Which habit(s) are you trying to break?

By Caitlin Kelly

One of the best things about a vacation is — for me anyway — coming back to my home and daily life with refreshed eyes and new ideas. I almost always make some changes in how our apartment looks, and some changes in how I conduct my work and life.

Everyday life
Everyday life…Time to get out my guitar again! (Photo credit: loginesta)

Being self-employed as a writer for seven years means I have a lot of freedom in how, when and where I work. But it also means I fall into ruts and routines, like everyone else. If it’s easy and “normal”, I tend to keep doing it. I sit at the dining room table writing on my laptop, (why not at the library? a coffee shop? a shared space? the park?), because that’s what I did the day/week/month before.

A best-selling book, The Power of Habit, addresses this. Once we become habituated to a behavior, it’s comfortable and routine, and demands little thought or creativity. It might be what we drink each morning, (or night), or the clothes we wear or the friends we hang out with.

Here’s a great post by Seth Godin on why being angry is a habit one can choose to break.

One of the things I enjoy most about vacation is the chance to flee habitual behavior and try new things, some of which are simply easier, more affordable or more accessible in places other than where I live, whether horseback riding or finding a store full of used CDs.

I do do a few things, habitually, that I am enjoying and are good for me, like a Monday morning jazz dance class that leaves me drenched in sweat and ready to start my week. At 4:00 p.m. or so, many days, I brew a full pot of tea — no crappy bag-in-a-cup! — and sit down to hydrate and relax for a while.

And every year — no matter how much I would really prefer to blow that cash on a fantastic trip somewhere — I put away 15 percent or more of my income. It has finally begun to add up to something that seems real and worth managing, so the years of self-denial are worth it.

But I have a few habits I need to change:

— checking email too often, out of loneliness and boredom

— dicking around on social media (ditto)

— procrastinating on major projects that require a lot of intermediate steps to get to completion

— wasting time on magazines instead of reading books

— losing two to four hours listening to, (albeit loving!), talk shows on National Public Radio

— sitting for too long at the computer without a break, like…hours!

— not exercising consistently every single week, at least four (ugh) times

Here’s a beautiful, smart post about the power of habit — and how essential it is to wake up our lives while we still have them to enjoy:

One way is to make a conscious effort to break the habit patterns which blunt our perceptions. After all, it was sheer habit which caused the man to throw the magic pebble into the sea. ‘Habit,’ says Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot, ‘is a great deadener’. A contemporary Buddhist says that we should try to do some of the following:

When in company act as if alone
When alone act as if in company
Spend one day without speaking
Spend one hour with eyes closed
With eyes closed, have someone you are close to take you on a walk
Think of something to say to someone particular. Next time you see them, don’t say it.
Go somewhere particular to do something. When you get there, don’t do it.
Walk backwards
Upon awakening, immediately get up
Get dressed to go somewhere, then don’t go
Just go out immediately, as you are, anywhere
Do what comes next
Walk on!            
What habit(s) are you struggling to shed or change?
How’s it going?

32 thoughts on “Which habit(s) are you trying to break?

  1. Jessica Slavin

    Caitlin, have you read zenhabits? He has great ideas and advice about creating and breaking habits. I think he is right that breaking a bad habit is much harder than starting a new one.

  2. I am either an angel or totally out of it but I can only think of one really bad habit and I am not even trying to break it – I like an occasional cigarette. There I said it. Very bad person. But I don’t smoke in public or when I am with my husband. The only other thing I can think of is saying “I’m sorry” too much. (A Canadian thing?) I apologize for things I had no hand in. But now that we are making lists – I check email and FB way too much. I have this urge to totally get off all social media or at least tell people to contribute in some meaningful way. Sorry, but that is how I feel.

    1. I axed FB a year ago and it’s been totally fuss free for me ever since. I waste a lot less time without it! And I feel more connected to my family and friends…via email! Seriously, it’s a huge change and I love reading the thoughtful messages.

  3. Miss Molly

    I can always find something to do OTHER THAN WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING… I am great at sticking with something for about three months and then I get tired and fall back into my easy routine… Thanks for the resources!

  4. I wake up early in the morning to do some gym,I’m also trying to take my hobbies back,like playing guitar and write/read more…I hope it will last because I started to be so lazy lately I didn’t like my routine life anymore!!! 🙂

  5. I am definitely guilty of procrastination. Further to that – thanks for the recent pingback to my post on anger!

    I can relate to many of the habits you listed especially ones that relate to too much time spent online. Is it possible that our bad habits, once addressed, don’t necessarily need to be replaced with something else? I am wary of the desire to fill our time too usefully. Can we just ‘be’?

    I really enjoy the consistency of your posts. Great tone and extremely satisfying no-nonsense content.


    1. I am a terrible procrastinator, too.

      I agree that just “being” is a very healthy choice. I’m not one who thinks we should all be DOING something all the time.

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog.

  6. Pingback: Monday Morning Musing: The Habit Habit | jessicaslavin

  7. Worrying that everyone is ‘okay’ and making myself the last one taken care of. Not a bad trait, but at times it comes at the expense of taking care of my own needs. Working on finding a balance in this area.

  8. Everything on your list, minus NPR, plus an occasional cigarette and spending money when I shouldn’t. I’m very impressed with your ability to put away 15%. Saving takes a lot of discipline!

    1. Esp. on a crappy income! But I know I have to do it to have a life that is worth living (if I live long enough!) in retirement. Every time I look at acquiring “X” instead (and there are MANY temptations!) I think….that or income-added months of life. Even the $6k I put away is worth six months’ (plus SS) that might keep me out of a cardboard box. 🙂

  9. Nemesis

    Errrr? BibulousBlogging, cigars and Hunter S. quotations?

    Bad though they may well be, I shall nevertheless cling to them.


    “If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.” – Hunter S. Thompson

  10. justaweirdthought

    well…I have all the same bad habits as you do…Should that mean I can be as successful as you??? 😀

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