If you go back several posts on my blog, you’ll read that I recently left the palm trees and deep brown of the desert landscape and headed east for a spell. My son and I got his school situated for the fall in NYC and then made a short trip up to the lush green of Connecticut to visit family there.
We stayed at my folk’s place for a few days and had dinner one night at my sister Paula’s house. One of her first questions to my son was: “how are you liking Connecticut after being in New York?” He said it struck him as the most boring place on earth. Her reply? “Well, that’s life in the land of steady habits.” The quizzicle look on my face prompted her to explain that Connecticut, and I suppose New England as a whole for that matter is known as ‘the land of steady habits.’
Now, I grew up in Connecticut and must confess this moniker was news to me. I have never heard this description of the fatherland before. Although, in retrospect I can’t argue much with that representation. It’s not particularly boring, but life does have a certain pace that seems to go in a straight line there. Whereas in California, the pace tends to head off in multiple directions at once, while converging in an orderly line only intermmitantly at the Ventura Freeway/Interstate 405 interchange. Though in all fairness, my son at 19 finds Los Angeles and the glitz of Hollywood boring as well.
Of course all this got me thinking, as random asides and obscure news articles so often do. Hmm, what are my ‘steady habits?’ Are steady habits bad? Probably some. Are steady habits good? Probably some. What ARE MY steady habits?
Some steady habits are for your own good (and those around you.) Brushing your teeth, showering, cutting your toe nails before they themselves become cutlery. But, it seems to me we do so many things as steady habits that aren’t so great. Things we know aren’t serving us, like negativity, procrastination, obstinence, ambivilence. You may argue that those are situational. I suppose they can be, but I’ve noticed more often than not they’re habitual behaviors.
Above so many other things in your life, your habits define you. When we were young, the kid that only washed once a week became known as the “smelly kid.” As adults, the guy who drinks a 5th of whisky each day is “the loser” whose license keeps getting taken away and will be on his way to rehab sometime soon. “Wait a minute” you say, Alcoholism is a disease! True, but it starts as a habit and blossoms into a debilitating condition.
You’ve heard people tell you their own habits many times. “I’m an optimist!” “I’m a pessimist!” or my favorite, when someone says: “to be totally honest with you…” Um yeah, thanks for letting me know you’re NOT totally honest with me all the time.
I’ve noticed people who are negative have trouble breaking that habit and tend to be negative most of the time. Conversely, positive people, though sometimes so sunny for prolonged periods you want to throttle them, tend to be positive most of the time. Most of us tend to go back and forth, not being one thing ALL the time. But, if we can look objectively at our habits, we’ll certainly see our tendencies.
Being Negative as a habit seems to breed further habits of defeatism, procrastination , fear and withdrawal. Being Positive seems to breed action, motivation, inspiration and hope. I know which one sounds better to me.
As for me, there are habits I want to and need to change. I habitually avoid confrontation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually quite good at confrontation professionally because I’m making money by playing a role. But, as irony would have it, in my personal life, not so much. I’ll capitulate immediately on things I feel strongly about to avoid an uncomfortable personal situation. Not good, as that can breed resentment and passive aggression bubbling to the surface.
I also trend towards disorganization. I really love things to be organized, but I’ve never put it as a top priority. So, instead of organizing as I go, I tend to wait until I can barely see over stuff, then I have to take a chunk of time to get it completely organized. When that’s done, I feel great and more relaxed! But, if I could do it a little at a time as a daily habit, I could feel great and relaxed everyday.
Oh, I have lots of steady habits. I’m thoroughly lost in the land of steady habits. Everything from my morning coffee routine to how I prioritize things at work. But, I’ve decided I’m going to use this opportunity of shooting off my mouth to take stock of them all. I’m going to write down as many as I can possibly think of, positive and negative. I’m going to commit to keeping the ones that serve me, (so I don’t become the smelly kid) and replace the ones that are holding me back (such as disorganization) with more useful habits. I challenge you to do the same. Further, I dare you to write in the comments below one or two habits you are going to change. Public commitment and putting things in writing are powerful motivators.
My brilliant, life coach wife once told me that doing something (or not doing something) 27 days in a row will produce a habit. Now, I’m not sure where she got that, or if she was just trying to get me to put the toilet seat down or stop piling my clothes on the bedroom furniture, but I have changed or developed habits using this strategy many times now. Everything from flossing, to generating new business. She’s right yet again, it works.
So, let us all venture forth together, lost for the moment in the land of steady habits, but moving towards habits that are more positive and more profitable.