- Monday, 29 October 2012 14:57
- Written by Kevin S. Bemel
Playing fetch with a dog is tremendous fun. After a few times throwing and retrieving the ball you can fool the dog by faking throwing the ball and most dogs will still run after it. So strong is the power of habit. Funny that when we want to give up a bad habit we think our behavior will be different. Yet even if we remove the offending thing, we will still go chasing after it or a substitute.
When living intentionally, to get rid of a bad habit you have to design a replacement behavior to fill the hole you are creating in your life. Otherwise, the old behavior, or another one that may not be quite as bad, becomes like the pits the coyote dug when trying to trap the roadrunner. Notice how he always fell in them himself?
When I decided to give up overeating I knew I had to find an alternative to watching television in the evenings since that was when I was most prone to consume junk. I had read somewhere that avid readers finished at least 50 books a year so I made that my goal. Over the last eight years, I substituted reading over 500 books for eating too much. It is true. I love to eat.
Here are the steps to rid yourself of a bad habit:
- Decide on a positive replacement behavior. Work on bad habits one at a time. Give a lot of thought to what you will do instead of the negative behavior. Do you really want to be a gum chewer instead of a smoker?
- Commit in writing. When it is in your mind it is a dream, not a goal.
- Set 30 days for your first trial. It takes at least a month to get rid of a bad habit. But that is just the first hurdle. Scott Young in his Pick the Brain blog post says that 90 and 365 days are also significant milestones.
- Ask for reinforcement from family members, friends, and colleagues. Zig Ziglar notes that when giving something up you should tell as many people as possible since they will be happy to hold you accountable when you backslide.
There are many other techniques you can use to bolster your effort to free yourself from a negative behavior but these four steps form the foundation for an intentional plan to direct your life where you want it to go.
Question – What have you used as a replacement for a bad habit?
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- Monday, 15 October 2012 13:22
- Written by Kevin S. Bemel
“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” “He can’t see the forest for the trees.” “Audaces fortuna iuvat – Fortune favors the bold.”
Apparently, only daring things are worth doing. Yet, when it comes to developing new, positive habits, small, incremental changes over the long term typically are more effective and longer lasting.
About a year ago, when I set a goal to earn a platinum medal in the President’s Challenge I started increasing the length and number of my weekly runs. The additional pounding began to give me back trouble, especially if a sat for more than 45 minutes or an hour at a time. I decided to stand for more of the day. After a couple of months, my back felt stronger and I was able to sit for longer periods of time without stiffness and pain.
To go from a sedentary lifestyle to running marathons in a couple of months will probably result in an injury that will make getting and staying physically fit harder than ever before. So here an easy first step to improving fitness and losing weight: stand for more of your day.
According to Livestrong.com, standing instead of sitting burns as many as 50 more calories an hour. Not the kind of reduction that will allow you to eat a banana split every day, but something that almost everyone, no matter their current level of fitness, can do. Start modestly. Stand for a half-hour two or three times during the day. Then build up from there.
New York Times blogger Olivia Judson has an excellent post that explains why standing, or at least not sitting, is much healthier.
Not ready to commit to expensive gym fees? Health needs to improve before you embark on an exercise regimen? Be timid! Just stand up for yourself.
Question – Why do you think only big changes seem to be noteworthy?
- Wednesday, 12 September 2012 02:40
- Written by Kevin S. Bemel
This Shabbos we read Parshas Netzavim. In it Moses reminds the Children of Israel about the covenant with G-d, to shun idolatry, that they will transgress but then repent and G-d will redeem them, that the Torah will always be near to them, and the famous charge that between life and death they should choose life.
In Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses says, “I call to witness against you today the heavens and the earth, the life and the death I have placed before you, the blessing and the curse; and you will choose life in order that you will live, you and your offspring.
Nu (Yiddish for well), who would choose death? While someone in the depth of depression might, in reality the passage is not proposing a choice between physical life and death
A related question: why are the heavens and earth serving as witnesses? Rashi explains. In his commentary to the passage he says: “the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Israel, “Take a look at the heavens that I created to serve you. Might they have deviated from their character? . . Take a look at the earth that I created to serve you. Might it have deviated from its character?” The sun always does that which G-d created it to do: rises in the east and sets in the west. The earth yields plants according to the seeds that are sown. Steadfast though they are, they receive no reward and if they were to sin they would not receive punishment. How much more fortunate are we that Our Heavenly Parent blesses us for righteous behavior and uses His guiding hand to redirect us when we stray from the correct path.
So when Moses adjures us to choose life, he is urging us to opt to follow in G-d’s way, to do His mitzvahs so that we will lead purposeful and productive lives. In this final week before Rosh Hashanah let us ponder the choice we are making for the coming year, remembering that we will pray that G-d inscribes us for another year in the Book of Life. Physical life, to be sure, but more importantly a life dedicated to Torah and virtuous deeds.
Do you recall a time when you chose life? What were your options and how did you feel after choosing?