The Old With The New: How the Worst Day of Your Life Shaped Your Habits

We tend to try to stay within our comfort zone throughout our entire life. Each brand-new experience brings a certain level of discomfort at first, so as we grew up we took these new experiences and combined them with certain behaviors that we have known to bring us comfort in the past. From the day you were born until this very moment you’ve navigated through life on an autopilot of repetitive behaviors. Those autopilot actions are formed by our habits, and most are fantastic for us. How many times have you arrived at work and thought “How did I get here? I wasn’t even paying attention to the road!” although that technically makes you an autopilot that’s not quite what we’re talking about

The autopilot we're talking about is the way you automatically just know what to do when performing an action. Because you’ve made that daily commute to work so many times before you automatically know where you're going and what to do. So now maybe you’re asking what are some of your habits that created your autopilot function? Well, a habit forms when we find a particular something that benefits us, we continue to remember that specific thing that helped us out that one time and continue to repeat it repeatedly, the result is it becomes so ingrained in our mind that we automatically do it without even realizing. Some habits are great; they keep you safe without you even being aware of them, but some are pretty awful, and they tend to sneak in there without you noticing, which makes them so difficult to break. Those are the ones that give the word “habits” such a bad rap. So how is it they sneak in there you may ask? Well, they started to sneak in with the first most terrifying experience of your life, your birth.

Newborns cry to alert parents something is wrong and needs attention or comfort, yes; I know; they cry a lot. Consider this though, all they have known their entire life is the sheltered warmth and peace inside their mother’s womb. Imagine how terrified they are because every new experience is literally the worst thing that’s ever happened to them in their entire life. Newborns learn early on that their cry will alert mom and tell her that something's wrong and that they need her to soothe them. They begin to associate being uncomfortable with crying because Mom always rushes over and gives them some reassurance. Now before you blame your mom for your nail-biting habit, you should know mom had a trick up her sleeve, she would combine two things to calm you down. 1: What you’ve been accustomed to and 2: a new something to help you grow. This is not only how habits form but also how they are reinforced, the search to return towards the comfort zone. Think back to that newborn and what it takes to get them to stop crying, being swaddled tightly in a blanket when they're cold for instance. Clearly, you cannot put a cold baby back into the womb but the combination of the blanket and wrapping them tightly reminds them of the womb, it’s their return towards comfort.

Now obviously, we cannot be fully functioning adults by crying until we are tightly swaddled so as we grew up, we developed new ways to achieve the feeling of safety and comfort. As we grew, we took our old experiences and remembered how they comforted us in the past and applied them to the next worse thing to ever happen to us. That combination is what helped us flourish and grow up to be the functioning adults we are today. Now that you're an adult it doesn't mean the growing should stop; it just means that you have the power to soothe yourself by remembering what helped you before. Make the decision today whether the things that reassured you in the past match your current goals, if they don't match, they are the sneaky habits who slid in there without you ever realizing.

So how on earth do you break a habit when you don't even realize you're doing it? The most important thing to remember when trying to break any habit is to actually remember that you're trying to break it. By acknowledging things that you've done in the past don't support your future goals you now know how to identify your bad habits. To change them, you must turn the autopilot off, focus on the road, and steer yourself the direction you want to go.

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