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The Power of Habit

People always want to be something different. They’re always vying for some change in their lives that would come from within. They want to be more fit. They want to be nicer.  They want to make more money. They want to learn to play guitar. Yet, the majority of these ideas will remain ideas, never to be put into practice. We even relate this self-improvement to resolutions for a New Year! The gym will be full in January and empty by December. It seems like it has to do with willpower, and while that is partly true, the reality is people don’t have enough willpower to make all these large changes to their lifestyle.

The way to change yourself is not to constantly bully your mind into thinking there are “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, but rather, by taking one little step at a time. Like Alan Watts said, when you’re cleaning dishes, you may have a pile in front of you, but you only need to clean one dish at a time. It’s all you can ever do. One thing at a time. According to Mr. Watts, you can turn this into a dance and wash the dish with cosmic elegance. It may be a simple analogy, yet there is a lot of depth to it. If you want to clean all your dishes, you will have to take the first step, and the second, and the third, etc…but don’t think of these steps as serving a prison sentence, think of them as dance steps instead, and make your life fun.

Ultimately, if you want to change yourself, you have to start with your habits. It’s a lot harder to stop old habits than to create new ones, and in some way, those behaviors are one in the same. If you want to “stop” something more effectively, like over-eating, or spending too much time on the computer, you’ll be hard-pressed to get there if you don’t have a plan to fill up your time. You’ll be drawn right back into your comfort zone if you’re just sitting there, staring at the wall.

Trust yourself, you can take control of your habits if you work at it day-by-day (one dish to clean at a time). The more you do something, the more likely you are to do it again, so why not take the first steps towards doing something you like? And instead of walking, why not dance it?

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