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Why Do We Stop Doing What works? When Habits Stop Being Habits, Part 1

“Act the way I want to feel.”

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

You have a great habit – a habit the works for you – why would you stop?

For weeks I did Morning Pages (see below for an explanation of Morning Pages).  Taking the time to do these pages radically helped me work through difficult choices and emotions.  It was shocking how much that simple task kept my emotional energy level and productively channeled.  Then, a day came where I didn’t have time.  The next day, I used the same excuse.  It’s been 3 weeks now, and I haven’t opened my Morning Pages notebook.  YET I KNOW HOW HELPFUL THOSE PAGES ARE! 

That’s not my only example of stopping what works.  I know a green smoothie makes my body run better, look better.  For weeks I had a green smoothie every day and I can promise you the changes were radical.  I haven’t had a smoothie in 3 months.  Why?  It takes 10 minutes, it tastes good …. Why, oh why, did I stop doing something with such powerful and positive results?

I had made it through the several days of suffering when I stopped drinking all soda product.  Then, I drank one.  Now, I have to decide whether to face the suffering again to eliminate soda OR just give up on that positive habit change.  

I know with 100% certainty that if I eat without distraction (no TV, book, etc.) that I eat less, eat more slowly, actually enjoy what I’m eating.  I loved my morning quiet breakfast – it was a time to just relax before the volume of life starts rising.  Yet, I’ve started watching TV while eating.  UGH! 

Enough examples. 

Choosing Not To Help Myself

Let me be clear about an important element …. I was very conscious that I was choosing NOT to do something good for me.  I would say to myself, “those Morning Pages are helpful, go do them,” or “that smoothie will give you the energy you need, go make it”.  It was as if my Rebel Dragon would huff off with a teenager’s attitude – “it might be good for me but you can’t make me”.

So Why Was I So Willing To Sabotage Myself?

 “We don’t think our way to proper action.  We act our way to proper thinking.”  It’s a great quote – except it’s NOT RIGHT. 

When I’m not doing what I need to be doing then I MUST THINK … I must answer the deep, dark question of why.

The excuses I use are irrelevant.  What is relevant is WHY I do this?  What story am I feeding when I stop a good habit?  Maybe …

  • I am more comfortable being disappointed in myself.
  • I don’t deserve to treat myself well.
  • I believe if I can’t be 100% perfect I should just give up.
  • I have a lazy streak that wins the day.  Therefore, I’m just lazy.
  • There’s just something wrong with me – I can’t change.

Sitting In It

Today I made a pact that I would face the Morning Pages and try to really see what I was feeling and what I was avoiding.  I’ve now been up for 6 hours and I am fighting myself tooth and nail.  WHY???????  Why is something so wonderful freaking me the heck out?????  I do not know the answer … all I can do is explain how I’m feeling as my Morning Pages notebook sits next to me ….

  • My chest is tight
  • I can genuinely feel that dragon rattling her cage but I cannot hear her words or understand her message
  • I feel a sense of being overwhelmed
  • I feel fear

That last statement – fear – is key.  WHAT AM I AFRAID OF?  No one reads my morning pages (I throw them away).  As a matter of fact, the few times I’ve shared some of what I’ve written, it has really helped me communicate effectively. 

My emotional brain just gave me the answer --- and I mean that it gave me these words as I’m writing this post – YOU ARE AFRAID TO WRITE THOSE PAGES BECAUSE YOU KNOW THINGS WILL COME OUT THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO DEAL WITH.

Ooooh, that’s a punch. 

I need to do the same thing with other excellent habits I’ve abandoned … but, I think the revelation I just received is enough for me today.  I’m promising myself that my next task WILL BE the Morning Pages.  Right Now!  Wish me luck!

Morning Pages explained:

http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

Great sources on habits:

The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg (http://charlesduhigg.com)
Better than Before by Gretchen Ruben (http://gretchenrubin.com)

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    In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....

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