Awareness Ruins the Habit

One of my blog readers asked: "How do you clutter bust a habit? When I drive I feel a compulsive need to call someone on my cell phone. As soon as I get in my car, I call someone on the phone, even though I know it's not safe."

Yeah, I know what you mean. I used to feel compelled to spend too much time on the internet. Whenever I had free time, I'd find myself surfing, looking up stuff that randomly occurred to me. When I was in the midst of it, I was unhappy with myself. I'd think, "I got to get offline, I'm not enjoying myself," but then I was still doing it.

What I find helps with habits is to notice when the desire to do them shows up in our awareness, or when we find ourselves in the midst of doing the habit. The desire to do the habit is an appetite. It's a craving feeling, like wanting to have lunch. The habit has a force behind it. It resonates in us. We can't resist. You're in your car and the compulsion to get on the cell phone pops up. Notice the power motivating the action.

I say this because the alternative of trying to not do it or feeling badly about doing it never stops a habit. Then you're doing the habit and feeling badly about what you're doing. The reaction to what you're doing most often feels worse than the habit itself. It's like getting in the way of a charging rhino.

Watching the habit and your reaction to doing it has the effect of lessening the power of the habit. Maybe you'll still get on the phone while driving, but you'll do it less. Sometimes we don't feel satisfied until we do something 100%. But incremental change actually is longer lasting.

In terms of my internet habit, I stopped fighting the desire and just started noticing it. Being conscious of it made it less fun, less compelling. The awareness ruined the habit.