When "Good" Habits Should be Broken!

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/23/2006 | Self Improvement
Habits generally come in two sizes, good and bad; and, it's usually the 'other guy' who has all the bad ones.

Although bad habits get most of our attention, those aren't the only ones that need careful thought. Sometimes good habits need re-examination, and when found wanting, they should be changed.

It's been said, "Unwanted habits can impose limits to individual freedom as real as the bars of a prison cell." If that is true, what do the bars in your prison look like? Can you even see them?

Some bars are highly visible, such as the habits of smoking, alcoholism, drug use, obsessive-compulsive behavior, gambling, overeating, sexual compulsion, and workaholism. On the other hand, other prison bars are subtle, barely visible and therefore more dangerous because we tend to believe they don't't exist...at least not in us.

For example, have you ever encountered a truly obstinate person? He's the one who creates a gut reaction in you whenever he enters your personal space. He may live with you at home, or you may bump into her while shopping. He may sit in the cubicle next to yours at work. This is the person who, try as you might, will never agree with you or even listen to your opinion.

Expecting them to listen to your opinion creates frustration and wastes time. While you look and hope for agreement, their resistance grows in direct proportion to your efforts. The harder you push the harder they push back. They gain strength through the process of resisting your arguments. Sometimes they'll even smile.

At this point, the habit of needing to be right adds fuel to the argument. Winning becomes personal to both sides. Unfortunately, as voices rise and one out-shouts the other, eventually both lose. Repressed, damaged feelings go into hibernation. Now, any forced compromise leaves a bad taste. The tenuous winner seldom creates an enduring long-term relationship.

It's unrealistic to expect to change or to control someone else's opinion or attitude. And that creates a dilemma. How then, can you change someone's opinion or attitude -- when you have to?

You need to do something new!

First, forget the old habits, the old ways of arguing and one up-manship.

Second, think about this. You can't control your opponent or enemy, but you can control yourself, your thinking, your attitude, and your opinions through conscious effort. Here then lies the key to changing a bad habit. Learn this secret, use it, and you will change your life forever. What is this secret? Change what you can control. Alter your attitude towards others by changing your thinking patterns. How do you do this?

Here's one way. Begin by 'loving your enemies.' An enemy, or the target of your hatred often isn't aware of the hostility you have towards him. However, remember you created this enemy by deciding it to be so. Therefore, when you think about it, you should find it relatively easy to love that which you've created.

Some of our greatest and most noble challenges come when we decide to change an enemy into a friend. To accomplish that, first change your hostile attitude towards this person. For instance, does this person always expect an argument from you? Do you give it to him? If you answered yes, is it any wonder that he knows exactly how to handle you. Who is in control then?

On the other hand, if you remain congenial what will his reaction be? Most likely confusion. Later, because of the positive force you supplied, he will be compelled to readjust his tactics. He may become less argumentative. He may give your point of view a fair hearing. He may ask your opinion, if you hear him out first. At this point, although it may be small, real change has begun.

You now have this former enemy changing his attitude towards you -- which is no small feat -- and that because you first changed your attitude towards him. He had no choice but to change because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You can't change other people; you can only change yourself.

When you change, the world you inhabit readjusts itself to accommodate the new you. As you become more adept at applying this principle, someday you also may say, "I never met a man I didn't like."

A note of caution: Think carefully of what you want to change yourself into.