Rid Yourself of Bad Habits

First, find out what they really are.

Posted Apr 22, 2020

To begin the eradication process, let’s unpack the “bad habit” concept. It’s not particularly complex: There’s the “bad” part, and the “habit” part. I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that humans don’t do bad things. Not repeatedly. And not from their own perspective. There are loads of things people do that other people think are bad. But, from the inside looking out, which is the only viewpoint we ever have, we always act to keep the things that are right the way we want them to be, and to rectify anything that is not right.

I know we can all think of someone, or maybe a couple of someones we know of, or have heard of, who seem to be self-destructive, but think about it evolutionarily. We wouldn’t have become the magnificently successful species we are if we had some inbuilt tendency to harm ourselves. Purely from a survival perspective, as a species, we can’t be bad to ourselves indefinitely. And yet, “indefinitely” is precisely the timeframe of a habit. Habits are things, routines if you like, that do not have an expiry date.

So, actually, the term “bad habit” is an oxymoron. If it’s bad, it’s not a habit, and if it’s a habit, it’s not bad! An important first step in ridding yourself of bad habits, therefore, is to recognize that bad habits don’t, in fact, exist. 

It’s certainly the case that, from time to time, you might fight with yourself over things you do. You might even force yourself to do more of something, or less of something else. Perhaps you do things that you later regret and wonder why you went there again.  

We have probably all engaged in things that, from a certain stance, we find irritating and irksome, even confusing and frustrating. What I am offering here is the idea that nothing we do is ever entirely, completely, utterly bad from every way you look at it. I’m suggesting that, even with the most loathsome ways of conducting yourself, an angle can always be found that reveals at least a skerrick of goodliness. 

 Sergei Plotnikov/123RF
Source: Sergei Plotnikov/123RF

Let’s consider people as “multifaceted” for a moment or two. A bit like the way in which all the facets (there are usually 57, sometimes 58) of a round brilliant cut diamond reflect light at slightly different angles, each of our facets has a slightly different angle on who and what we are. Perhaps there are a small number of facets where we spend most of our time. These are our usual, or most familiar and comfortable ways of being. You might, though, be able to relate to the fact that we jump on to different facets when we’re at work, or at the gym, or going through security at the airport, or waiting nervously for that first date to show up, or visiting nan in the nursing home. We’re still who we are, of course, but we have a slightly different demeanor, or manner, or attitude, or way of getting along with the world around us. 

Every facet is a slightly different outlook or way of thinking about things. We could even perhaps suggest that the facets that are side by side are more similar ways of being, whereas the ones that are further apart are increasingly different states of mind. Those more distant facets might be the times when you do something that seems “out of character,” or that you don’t like. Well, it’s only out of character or deplorable when you’re standing on the other facets looking back at it. When you’re on that particular facet, it’s completely “in character” and justifiable.

It doesn’t matter what the habit is. Whether you’re thinking about nail-biting, nose-picking, habitual lateness, or eating your own ear wax, in every case, for any form of conduct that persists over time, there’s a particular vantage point (or facet), where it feels cozy or right or what you need to do. It can be hard to tap into those feelings when you’re not on that facet, and those facets are usually way round the back where they seem completely alien to the facets where you’re most comfortable. The trouble is, they’re not alien. They’re you. 

Embracing, celebrating, and discovering the value in all the facets that make up multi-faceted you is the key to not only ridding yourself of the habits you currently think are bad, but of living an ultimately more contented and satisfying life. Finding the sparkle in all your facets will lighten your life and brighten your outlook. Perhaps a blessing for a cherished life could be, “May all your facets shine.”