There Is No Such Thing As A Bad Habit
- Do you tend to procrastinate, instead of sticking to your workout routine?
- Have you been binge eating during the last lockdown and you just can’t ditch the carbs?
- Are there things that you really want but yet you keep avoiding them?
- Do you keep finding yourself slouching terribly?
My dear mentor Betsy Polatin likes to remind us in her book “Humanumal”, that there are no such things as bad habits.
“There are no bad habits. You did what you needed to do to survive. The habit or pattern is just outdated now and no longer serves you.” (Betsy Polatin, Humanumal)
What she is saying is that nothing we find ourselves doing we do for no reason. It may seem that way when we caught ourselves once again hunched over our computer, knowing full well that it is not good for us to sit like that. But really we slouch for a very good reason, we binge for a very good reason too and we procrastinate or avoid others also for very good reason.
Betsy suggests that the reason for this behaviour is in the past and it often is. When you think of an annoying habit that you have and would like to change, could it be that at some point in your past it helped you? Perhaps at a time when you were younger and not as wise as you are now? Perhaps this habit then helped you momentarily getting through a difficult time.
Betsy reminds us that there is nothing bad about our habits. They are just behaviours that were useful in some way before and became a pattern of how we cope with something, except that now they no longer serve us.
I wonder how it feels for you when you consider this, that there is nothing wrong with your “bad habit” and there is nothing wrong with you for not being able to just shake it off. How is it for you to hear that it is simply an outdated pattern, a strategy that has gone past its sell-by date?
As much as I adore Betsy, I would say that if the habit no longer serves us it should be a lot easier to move on from it. Habitual patterns are strong of course but if we no longer need them, why do we keep reverting back to them when times are tough?
From a Neuro-linguistic Programming point of view we always ask:
“What is this habit doing for you now?”
It can be a tricky question to answer when all we know is that we hate this habit and that it is making everything more difficult for us. How can it possibly be doing something well?
But when you think about it, it does make sense. And we know this really. We talk about being emotional eaters for example. It is no news to us that for many of us who binge eat, eating is a way of coping with the pressures in our lives. This is true for many other presumably bad habits too.
What we may want to figure out is exactly what it is the habit is helping us with and how. Because when we know that, we can look for other ways in which we can get what we need, without the unwanted habit. We can simply replace it with something that does the same for us, but without the bad side effects.
In order to really explore what our “bad habit” is doing for us, we need to be somewhat open to our own vulnerability. We need to be able to slow down and notice our behaviour and how we feel in the moment just before we succumb to our bad habits. Basically, we are asking for embodiment and awareness in a moment that tends to all be about distraction and dissociation. So yes of course it is not easy.
And yet we are all innately capable to do this.
Perhaps next time you notice your “bad habit”, first of all, remind yourself that it once was or still is serving you in some way. Be curious about how it is trying to serve you, and wonder, might there be another way?
I would love to hear about your habits that you can’t ditch and feel free to share with me how it is to acknowledge that it is not a bad habit but simply an outdated habit that once somehow helped you with something, perhaps even right now.
What are your options now that you have contemplated this?