Speaking of Habits

tea cupHow long does it take to develop a new habit? I did a little research on Google and found quite a variety of answers. Some researchers have said it takes at least 21 days to develop a habit; others say it takes 2 – 8 months. So… I’m not going to guess which is right or how long it takes to develop a new habit. But I do know for me it is not easy to develop, break, or change habits. When things are second-nature and happen without much conscious thought, it takes what seems like Herculean effort to change them. Especially difficult habits to change can be in what we think and what we say.

Without even realizing what is happening, we can get into ugly thought patterns that develop into ugly speech. I remember years ago I made a concerted effort to stop swearing. In my 20’s I swore a fair amount, as did many of my friends. But, by getting a professional job and realizing not everyone cussed like a sailor, I focused my efforts on finding other words to express myself. It didn’t take long to be almost fully rid of cussing, and I felt more prepared to be professional.

A few other thought and speech habits I think are worth assessing in ourselves and dropping are:

Complaining – About circumstances, the weather, how you feel, or about other people, complaining doesn’t get you anywhere. Complaining is finding fault, not offering a solution. Complaining keeps us stuck in misery. Try not to complain for a day, consider thinking about being grateful for aspects of your life, and see how different you feel.

Criticizing – Pointing fingers at others and finding fault is, to me, one of the ugliest traits. I’ve definitely been guilty of it but really try not to criticize others anymore. My husband helped me realize I could tend toward criticism and cause a lot of hurt. I try to leave others to their own business and not stick my nose in where I have no responsibility.

Blaming – Looking to others or to our past as the cause of our problems and issues says that we are powerless over our lives. When we take responsibility for ourselves and circumstances we are the actor in our play; we have the power. Blaming can be manipulative and holds us in place, but accepting circumstances and our decisions allows us to move forward.

Paying attention to these habits of speech, and then thinking about their place in our minds, can really be eye opening. You may be limiting yourself by what you say, because of what you think. Giving up on these patterns offers freedom. Whether it takes 21 days or many more to drop them, you’ll feel lighter when you do.

Make it a good week!

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Which list?

This week we in the US will celebrate Thanksgiving, the festive food-filled kick-off to the holiday season. Ah, the holidays… a season of joy, of celebrations with family and friends, of eating, drinking and merry-making.

Also a season of to-do lists and stress, perhaps difficult get-togethers with family, lonely times and overspending of money.

In my family we have historically shared Christmas wish lists, ideas of things we’d like to receive. Kids wish for toys, iPads, and Wii games. Adults wish for the latest gadget, clothes, slippers or tools. It is always easy to think of the lists of ‘wants’ isn’t it?

But recently I came across a question in a book asking, “What was THE thing you wanted last year? What did you just need to have? How did you feel when you got it?”

I couldn’t for the life of me remember what exactly I received for Christmas last year, much less what I thought I must have.

So it got me to thinking about another list, my list of ‘haves’. I have pretty stable health, for which I am incredibly grateful. I have a husband who loves me. I have a close knit family, parents who are supportive, who led by example in their marriage and their manner, and who raised me to be a strong-minded woman of faith. I have a niece and nephew I adore, a warm house, a great 2006 Toyota 4Runner, a good job, and the list goes on.

We all have two lists, the ‘wants’ and the ‘haves’. This year I am thinking mostly about the haves and want to continue in this mindset over the coming month. As the stress gradually builds and the to-do list grows, keep it simple and remember to focus on being present to enjoy the ride.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful to get to celebrate the season. I wish for you the happiest Thanksgiving yet!

For Canadian readers, I wish for you a great week, with or without the Thanksgiving Holiday!