Have you seen the episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza decides that every decision he has ever made has been wrong, because it has gotten him to where he doesn’t want to be? His current life. So he decides to override his own system and begin to make decisions that would be the opposite of what he would normally do. He breaks with his instinct and nature and lo and behold everything starts falling into place in his life – jobs, girls etc. This was not only an extremely funny episode but also very poignant.
We really are the sum of our decisions and while our habits seem almost bordering on the edge of ‘beyond our control’, they are the product of repeated decisions to engage in the same behaviour. When at lunch, George ordered the opposite of what he normally ordered. He drank tea instead of coffee. He approached women with confidence and was honest to his boss. Things old George just didn’t normally do!
So if you would normally snap at your partner for leaving the toilet seat up in the middle of the night so that you nearly fall in – don’t. Do something nice for him instead of snapping. If you normally sleep on the right side of the bed – sleep on the left. If a partner has a problem with it – sleep on the sofa or outside in a tent. When you see that annoying woman from down the street, tell her she looks really lovely today, instead of pretending you didn’t see her. Buy a different newspaper. Wear your hair a completely different way. Go even further – if you usually look like a conservative librarian – dress like a hippy. Walk instead of drive. If you are tight with money– splurge on something. If you’re a mad shopaholic like me, be completely radical and go and put some money in a savings account for a rainy day. Just challenge yourself to get out of the thousands of behavioural ruts you have set yourself in. You’ll unnerve everyone. It will be fun!
I’m advocating this behaviour as a way of kick-starting the process that we all need to work through and that is – realising that we are not our bad habits – and that we have the right, responsibility and need – to change them into whatever great habits we might wish to have as a part of our character. Prepare for the New Year. The definition of an idiot, according to Einstein (who was not an idiot), is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. New Year. New You!
We were not born with any bad habits
We collected them along the way. Some were taught to us. Some we were predisposed to develop. But at some point we chose them as our own special bad habits. The one thing that separates us from the flock of sheep – is our ability to apply our free will.
The late Steven Covey, very clearly enunciates this in his book, “The 8th Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness.” He states that between the stimulus and the response lies the freedom of choice. In other words when something happens to you or you perceive that something has happened to you, there is a gap of time before you react. If you have been described as having a very short fuse – then your reaction time is probably ‘instant’. If you react to stressful situations like that repeatedly it becomes a bad habit – called a temper or a chronic over-reaction! I call it ‘knee-jerk’ disorder. The challenge to grow and evolve into a person liberated from negative bad habits lies in this space. Widening that space gives you options. That gives you time to evaluate the correct or most appropriate response. The counting to ten method is a good way to start if you find yourself reacting prematurely. Just count to ten and breathe deeply whenever you are confronted with a situation that would usually see you ‘blow your top’.
Every day, pick a bad habit and do all you can to transform it into something wonderful. If it is your habit not to tip when going to restaurants and hotels – start doing it and see if it kills you. It won’t and you might find you start getting better service and feeling better about yourself.
You are the product of the choices you make – if you don’t like where you are - do a turn around and use some new dance moves. Spin some 180 degree changes in your life.
Make some radically opposite choices for this New Year . I dare you. George Costanza dares you!