Reinforce new habits Times of India, 11th Feb, 2006

 
 

Reinforce new habits

                                                            By Kapil Kakar

There is only one thing permanent is life and that is change. It is entirely on us whether we are controlled by the change or we create a well-crafted change, which makes us get rid of undesired and unwanted behaviour/ habits which makes us into a better and more successful individual.

This can be done through abnegating our undesired habits, and moreover, instilling new habits and regulating them.

In order to do so we need to assess and introspect ourselves closely thereby identifying our areas of improvement. We need to get rid of our scourges which could be smoking, anger, excessive eating, impulsiveness, negative perception etc. Another effective way of identifying our undesired behaviour is by observing people’s reactions about us i.e. what people around like/ dislike about us.

We need to accept our Introspection as true without trying to gloss our undesired behaviour with excuses. We need to pen down all such activities in an exclusive file, starting with the reasons for wanting to eliminate the unwanted habits. Recall how these unwanted habits have embarrassed us creating an unwanted situation or been a blot on us, spoiling our relationship with those around.

Carefully observe how often this unwanted habit controls us and what the frequency of the same is. Eg. anger, how often do I get angry in a day? Yes we need to record and maintain the physical count of our anger. Also we need to keep a track of the duration of anger, ie, how long are we Mr. / Ms Anger. Is it for 5 Minutes/ 10 Minutes or more?

Instead of focusing on undesired behavior, focus on the situations which lead you to this behaviour. E.g. Under which situations do I get angry. It is next to impossible that an individual is angry all the time. Therefore, ask yourself, do I get angry more at home or in Office? If I get angry more at home is it in the morning or after I come back from office? Do I get angry over my kids or my spouse? If I get angry over my spouse and that too in the evening, is it after she starts talking about her daily activities / when she asks about my office activities?

After recognising the situation, which leads us to undesired behaviour like losing our temper, it is imperative we change the situation.

Say, if one wishes to get rid of anger and after introspection realises that he tends to get angry at home. At a micro level, the person may further discover that it his spouse bombarding him with questions that makes him angry. As we know, it is the situation and not the result (anger) that we need to eliminate, tell your spouse that you would appreciate if she refrains from questioning you as soon as you return from office. This should not mean her never asking you such questions, but not immediately after you have arrived.

So, if you are not asked such questions immediately after coming from office (situation is changed), as a result you would not get angry, Similarly, if a smoker realises he smokes often when he has nothing to do, he should keep himself busy as much as he can. Or, an individual who smokes when he goes out for a stroll but desists from smoking in front of his spouse; can change his situation by asking his wife to accompany him.

After changing one’s situation and getting success, one must not be under the delusion that the challenge has ended. On the contrary, it has just started. One needs to create similar situations for oneself day after day till it gets converted into a desired habit and flows effortlessly. So, reinforce the new habit.

As suggested above, a smoker can go out on a stroll with his wife, and thereby, he is also reinforcing the habit of not smoking. Similarly, an angry individual should start communicating more with his wife on situations that make him angry.

Needless to say, life is all about incentives. Therefore, we need to reward ourselves daily if we are able to reinforce our habits. But if we fail to reinforce, then we need to punish ourselves by not meeting our friends or not watching the cricket match for the day or things that we feel we cannot live without.