I don’t know about you, but I am a creature of habit. I love routine, I love everything in its place and I am a big fan of predictability. Which, life never seems to provide - at least not for long. Change is inevitable and ever-coming. It wrenches us from our safe steady steps and throws us into the unknown. How do we adjust? How do we keep afloat the rushing waves?

I’ve noticed that habits are a strong force to be reckoned with. The definition for habit lends a helpful hand in unpacking this full word. Habit: the prevailing disposition or character of a person’s thoughts and feelings: mental makeup; a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiological exposure that shows itself in regularity and thus can morph into: an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary[1]. From those definitions it seems we can tell a lot about a person by what they do on a regular basis. Though, there is possibility for positive or negative habits and, if you don’t pay attention, those little acts day after day can become completely ingrained in who you are and how you respond to everyday things.

For example, it can start with just a quick complaint about your soggy shoes because of the rainy day, and then you notice the coffee is cold and comment to a co-worker that you can never seem to get a hot cup of coffee around here! Which sparks you to remember why you had to buy the latte in the first place: there was no coffee at home because your spouse forgot to put it on the list…again. Through this behavior pattern of acknowledging and commenting on the small or large frustrations and inconveniences each moment brings, you are training yourself to acquire a pattern. A pattern of complaining. I know this because I speak from experience. It becomes easier and easier to make sarcastic remarks, focus on what’s wrong, what’s missing, what could be better until I don’t even realize I’m doing it. And when the bottom falls out – life throws its usual curve-ball - I am thrown into chaos and the only thing I have the energy to fall back on is what is ingrained…my habits, and in this example: my negative responses.

I received a chain email which I usually dump directly in the email trash bin – but this one caught my attention and made me think. Though it isn’t true for all people, it reflected what I’ve noticed in my small sphere of the world and I thought it worth sharing:

Paradox of Our Times

Today, we have bigger houses and smaller families

More conveniences, but less time

We have more degrees, but less common sense

More knowledge, but less judgment

We have more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness

We spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast

Get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired

Read too little, watch TV too often, and pray too seldom

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values

We talk too much, love too little and lie too often

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life

We’ve added years to life, not life to years

We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers…

…We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor

We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space

We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice

We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait

We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies, but have less communication

We are long on quantity, but short on quality

More leisure and less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition

Fancier houses, but broken homes; steep profits, but shallow relationships

This is the paradox of our times today.

That’s why I propose, that as of today, you do not keep anything for a special occasion, because every day that you live is a special occasion.

Search for knowledge, read more, sit on your front porch and admire the view without paying attention to your needs.

Spend more time with your family and friends, eat your favorite foods, and visit the places you love.

Life is a chain of moments of enjoyment, not only about survival.

Remove from your vocabulary phrases like “one of these days” and “someday”, let’s write that letter we thought of writing “one of these days”.

Let’s tell our families and friends how much we love them.

Do not delay anything that adds laughter and joy to your life.[2]

As I read through the list I realized much of those truths in my life are there because I let them become a habit. It’s my habit to come home and eat dinner while watching TV, it’s a habit to expect instant service and rush around, thus limiting my patience to wait. It’s a habit to want to always buy things (commercials, displays, coupons and deals make me feel like I am always in need of something!) But every coin has two sides, and in this case, the other side is shiny and new. What about those ingrained good habits? What about those habits that lift you up out of the mire when your world as you knew it collapses? I think one of the strongest habits we should all work on adopting – and has been our focus this month – is gratitude.

What if you started training the way you think, feel and respond to drip with gratitude? What if each moment you are hungry and seeking the next sight, experience, or gift of gratitude? I spoke about this in an earlier post and think it is worth mentioning again: those thoughts of gratitude tend to push the negative, frustrated thoughts right out the door. Why not start your new habit ahead of the New Year’s resolution rush – why not start to train you mind and heart to live thanksgiving? Grateful for a quiet moment or the exciting bustle of a city. Thankful for the sweetness of fresh fruit or the blessing of a special dinner out with friends. This concept is being studied more and more with beneficial findings: “A grateful response to life circumstance may be an adaptive psychological strategy and an important process by which people positively interpret everyday experiences.”[3] Other benefits that were found include making progress toward important personal goals and higher levels of determination and energy. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s re-write habits worth having.

-Jennifer Anderson is Content Director of The Authenticity Project, you can contact Jennifer at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com.

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online

[2] Powerpoint. Lau, Herbert K. “Paradox of Our Times” Edition 2010-10-31.

[3]Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullogh. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation Of Gratitude And Subjective Well-Being In Daily Life.” Journal of Personality And Social Psychology 84.2 (2003): 377-389. PsycARTICLES. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.