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    « 9 Foods to Heat Up Your Love Life | Main | Brown Belt Fitness »
    Monday
    Jan312011

    Decisions Become Habits

    Over the course of any given day, each of us makes hundreds - possibly thousands - of decisions.  Some of them are completely inconsequential - which pair of black socks to wear or which pen to sign our names with for example.  Others have a far more profound effect on our lives - to move or stay, invest in a company or not.  No matter how monumental or insignificant the decision, we are actively deciding our way through every day of our lives.

    The thought occurred to me the other day as I was pondering the nature of why we do what we do.  We say things like, "That's such a nasty habit," when we see someone dipping tobacco or biting their nails.  So how does one get from the point of making a decision to having a habit?

    What is a habit except a decision that we no longer think about?

    Until about 14 years ago my in-laws smoked cigarettes.  After 30+ years of smoking, the activity had become completely habitual on multiple levels.  They habitually bought cigarettes whenever they went to the store.  They habitually lit their cigarettes, smoked them, crushed them out, and repeated the process time and time again each day.  It was automatic, mindless, and performed flawlessly each and every time.

    Until one day, they decided to stop smoking.  Now they had to perform an entirely different set of actions.  They had to consciously decide to NOT buy cigarettes.  They had to consciously decide to stop lighting cigarettes and smoking them.  And over time, their new decision making process became a habit - performed flawlessly and mindlessly every day.  Today, 14 years later, they no longer even think about smoking cigarettes.  They have a new habit.

    Fitness and diet operate on the exact same level.  Some of us have a current habit of buying food that is not good for us.  It happens automatically - I know it did for me.  I would literally find myself standing in line at some local dive buying food that I knew was bad for me.  Because I had done it so often, I just repeated a habit that was the product of a decision I had made years earlier.  The only thing that ever changed was the venue.

    In order to change my body, I had to change my habits.  I had to consciously decide to eat nutritious food that gave me energy and nutrients.  I had to decide to change my shopping practices and eating preferences until the healthy decisions could be performed unconsciously.

    Laziness is a profoundly difficult habit to break.  Sometimes people become automatons - wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, have a snack, go to bed, repeat.  One of the saddest testimonies to laziness came from a couple in my circle of influence that knew exactly what channels they were going to watch on any given day of the week from 6:00 in the evening until bedtime.  The routine never varied unless a show came along and bumped a standing program from their self-designed television lineup.

    In order to make any change in our lives, whether it be fitness related or otherwise, we have to consciously make decisions that are in alignment with the goal we want to achieve.  Rather than unconsciously ordering the #3 Combo with extra pickles, we have to consciously decide to order the garden salad with vinaigrette.  Instead of mindlessly deciding to plant ourselves in the recliner for hours on end, we have to make a focused decision to go for a walk.  Eventually, the new patterns will take hold and become habit. 

    Living your life consciously is the only way to effectively change your future for the better.  We are all subject to the effects of our decisions and habits.  The body does not discriminate between "good" decisions and "bad" ones.  It makes a habit out of whatever you do.

    Make your decisions healthy and happy ones, and your life will surely follow suit.

     

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