’re in decent shape, there’s always room for improvement, right? After hearing about the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, you decide to hit the treadmill for 30 minutes a day.
When you step onto the treadmill, you run as fast as you possibly can. At first, it hurts, but you haven’t worked out in a while, so it’s probably fair that you feel some pain. After a few weeks, you’re in agony. Your goal was to feel better about yourself, but you can barely move. You’ve done a couple things wrong here. You forgot to take baby steps to work up to a solid 30 minutes of cardio. You also forgot to evaluate how that habit would improve your lifestyle. Now that you think about it, your goal was to become healthier. Straining your muscles to the point of exhaustion each day without rest doesn’t sound very healthy. While running is a great habit, you committed another form Habit Insanity. You ignored the little voice in your head telling you to slow down or take a break in the name of keeping up with your habit. How could you expect to feel any better when you didn’t stop doing your habit- the running? In retrospect, you should have stopped, looked at what actions you were taking, and taken a different route.
Hitting the gym is just one example of how we participate in Habit Insanity. Sometimes, we get stuck in the bad habits, too. Have you ever met someone who complained to you about the same problem over and over… and then some more? This is more like the traditional Habit Insanity that we hear of. It doesn’t seem to matter what advice you give this person; they just stay stuck in the same rut. Don’t take it personally when they don’t take your advice. We all know habits are hard to break. Yet, it is so frustrating to watch someone we care about suffer when the solution seems so simple to us!
Right now I’d like to challenge you to consider examining some things in your life that aren’t going as swimmingly as you’d like. In what ways are your habits contributing to these outcomes? Are you consistently making the best moves possible to prevent, remedy, and improve these situations? Or, are you participating in habit insanity.
Let me give you an example. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I don’t have time for that!” or “There just aren’t enough hours in the day!”? If so, you are just like the majority of people who feel too busy and overworked. It’s true, our lives are packed with more than ever before with many of us wearing more than one hat both in the workforce and in our home lives. However, I would argue that a lack of time may not be the issue. Perhaps over the years you have developed the habit of poor time management.
Do you schedule out your day each morning with crucial tasks and a time frame to complete them all before the day’s end? Are you able to stick to schedules when you do set them? Allowing small distractions to get in your way is a dangerous habit. It doesn’t present the obvious side effects, such smoking or excessive drinking does, so it’s often hard to pinpoint- especially when we are the offender. Yet, the negative outcomes are tremendous. We miss deadlines or put off important engagements with family and friends in order to meet the deadline. Our work becomes rushed and lacks thoughtfulness because we didn’t plan for enough time to do a quality job.
I’m only using time management as an example here, because so many of us (including me) can relate to bad habits that steal our time, and yet we do nothing about changing those detrimental habits. Habit insanity, right? When you want to make a change in your life, you have to scrutinize each of your habits. Failing to closely examine our habits only sets us up for further frustration down the road. Looking into our habits doesn’t necessarily mean we will end up recreating ourselves entirely. We may find a habit or two that work well in one area of our life that we actually need to transfer over and continue in another area.
We need to dissect our behaviors to find those habits that weaken the path towards our goals and work to change them as quickly as possible. After all, not looking at our habits would just be insane.