Is there an old habit that's keeping you from moving ahead in life? I suffered terribly and for years with a habit like this until I was able to not only change it but also identify a method that you too can apply to any no-longer-serving habit. First, my story.
You know that moment when you're lying in bed and suddenly a slew of thoughts, scenarios, and situations from your day pop back up in your mind? And how the critical voice engages, dissecting everything you said or did, and slowly but surely eliminating any possibility of sleep?
I know, or knew, this very well. Too well. This bedtime habit had been around for most of my life. Well-developed, deeply-ingrained, and no-longer-serving. It was robbing me of my confidence, shattering my dreams, and repeatedly keeping me from that delicious deep-sleep recharge that I so desperately needed in order to face the very things that kept me up at night. Vicious frustrating circle.
All of this changed for me about ten years ago. Practically over night. Here's the method I used. (Click the "read more" button on the right or scroll down).
Step #1: Examine and truly understand exactly what the habit serves, or more accurately--served. Our human being is far too intelligent to develop a habit just for the sheer fun of it. Habits serve a purpose. Find out what it is!
When I self-inquired about my over-critical, no-gloves-on, nightly slicing-and-dicing, I found out that the habit formed to help me locate specific points throughout my day in which I could do things differently. Prior to this, I was hurting badly and desperately wanted to change certain reactions and behaviors. So every night I would rewind through the entire day looking, searching, seeking those precious moments in which I could have done something differently. This was the purpose for my habit. Step 1 accomplished!
Step #2: Truly and compassionately honor the part of you that grabbed onto this habit in the first place. Who and where you were in life when the habit first started deserves your love and attention. Some part of you needed that habit for some reason. Treat this part of you with kindness. Yes, it is the only way to move forward.
Younger-me who was hungry for change knew no better than to replicate a technique that she had witnessed her whole life: analyze, find fault, and push hard and persistently. It was "the way," but it was no longer my way. So I offered this younger part of me lots of compassion because I could feel how misguided, lost, and unsupported she was. Step #2 accomplished!
Step #3: Thoughtfully (and heartfully) design and practice a new and better-serving habit to replace the old one. As long as the purpose that got you started on the old habit is in effect, there is no way you can just get rid of the old habit. If you try to proceed without a new one firmly in place, you'll find yourself returning to the old habit in no time or subconsciously starting up a new and unproductive habit. The good news? You can choose to develop a new and healthy habit.
For me, this meant replacing the bitter counting of all of my faults, failures, pains and suffering, with a sweet count of my marvelous achievements, moments of growth, and gains. So, every night I counted 5 achievements that I made that day. I did this faithfully and systematically because that's the only way to instill a habit.
I counted the things that were significant to me then and quite literally patted myself on the back for each one. Like, "today I chose my outfit quickly using no time at all for fretting" (pat, pat, pat), "even though I was disappointed at the score I got on the test, I didn't beat myself up" (pat, pat, pat), "when the alarm sounded at the library, I found my way out quickly and remembered to practice belly-breathing to calm down" (pat, pat, pat).
Fast forward ten years and the old habit is no more. On most nights, I'm able to fall asleep quickly, experience a restful night, and feel refreshed in the morning. And, the same method has helped me with many other no-longer-useful habits. It works every single time! Now, it's your turn.
May the no-longer-serving habits guide you to the ones that will support your evolution,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
P.S. Do you suffer from the same nagging, self-criticizing, late-night habit? Try replacing it instead with counting the growing gains you make. Struggling with a different habit? Try working through the steps above. It helps to jot these down and take time to inquire with each (over the course of a day, several days, or a few weeks). Leave me a comment below and let me know how it goes.
P.S.S. If you're stuck with an old habit, trying this technique and not seeing results, or not exactly sure what to do, drop me a line, give me a call, or schedule a private session (in-person, over phone, or via web). I'd be delighted to share with you what I've learned and support you in (re)discovering ease.
Please share your experience, insights, questions, and thoughts below, especially...
what old habit are you trying to change?
Shira Oz-Sinai is a spiritual teacher trained in iRest® Yoga Nidra meditation and Soul Lightening Acupressure®, two modalities that share the common principle of noticing what arises in awareness as the foundation to living life with ease and in deep and loving friendship with yourself. These are her musings.