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6 Ways To Break Bad Habits And Win At Life

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We all have some fairly obvious patterns of behaviour running through our lives. Some patterns are beneficial: brushing our teeth, exercising, furthering our knowledge and spending time with our loved ones, for example. Others are detrimental: staying up late into the night and exhausting ourselves, going into debt, allowing ourselves to be affected by stressful situations and, er, not brushing our teeth.

These poor behaviour patterns can lead to conditions from anxiety and boredom to stress and anger, and you soon find yourself reacting to events in predictable ways, which means you’ll see the same unwanted results again and again. Think of a situation you’ve been in recently where your thoughts or actions made it worse, not better. Not good, was it? But, with the right approach, it is possible to swap those unwanted thoughts and behaviours for new ones that will serve you better. Here are some simple things to consider.

1. Become 100% accountable

Take a few minutes to consider an aspect of your life that is not working for you. It could be financial, a relationship, health, career, anything. With the specific context in mind, ask yourself: “What repeated thoughts, behaviours and actions am I aware of that got me to this current outcome?” Make a note of the repeated thoughts and actions that you know led to one unwanted outcome.

Now think of an aspect of your life that you consider successful. This can be on a large scale, like a business venture, or small scale, such as a friendship or learned skill. If you have been honest about what actions you take, you will see that regardless of the outcome – good or bad – what brought you to your current position was a series of consistent steps, some intentional and some not. All these actions were yours to take, no matter how much you might think other people or events are responsible for what you do.

To be a success in our relationships, work, health or any aspect of our lives requires us to accept 100% responsibility for any actions that have gained us failure or success.

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2. Ditch your labels

Are you someone who carries unhelpful labels? Examples could be lazy, angry, shy, resentful, boring, paranoid or obsessive. As an exercise write down any labels you identify with. Simply write down “I am...” whatever you feel are labelled. Now, answer these two follow-up questions: when and where are you most like this? And when and where are you not like this?

It is common to assume that because we exhibit regular patterns of behaviour at certain times and places, or with certain people, that those behaviours are who we are. But labels can be very dangerous, because we may reinforce them with our biases and look for evidence to confirm our faults, rather than look at all the counter-evidence available for how we can also be.

3. Actions speak loudest

Think about any successful person you know. Throughout their typical day they, like you, will follow certain patterns of actions and behaviours. Nothing in the material world can take form unless action happens, despite what you may be led to believe about the importance of visualising what you want, rather than getting off your backside and working for it. Don’t believe me? Sit for the next month and do nothing but visualise only about what you want. At no point should you leave your house or interact with anyone else. This is about sending the strongest, clearest message to the cosmos without any interference from bothersome tasks like work and paying the bills. Is anyone crazy enough to do that?

That is not to say that visualising what you want is not a partially effective way to direct your neurology towards appropriate actions. It’s just that the word “action” has to be at the forefront of your mind.

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4. Learn from failure

Look back to a time before you accepted labels of your own abilities, and you’ll see your younger self approaching a wide range of tasks with little or no consideration for failing. At some point in our development we approached learning as a game where unintentional mistakes were welcomed so that the edge of our current abilities could be known and given new attention before being expanded. Now, consider the effect on your life if you could choose not to feel fear or embarrassment when you failed to get a task correct on the first, second or even tenth attempt.

Complete this sentence: “If I had absolutely no fear of failure, I would focus my efforts into achieving...” If you didn’t fear failure of any kind, how would that affect your relationship to undertaking these new activities? Would you relish them, like a kid with a new puzzle? I think you would.

5. Don’t be Mr Right

Some people reject evidence that goes against their beliefs so strongly that it reinforces their existing view, regardless of how clear that evidence is. But what the believer is really presenting is their need to be right about the subject matter. My question is: what’s so good about being right all the time? Being “right” may keep us in a holding pattern of feeling secure and superior, but it leaves little room for new experiences, learning and development. Deliberately challenging the assumptions and beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world could well be the quickest and most rewarding route to freedom – the kind of freedom that allows us to be who we really want to be.

6. Adopt positive posture

When we aim to make positive changes in our lives, it’s vital to remember that we interface with the world as a whole person – mind and body. When we are physically well, our thoughts and actions follow in order. In fact, our thoughts and actions are dependent upon how we exist in synergy, not parts. What this means for us on a practical level is that by changing our physiology, we get to change our thoughts and vice versa.

As an example, could you imagine a well-trained athlete feeling depressed as they engage with their sport, or a successful singer performing at their best while hunched over? Try it now. Hunch yourself up tight for a full minute and experience what it does to your state and thoughts. Next, expand your arms and body skyward in a gentle, wide-open stretch. Do you notice a difference in more than just your muscles? Remember, how you deal with the world is the same as how you interact and face the world.

Un-train Your Brain: A Formula For Freedom by Mike Weeks is out now. Buy on amazon.co.uk (opens in new tab)

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