Monday, December 6, 2010

Week 11 challenge: break a bad habit (in my case: complaining)

This past week I attempted to go without complaining.  I intentionally did this challenge on the busiest week of my academic school year, so I knew that it was going to be tough.  I also am very aware that I have an issue filtering what I say out loud, it’s like word vomit and it’s a problem.  So I attempted to stop. 

I’m pretty sure I failed.

I mean… I know I failed.  I complained throughout the week.

I talked about how cold I was, how tired I was, how much homework I had.  Every time I slipped up I realized what I had done and vowed to stop.  But then I would say something again without even thinking about it and the cycle continued. 

Other times I was very conscious of what I was doing, like Tuesday for example, I had a terrible attitude in my morning class.  It may have had something to do with the lack of caffeine in my system that morning but probably more to do with my thoughts and anxiety level regarding a last minute 100-point project.  That morning I knew I was complaining but didn’t feel like exerting the energy it would have taken to stop myself.  I felt guilty for breaking my challenge so early in the week and tried being more intentional after that. 

And I was intentional. I became very aware of my habit. 

I also tried to understand the affects my complaining had on others.  Monday night was one of our last nights in my senior seminar class and we all went around giving advice to one another.  One of my classmates said something so insightful I made a scene as I shuffled through my backpack to find a scrap piece of paper to write down what she was saying.  It applied to my week perfectly.

She talked about energy, and how you can contribute either good or bad energy into the world by the words you choose to say.  Her advice was to be thoughtful and careful of the words you choose and to think about how they affect others.  She also said, “be conscious of the bad stuff you put in the world.”

I put bad stuff into the world when I complain.  It’s a waste of energy.  So I’m working on it.  And as I look back on my week, I realize that just because I didn’t correct a bad habit doesn’t actually mean I failed this week.

Because an important lesson I’m beginning to understand is that the process of bettering myself is about the progress, not the perfection.

This week was about the progress.  Becoming aware, attempting to correct myself, keeping myself accountable.  The point was to break a bad habit, and the first step in breaking a habit is becoming aware of that habit. 

And it turns out that even as I write this, a few days after my challenge ended I still catch myself thinking twice before I say something negative.  Which is funny because half way through the week I seriously considered putting a rubber band around my wrist and snapping it every time I complained or thought of complaining, so that I would associate the habit with the pain and eventually it would stop: classical conditioning (thank you very much freshman year psych class).  The reason I mention this is because I wasn’t getting results right away and I wanted to resort to (somewhat) drastic measures to stop my bad habit.

I realize now that I didn’t need that rubber band, because something significant enough took place over the past week that stuck with me.  I created a new habit, of being aware of my bad habit, and that was enough to change my mindset.

So I’m working on it, and that’s enough for me.  Because it’s about progress, life is about progress.

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