The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. - Samuel Johnson
Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead.
What are micro-addictions? They are those annoying little habits that prevent you from living the life you truly want. They are small enough to go unchecked, but bothersome enough to get in the way of you living your fullest potential.
- The inability to stop checking your email 10 times a day, when you could be making progress toward building your own business.
- The frustrating habit of seeking approval from other people when you know that you should trust your own instincts.
- The deceptive habit of using television as convenient entertainment, rather than participating in life.
- The addiction to having everything figured out in advance. Instead of going for what you want, you commit to thinking about it a little longer; possibly for the rest of your life.
These are the unwanted minutiae in our lives. A couple of these annoying little habits are not enough to make much of a difference. One or two wandering bits of algae in the sea doesn’t make too much of an impact. It’s when this undesirable flotsam becomes a cloud that our lives are compromised.
So how can we battle these little micro-addictions, these tiny thorns in the side of our personal development?
While by no means am I perfect, these are a few things that have helped me.
- Do your best. Realize that your best will be different depending on the time of the day, and how much energy you have. Whatever you’re doing, simply do your best. This will help you overcome playing the victim with yourself and seeking back into self pity. Self pity fuels the cycle of repeating what you’ve always done. If you stay in the realm of self pity, your feeling sorry for yourself will make you feel like you’re helpless to change your situation. Always do your best and avoid playing the victim.
- Chip away. The hardest part about changing habits is that they’re a pattern. We’re comfortable doing what we have always been doing. Even though we aren’t necessarily happy with what we’re doing, it’s more comfortable following the same pattern than breaking it. Much of this is because we get intimidated trying to make drastic changes. Overhauling your life will never be accomplished in a single day, so just take it easy. Take it one day, or hour, at a time if you need. Commit to changing your habit for just today.
- Build momentum. A lot of people will tell you to thing big, act small. Thinking about the big picture is important, but if we want to building momentum, we need to think small and act big. By thinking small, we’re able to mentally digest the changes we want to make. By thinking small and acting big, we can commit for a short period of time and put all our energy into that commitment. Then we can build momentum on mini-milestones.
- Change your environment. Typically, the easiest way to create a new habit is to change our environment to reinforce it. If you want to start practicing yoga daily, set your yoga mat out every night, so you see it when you first wake up. Subscribe to yoga related blogs; print yoga photos and put them up around your room; get a screensaver of your favorite yoga poses, etc. The more triggers we have in our environment that enforce our habit, the less work your mind has to do to make you believe it’s going to be a habit.
- One thing at a time. This isn’t something new that you’ve never read on Zen Habits. But so many people get gung-ho about a total life makeover, they try to do everything at once. They get excited; they want to change their diet, exercise habits, social life, career, values, etc. They put all their energy in as many directions as possible. Then what happens? It fizzles. It’s like a chef getting excited about the possibility of a hundred different flavors, so she adds them all. The end result turns into an incomprehensible mess. Focus on mastering one thing at a time. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Be persistent. Persistence is the enemy of the rut. The only thing between where you are now and where you want to be is really persistence. If you can develop the ability to be highly persistent, you’ll succeed where others give up. It’s in failing many times and getting back on your feet that you make progress.
- Reject perfection. We have a tendency to put things off endlessly, because we’re afraid of imperfections. This is pretty silly. If your dream is to become a master pianist, wouldn’t you have rather tried and failed than not tried at all?
- Do some value work. Staying aligned with my values is something that’s helped me stay motivated toward breaking micro-addictions. If you don’t know what your values are, simply ask yourself what’s most important to you. Take a moment to think about it, but don’t think to hard. Go with your gut and whatever comes to mind first. My top values are authenticity, clarity, and balance. When I’m doing things that aren’t aligned with my values, I’m unhappy. When I’m closely aligned with my values, though, I feel fulfilled. If you can keep your values in mind at all times, it makes making the right decision much easier.
- Be content. We often get so caught up with improving our lives and achieving our goals that we forget to be content. The truth is, if we don’t take the time to appreciate things the way they are now, we’ll most likely resent personal development. By having gratitude and contentment, you’ll reinforce your will to grow. It’s a lot more motivating when you know that you will actually appreciate the achievements you have made, rather than only focusing on your shortcomings.
- Stop thinking. How much time do you spend thinking about what you really want to do? How much of your life do you spend daydreaming about the life you want to lead, rather than just living it? It’s amazing how much fear of failure and fear of the unknown can hold us back. But wouldn’t it make more sense to spend all that energy taking physical steps toward your goals, rather than imaginary ones? I think we could all do with a little less thinking and a little more doing.
I think the most important part of attempting to break these little micro-addictions is that we keep in mind where they are coming from in the first place. Usually we’re preoccupying ourselves with these dead-end pursuits because we’re trying to avoid something. We fear if we really focused on doing what we want, we might actually achieve it. In the end, we fear our own awesome power. That’s insanity.
Stop selling yourself short. Embrace your greatness.
Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. - William Feather
This article was written by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead of the Illuminated Mind blog. Click here to subscribe to his blog.
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