Bad Habits Holding You Like Gravity? How to Fight Back

at rest tombstone

“Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line,
unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.”
Newton’s First Law of Motion


We’ve spent the last couple posts talking about taking action, because in the absence of a clear plan (or even with a clear plan) taking some action, no matter how small, is the best chance we have of making a change. As Newton’s First Law states, (paraphrasing): every object at rest stays at rest. If we don’t take some kind of action, we’ll stay where we are, and likely as not, continue there in perpetuity. We may think about making those changes to ourselves or our lives, but thinking isn’t the same as doing.

If we’re not moving (mentally or physically), it’s easier for the pull of Gravity to catch us and hold us in its grip.

“We’re caught in a tractor beam! It’s pulling us in!”

–Han Solo, Star Wars: A New Hope

When we don’t move, when we don’t take action, we become stuck in our own personal Gravity (our comfort zones of behavior and habit). The tractor beams of those comfort zones are as bad as any Death Star’s. And without some kind of action, we won’t break free of them.

This is not to say that all habits are bad; they’re not. But it’s the habits we are not deliberately choosing, the ones that do not serve us and who we want to become, that have the most devastating power to destroy the life we want to live.

Think about those habits you have today that aren’t serving you. Maybe it’s hitting snooze three times in the morning, instead of getting up and exercising or meditating or creating. Maybe it’s watching that program on TV you just can’t miss, even though you know it turns into three hours of television each evening that takes you away from your family, from. Maybe it’s going out to lunch every day, instead of packing a healthy lunch at home and bringing it to work.

Can you feel the inertia, the Gravity, of each of those ingrained habits? Do you see how you do them almost without thinking about them? They’ve become part of your daily or weekly pattern, and that pattern is what makes them so difficult to change.

The good news, though, is the same way that bad habits have the power of Gravity to pull us down, good habits can use the same power to lift us up, to help us fly. It’s almost if we hit the “reverse” switch on the tractor beam, and used its power to slingshot us out into space at high speed.

And just as bad habits are made, one choice and one action at a time, so too are good habits. The secret is the switch—how we direct our energy.

There are three parts to this process of changing the direction of our energy from Gravity to Flight:

  1. Awareness. Bad habits are sneaky. They develop a bit at a time, so that we don’t notice them strengthening, and don’t notice their effects at first. We might not notice the effects of a fast-food meal the first time, but compound that choice into a habit even a couple times a week for a year… and you begin to wonder why your pants are tight and how the scale could lie about those extra 15 pounds. So the first task is to establish a practice of observation and awareness of our habits, good and bad. And the best way I’ve found to increase our awareness muscle is meditation practice.
  2. Decision. Our awareness of our habits provides the raw data we need to make decisions. The second input for decisions is the knowledge of where we want to go, how we want to change, who we want to be. My preferred method for developing that self-knowledge is journaling—or in my terms, writing practice.
  3. Action (preferably physical action/movement). Once we’ve made a decision about our direction (and I would argue, even sometimes before we have a clear idea of that direction), is to take action. Michael Hyatt just posted on the power of physical motion to change emotional state. One option I practice is walking. But this doesn’t have to be a big action to have positive effect on you, and to start to erode the hold of a bad habit, or prime a good one. Just standing up from your bed or favorite chair, even for five minutes, and walking in place or doing some light stretching, will help you start to make positive changes.

There’s tons more you can do to help combat bad habits and build good ones, but these three things are foundational actions that can help you fight the pull of your personal Gravity and move positively toward the expression of your own heroic self.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.”

–Henry David Thoreau


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[photo courtesy of prodigaldog (cc)]

2 thoughts on “Bad Habits Holding You Like Gravity? How to Fight Back

  1. James Michael Taylor

    Awareness is so key. I rarely find it hard to notice what I’m doing to get in my own way in life, but staying aware of that negative habit takes reminder after reminder. I use my morning routine, evening routine, and simple messages on sticky notes to keep melicing consciously instead of distracting my way to another year of untended goals.

    1. Steve Post author

      Totally agree. Awareness is the foundation all the other habits are built on. Cultivating the observer, so that we can experience our habits objectively from outside our egos, can be amazingly transformative. Even better when we take action on those observations! 🙂

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