Repetition: Your habits. Your behaviors. Your development.
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I am a big advocate of personal development and the intentional cultivation of behaviors. Good behaviors. For this reason, I promote awareness of behavioral modification and the development of habits. Good habits.
As my blog continues to grow, you may start to notice that I occasionally repeat myself. I may offer the same advice in several different posts and even make the same point, multiple times in a single post.
This is not because I’m lazy, but because I believe in the power of repetition. How many times do you have to tell a toddler to stop talking with their mouth full? How many times have you foolishly broken your own heart by making the same mistakes over and over again? How many times do you need to hear the same advice before you start taking it seriously?
Repetition is an absolute necessity if you want to hard-wire new thoughts, habits, and behaviors into your brain. This is the very foundation for how behavioral modification works. It’s how skill works, it’s how religion works, it’s how cults work, it’s how failure works, it’s how success works.
This is how you change. This is how you grow. Whether you do so consciously or unconsciously, repetition can make or break you.
“We are that which we repeatedly do.
Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
If you repeatedly engage in bad habits and unhealthy behaviors, your life will reflect that. If you repeatedly engage in good habits and healthy behaviors your life will reflect that also.
But you want that goodness right? You want to be fabulous and sexy, healthy and strong, knowledgeable and skilled, successful and wealthy, comfortable and happy, right? If you want to maximize your joys and minimize your sorrows, you’ll need to harness the power of repetition for your highest good.
Choose the best possible attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors, and then—repeat them. Repeat them over and over and over again, until you can execute them without effort.
You can do this. You can choose your habits, behaviors, and disposition. It’s not magic, it’s not easy. It is science, it is hard, but you do have the power. You have the power to develop and improve yourself. You are not at the mercy of your weaknesses. You can overcome your limitations. You can mute those dark whispers that threaten to destroy you.
Consider this: A study published last year, showed strong evidence that eating disorders are habits. Bad, entrenched habits, but habits nonetheless. When it comes to Anorexia, it often starts as a simple diet with the intention of losing just a few pounds. Soon, however, it spirals out of control and the sufferer becomes obsessed with food. But what if we found a way to replace those bad habits with good ones? I believe we can.
I am not trying to trivialize mental disorders. I am trying to illustrate the awesome power of habit. It can be just as destructive as it can be constructive. Now imagine if you could take control of it. Imagine that you could harness your unique neuro-diversity and utilize it for you own good.
I believe you can. Even if you struggle with mental disorders, I believe that you can utilize the power of repetition to overcome.
Do not misunderstand, I do not believe that repetition can cure mental disorders, but I do believe that the repetition of good behaviors can improve the side effects of mental disorders.
In honor of this post, I will repeat myself: It’s not magic, it’s not easy. It is science, it is hard, but you do have the power.
You can maintain a healthy weight. You can stop yelling at your kids. You can stop nagging your husband. You can remember your wife’s birthday. You can stop stealing from Walgreens. You can stop falling victim to road rage. You can remember to floss your teeth. You can cultivate patience, kindness, compassion, and equanimity. You can find harmony. And you can be happy.
Every time you engage in an activity, you’re strengthening the neurons associated with that activity in your brain. The more frequently you engage in a task, activity, or behavior, the more you are reinforcing those connections. You are literally hard-wiring your brain. This is why some habits are nearly impossible to break—your brain is working against you!
But don’t get discouraged. There is hope. There is always hope.
No matter the what the habit is, whether you’re trying to break it or build it, it starts in your mind.
You must get your mind right first. Mentally prepare yourself for this new behavior. Practice it in your imagination. Visualize it. Meditate upon it. Adopt a mantra associated with it. I like short mantras myself, but you may prefer long affirmations, chants, or songs.
You know all those hypnotism apps in the app store? This is what they are. A person speaks affirming and encouraging words to you while absorb and meditate upon them. You can find similar videos on YouTube, and in even books and on CDs if you’re familiar with that building called the library. If you take it seriously, you can train your brain. Again I say, it’s not magic, and technically, not even hypnotism, but it does work if you do.
A bonus to choosing a short affirmation, is that you can post it everywhere, like a Post-It on the bathroom mirror, on the front of the refrigerator, on your screen saver, etc.
The point is repetition. Mentally repeat your new habit over and over and over again. Even before you’ve begun to execute it. See yourself eating a healthy meal, staying calm when others are getting on your nerves, flossing your teeth every-single-day. When things start to get tough, chant your mantra.
After you begin your new habit, I recommend you surround yourself with anything that can help you build your new habit; books, blogs, quotes, people, gear, supplies, anything and everything within reason. The repetition and redundancy of it all will help remind you to keep it up.
Studies show that the people who own the most workout gear are the most fit. Well duh, I hear you say, but let me ask you this: If you walked by a pile of exercise equipment every day, wouldn’t you be inclined to use it every once in a while? Even if only out of guilt? Certainly not the best attitude, but hey, if you’re healthier for it, why not?
Repetition can make or break you. You can’t build a good life without good habits. Acknowledging the power of repetition is one the first steps to building the life you desire.
So that’s where I think you should start—by increasing your awareness of the power of repetition and by extension, the power of habit. Do not underestimate this suggestion! It may sound simple, but if you can’t get the simple things right, how are you ever going to get the complex things right? Take my advice, educate yourself on the power of habit, and then—harness that power.
Below is a list of links to useful resources that will reinforce the ideas I’ve shared here.
My Developing Habits Pinterest Board – This board has encouraging and thoughtful quotes all about the power of habit.
Unlocking the Science of Habits: How to Hack the Habit Loop & Become the Man You Want to Be – An awesome article from the McKays over at the Art of Manliness.
FlyLady – FlyLady is a mentor that offers a thoroughly developed system that teaches people how to keep a neat and organized home. You might think it odd that I’m including her here, but her entire business is built on the power of repetition and the developing of habits. The best part is that her system is free. Just click the link and then click the get started tab. I personally love FlyLady and I’ve been a follower of hers for years. She’s my imaginary mother.
“The Art of Happiness” written by Howard C. Cutler, M.D. with the Dalai Lama – This books gives remarkable insight into how the Dalai Lama thinks and what he believes is the path to happiness. If you’re not familiar with our current Dalia Lama, he is one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time, and he preaches compassion better than anyone I’m familiar with. I am not a religious person, but I am a Dalia Lama fan. Check him out on Facebook.
“The Greatest Salesman in the World” written by Og Mandino – A runaway best seller, famous in its time, “The Greatest Salesman in the World” is a short book (111 pages), full of fundamental advice for achieving success, or more specifically for “preventing failure”. It has a spiritual element in it, and although I am not a religious person, I loved this book. If you actually follow Mr. Mandino’s advice it would take you 10 or more months to finish this super short book. Why? Because Mr. Mandino believes in the power of repetition.
Don’t want to click the links and keep reading? That’s fine, click this one instead. And have a wonderful day!