The quality of your habits will determine the quality of your life.
But how do we acquire good habits and weed out the bad ones?
awful addiction bad habit that I quit was alcohol.
I drank alcohol to numb out my existential pain. Alcohol is a downer and being drunk gradually made me feel more sad than I was when I was sober. It numbed out “harsh reality” at first and later it crept in when I felt helpless.
Booze was a band-aid for my social anxiety. It acted as a “social lubricant” but it only helped me socialize with other drunks. And the precious social activity usually consisted of commiserating with other losers, validating each other’s excuses.
Alcohol gave me a sort of “liquid courage”. I felt warm and brave. Unfortunately, I only had courage when it came to being rude or mean or stupid. It did help me to work up the nerve to being comfortable onstage, but then I always performed below my ability — and I was drunk, so I couldn’t tell the difference. Being arrogant came easily and I developed a reputation for being a self-centered asshole, which I definitely was when I was drinking.
Drinking on the regular is expensive. Even buying the cheap stuff is a waste of resources — money that could be applied toward one of my projects, i.e. the precious dreams that keep me awake at night and demand that I build them into reality.
Being a wreck made me a magnet for other wrecks. We shared the same orbit. It’s a common maxim that you are “the sum of the 5 people closest you”. What if those 5 people are fuck-ups? What did it say about me?
Alcohol almost ruined my marriage — it offered an easy “out” for my bad behavior and getting attention for bad behavior is easier than achievement.
I had an easy time identifying it as the habit that HAD TO GO.
I tried to quit a few times before it finally “stuck”. Here’s what worked for me:
I started with committing to understand and develop who I am and who I need to become to make my dreams come true (and to dream better dreams).
From there, I looked at all of the bad habits I could immediately recognize.
I picked the one that I felt was slowing me down and hurting me the most and focused on it. I brainstormed on every possible subconscious need that this habit was attempting to meet and took note of why this habit was poorly suited for the job.
I COMMITTED to the process of growing into new habits. I found it helpful to remind myself of good habits I already possessed so that I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. In this case, I already had a fair sense of mental calm and focus because I was meditating regularly.
I brainstormed on habits that I needed to develop and paired them with the needs I was trying to meet with alcohol.
To address my existential pain, I began the process of Dissolving my Traumas (I’ll write about this in a future post) and taking control of my story — shifting it from a cluster of justifications, excuses, and rationalizations to concrete Goals and Action Steps (another future post). I made “living my legend” a conscious habit.
To cure my social anxiety, I focused on dissolving the traumas I had been using to fuel it (being bullied as a kid, the alienation I felt as a result of being “different”, family stuff, etc.).
I developed the habit of being curious about other people. Who they are, what their superpowers are, what their lives are like, what their finer qualities might be, how they can live up to their potential and make their dreams come true (and how I can help, if possible), etc. I made socializing with people a habit. I studied public speaking and the mechanics of relationships and interaction. I devoted myself to the study and development of these skills.
To develop genuine courage, I developed the habit of curiosity about the world around me. I became comfortable with the reality that what I don’t know will always exceed what I do know. I trained myself to avoid making assumptions whenever possible (still working on this) and not taking things personally.
I read The Four Agreements (a great Personal Development book for beginners!) and incorporated each of the 4 into my Affirmation System (more on that in a future post).
I studied business and entrepreneurship. I developed the habit of boldly experimenting with my ideas in public and studying the results (both the successes and failures). I developed the attitude that every obstacle contains a lesson and that every disappointment existed to make me stronger and braver. With repetition, the sting of defeat has grown smaller and the lessons I have been able to unearth in the aftermath has become progressively more profound.
Sometimes, I still chicken out. I admit it. But I face my fear more often than not. And I don’t need “liquid courage” to bumble through it.
Most successful people get excited when an idea scares them because the process of facing and overcoming that fear is the process of developing greatness. I adopted the habit of getting excited about projects that scare me. Testing my ideas still scares me, but it’s better than sitting around wondering “what if…” and choosing the cold, unsatisfying comfort of inertia.
Investing in my personal development (instead of paying to escape it with alcohol) is worth it because personal development yields dividends 100% of the time — and it compounds! It’s the only such investment in existence (that I know of).
I made certain that my wife — one of the most amazing humans I have ever met — was a priority in my life and consciously built habits around growing together. Love finally became a VERB, instead of an adjective to describe feelings I let fill my sails at their whim.
I used Willpower to force myself away from the bad habit during the first three weeks.
I relied on Willpower for the first three weeks of each new habit, forcing myself to participate, even when I had plenty of excuses and motivation not to. Some subconscious needs were eliminated through action and didn’t require new habits. I adopted a proactive approach to my life and measured the results once a month or so — or whenever I noticed a significant shift in my thinking, achievement, or enjoyment.
Every new good habit and every growth spurt was met with CELEBRATION.
I love travel and spending time with people I love.
Like magic, my urge to drink faded and my enthusiasm for growing into the person I always suspected I could become GREW. And I have steadily grown into that person.
My marriage went from “always on the rocks” to “consistent source of inspiration and resolve“.
Changing my approach RADICALLY CHANGED THE QUALITY OF MY LIFE.
ANYONE CAN DO THIS.
That means YOU!