Making the bed each morning (+3), eating enough fruits and vegetables (+15), doing yoga three times per week (+8), remembering to call my grandma (+16), and usually sticking to my schedule for posting articles on Medium (+5).
But — always forgetting to drink enough water (-7), not getting enough sleep (-20), occasionally smoking the odd social cigarette (-25), avoiding confrontation at all costs (-11), and a slowly but surely increasing dependency on caffeinated beverages (-6).
We are in the negative, Houston, I repeat, we are in the negative.
Okay but in all seriousness, what if we were the collective sum of our best and worst habits? Would the choices we make on a day-to-day basis be supporting our health, happiness, and overall well-being more than hindering it? Or would we unknowingly (okay, and maybe slightly knowingly…) be contributing to our own stagnation and suffering in the game we call life?
Habits — For Better Or For Worse
So chances are that you already have a rough idea of which habits are positively serving you, and which parts of your daily or weekly routine you’d probably be better off without.
For some habits its obvious; you should exercise more and stress less — maybe stop watching so much reality TV and instead start cooking all your meals from scratch. We can fairly easily categorize these things as monumental time wasters or helpful life quality improvers.
Other habits, however, can pose a greater challenge when it comes to sorting right from wrong and helpful from harmful; these are habits we might be reinforcing without even thinking, allowing our unconscious mind to get the the better of our health and happiness.
This is where assigning a value to each of our habits comes in handy. Not only does this method force you to contemplate the habits you engage in — from the big ones all the way down to the small — but it also encourages you to objectively weigh the ramifications of these habits against the outcomes in life you are currently experiencing.
In other words, if I were to take one of the negative habits I listed above, “avoids confrontation,” I’m not only responsible for considering how this habit might rank in and of itself as a negative characteristic, but I also have to consider all the ways it might be impacting the other areas of my life too.
Maybe avoiding confrontation means that I fail to stand up for myself, or to ask for that promotion my boss promised me weeks ago. Maybe it means I’m unable to set healthy boundaries in my interpersonal relationships. Whatever it may be, these are all potential consequences that ought to be accounted for when assigning this bad habit a number.
From this phrase of the process, you can better prioritize what exactly the habits are that you want/need to eliminate or improve upon first.
Remember that insight without action is just a crash course in your own philosophy, and that for anything productive to take place, a series of tangible changes must occur. Whether we’re talking about halting bad habits, or creating newer healthier ones, there’s a pattern-interrupt that often needs to happen.
For actionable tips on how to make that pattern-interrupt occur, check out my article, Improve Your Health Using AMSOR — The Acronym For Change — I know it’s certainly helped me to tackle this process step by step.
You may have clocked on by now, but the purpose of tallying up all the good and bad habits you can think of in a concrete, mathematical way, is not necessarily to actual keep any kind of on-going scoreboard.
Instead, it’s an exercise in self-reflection that opens you up emotionally to giving (and most importantly receiving) your own feedback.
What’s more, is that you don’t even have to worry about eliminating 100% of your bad habits; the goal here isn’t to lie or cheat your way into seeing a positive equation, and it’s also not to strive for perfection.
The goal is to have the good out number the bad, for you to feel secure in the steps you take daily in achieving your goals, and for you to truly hone in on which areas of life you assign the most significant value to, and why.
Alexandra Walker-Jones — April 2021