Old habits die hard. What does that even mean anyway? A quick google search tells me that this expression originates a long time ago, but not many can pinpoint the answer outside the fact that habits are hard, and we're going to die try to defeat them. Pretty positive stuff! So how do we rid ourselves of these pesky old habits? It's not easy. There is research that supports that our habits are so deeply ingrained in our being, that any stress that creates a deviation away from the creation of a new, alternate habit (let's say losing weight or quitting smoking) will put us right back where we used to be in those comfortable, predictable, and often detrimental old ways.
I say detrimental because often these habits stop us from being the true version of ourselves. That self we want to be, who is a better person for those around us, and contributing more in the life that we love and want to create for ourselves and others.
I know those old habits the same way you do. It can be overeating, under exercising, having a short fuse, not being attentive to others, not focused, complacent and just plain 'blah'. Those areas of our life that leave us feeling not so great about ourselves, that we hope to find a way to propel ourselves and lead our way up and away from those old patterns of behaviour.
I think we've all experienced that it's not easy getting over our bad habits and creating new ones, but there are some things we can do to help us succeed in stopping those old patterns that aren't serving us, and evolve into new habits that get us closer to being that person we are meant to be.
Focus on what you want and WHY you want it.
So what do you want? To be healthier. Why? To be there for my kids as they get older. Why? To help them turn into good humans who can live their dreams and the best life they possibly can. Why? Why? Why? WHY is this important to you? Keep asking yourself that question until you cannot possibly go any further with the question why. Think 5-year-old you nagging yourself the same way you would nag your Mom about all the "Why's" that existed in your world back then. It may even feel that uncomfortable and irritating to have to keep searching for that answer to "Why", but believe me, it's worth it.
Surround yourself with supportive people.
Stay in touch. Be available. Make this a priority! No matter how uncomfortable it is to the introvert in you, no matter how impossible it seems to the mother parenting full-time, no matter how much work there is to do, or other priorities that come up. MAKE TIME FOR THESE PEOPLE! You cannot underestimate the value of talking out those areas that you want to be better and do better with people that love you and support you. I wish I could say I learned this by doing--but I learned it by not doing and realized how much time I'd wasted and how many friendships and relationships I had let fade that shouldn't have.
Let go of the past.
This is a big one, and it's not easily done. We like to punish ourselves for all the times that we didn't measure up, do our best or live up to the standards that we, or others, set for us. But just let it go. You are not that person. Every stumble, every failure, every time you reverted back to those old habits that you swore up and down and prayed that you wouldn't go back to. Just let it go. You are here right now, in this moment. Moving forward to who and what you want to be. Which leads me to my next point...
Be kind to yourself.
Loving yourself is easier said then done. For the hyper personal critic out there who has felt their fair share of shame and guilt, this is a very tall order. Maybe first it just starts with cutting yourself some slack? So you're not perfect. So you fall back into old patterns of behaviour and unhealthy habits. I know one thing, and that is that beating yourself up to the point that you convince yourself you're no good, worthless and can't do it, is not going to propel you forward. It's going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. So take some time to say some nice things about yourself. Ideally having a daily or weekly ritual where you can have some "you" time: a cup of coffee in the morning, an evening walk, journaling time, time set aside for meditation, but the important part is that you have positive energy and words directed toward yourself.
People really underestimate the power of a good pat on the back--but I'm starting to realize why they made us do it so much in elementary school. This part really helps with the ability to be kind to yourself, so it is important to recognize and really CELEBRATE those times and days when you make progress that means something to you. Whether that be sharing kind, empowering words with yourself, gloating and expressing your pride to others, or making a big event and going out to dinner, drinks or any social outing to celebrate! In it's most basic form it is asking yourself 'What did I do that was good today?', and 'What do I want to do better next time?' Work in moments, not events. We can only walk before we run, and before that we couldn't walk at all. As daunting as Point A to Point B seems, celebrating every single small step along the way will create a momentum and a motivation toward the creation of that new habit and lifestyle you're looking to put in place.
Just because the expression "old habits die hard" is as well known as it is does not mean that we are completely helpless to change them. It just takes some work, and an awareness to know that we are not defined by what we have done in our past and up to now. We are defined by what we continue to do, and how we show up each and every day. So if we're moving forward and focusing on what it is we really want, surrounding ourselves with good people, being kind to ourselves, and celebrating the progress and success that we do have, I would say that we are showing up pretty well.
Our old habits only make us older. Our new habits make us who we are meant to be.