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How to Avoid the Negative Side of Habits

habits Sep 16, 2021

Listen to this on the Extraordinary Life Podcast

As a coach who literally teaches high success habits, it may surprise you that I’m bringing up the negative side of routines. I’m here to support and help you create the extraordinary life you deserve, and habits are an essential part of that - if they’re used correctly. Unfortunately, our unconscious routines have a downside that can hamper the changes we desire. That’s why I’m sharing tips on how to avoid the negative side of habits, and what to do instead. 

The Negative Side of Habits

Routines can bring ease, joy, and comfort into your life, which is why they are so important in helping you create a life you love. That’s why I don’t want you to start thinking that all habits have a lurking bad side; however, all habits have the potential to create complacency. This complacency can cause some big problems, and even get in the way of the changes you are trying to create in your life. 

You Lose Situational Awareness

Have you ever been driving to work, and arrived without any real recollection of driving there? When you do the same thing over and over again, you stop noticing the details. This is probably why they say most car accidents happen close to home. Even the most safety-conscious professionals aren’t immune, and something a firefighter said is what started this whole train of thought for me. 

I was watching a report about the wildfires in my state, and they were interviewing a firefighter who also was the safety officer. She shared how every year the engines get serviced completely. When she picked up the vehicle, she did a walk around, and everything looked fine. Well, she was barely down the road when she caught sight in her mirror of a tire bouncing away, and then the back end of the truck hit the ground. She swerved off the road, and called the mechanic to come help. 

He was appalled! He is responsible for servicing all the trucks, and has his routine down. And therein was the problem. As he went around the vehicle tightening the lug nuts, a package delivery arrived, disrupting him. After signing for the package he moved on to the next step in the routine, but neglected to tighten the last tire’s bolts. 

Not all routines are going to cause a car accident, of course. But losing situational awareness will have consequences in your life. For example, I used to eat ice cream every evening. It was such a habit that I mechanically would grab the tub from the freezer at a certain time like clockwork. At least until I became aware of the habit, and made changes that reflected what I really wanted - which was to eat healthier. 

I wonder if there are any habits in your life that you “just do”, and if there is a potential downside to it? Maybe you do the exact same workout routine at the gym every day; would it be better for your body to change things up once in a while? Just something to think about. 

You Miss Out on Opportunities     

I had a dentist appointment this past week, and my intention was to head home right after. I was craving coffee (my nemesis - caffeine!), and I could have made a cup at home. But with this theme in my head of routines, I decided to make an uncharacteristic stop at the local coffee shop. While I was waiting for my drink, I bumped into a friend I haven’t seen in well over a year. We chatted for a bit, and made plans to get together again soon. 

Had I driven straight home, who knows the next time I would see my friend? I’d have missed out on that chance connection. Even more valuable, though, was the good feeling that I had the rest of the day. It was so lovely to see them, and it felt great to have a conversation after the past year and a half of restrictions. Positive change rarely comes from carrying on doing the same things the same way. By changing the way you think, do, or approach things sometimes (even a drive home), you are opening the door to new possibilities. 

Only two things change your life: either something new comes into your life. New friend, new opportunity, new deal. You go to a new city, get a new certification, do new things for your health. Or Something new comes in and it shifts you. It turns the tide for you. New mentor, new leader, new coach, new role model, new daily experience. Whatever it is that’s new that shifts the tide for people.

Brendon Burchard 

By walking or driving in a different direction than usual, you are seeing things in a slightly different way - even if you’re getting to the same objective. And when you try to look for the things that are new or different, and are open to new experiences, this is when change happens. 

How to Break Away from Complacency

When you are complacent, you aren’t questioning how things are done, you aren’t looking for opportunity, and you are closing yourself off from the changes you want. To avoid this negative side of habits, there are a few things you can do. 

  1. Change the way you think to get a different result. Two of the dreams I have for ten years from now are to be an extraordinary mom, and to go on a family trip with my children every year. In order to make those things happen, I need to Create Better Relationships with my children. 

My daughter has a very strong personality, which can be difficult to live with as a parent. Certain things about her would annoy me, like having to pick up after her, or when she would come home late. When these things routinely happened, I’d automatically think about how much I didn’t like it, which created the feeling of annoyance. 

Note that the thought is what actually creates the feeling. I could say that she makes me annoyed when she leaves messes behind, but in reality I am the one responsible for how I feel. Because I want to be closer to my daughter, and have her want to take family vacations with me in the future, I started to take note of the thoughts I was telling myself. For example, I would think about how one day, she’d be headed off to college, and I would miss having her home to pick up after. Of course my children have responsibilities and chores, but as any parent can tell you, they aren’t always willing participants! 

Since I started shifting my thoughts (and thus my feelings) about my daughter and her behaviors, our relationship changed significantly over the past year and a half. This is especially poignant, because we just returned from dropping her off at college on the other side of the country. We had a great time, and I can’t help but think about all of her great, determined qualities that will help her through life. 

  1. Stray from routine once in a while. As I talked about earlier, it can be fun to shake up your routine now and then; and it’s certainly necessary to avoid becoming complacent. Even with the routines that serve you well, making a little tweak or trying something different can give you a new perspective or open the door to something better. 

For example, if you’ve been starting your day by meditating every day for fifteen years, what would happen if you decided to meditate before bed instead? Or if you went for a morning walk before your meditation? I’m not saying to toss out your morning routine, as there’s great power in how you start your day. Rather, welcome the opportunity to experience your meditation in a different way. Maybe you’ll hear the first birds in the morning, or fall into an amazing sleep. You’ll never know what could happen if you don’t try. 

  1. Practice being aware. Thinking back to the firefighter’s example, being aware of our thoughts and actions is so important. What are we missing out on while robotically going about the day? By being aware of our routine, we can find our way back, even when distracted. We might also experience things in a new way. Life is meant to be experienced, and practicing awareness in what you are doing can bring great joy. 

If you’d like to learn more about some of these topics and get more perspective on how habits can help you create an extraordinary life, join me in my upcoming Success Habits Reboot. We’ll be talking about the different things you can do in your daily life to help make your dreams a reality.

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