I just saw yet another article about changing your habits. It linked to half a dozen different additional blog posts that also talked about changing your habits.
Useful, no doubt. We are creatures of habit, and most people can name a habit or two they would like to change, especially when trying to create success. And there are some creative, practical ways to do that.
What often gets neglected in all of this, is attention on our inner habits. These can be slipperier, more difficult to name or define, harder to notice. Naturally so, since our inner habits are in the realms of attention, thoughts and emotions, and we’re not exactly supported all day long to pay attention to those.
I would go so far as to say that with our attention pulled in so many directions, with so many external distractions, we are less and less able to skillfully navigate our attention internally, on our thoughts and feelings and the results of our internal patterns.
Yet it is our inner habits that come before our outer habits. Out inner habits influence, shape, or even control, our outer habits. They create a predictable series of reactions within us.
Whether I put my attention on what I DID accomplish today or DID NOT accomplish today will create a domino effect of thoughts, possibly self- judgments, and predictable feelings and states.
Yet most of this goes under people’s radar, leaving it that much harder to develop external habits that are useful, and lead to success, happiness, and greater fulfillment.
When the internal habits go unnoticed, it can leave you more prone to distraction or numbing to not feel the uncomfortable restlessness going on. When unnoticed or unnamed, the feelings and thoughts behind the scenes will tend to call the shots, whether or not they’re actually helpful to you, your goals, or your life.
In my experience working both with highly successful people and people who feel they have not yet reached their potential for success, the shift to noticing internal habits can be profound.
Over and over again, I hear successful people who have been managing or hiding stress and anxiety say that they just didn’t notice the patterns of attention and self-talk that were causing them to feel so bad. It was outside of their conscious awareness, but running their experience.
We all develop habits of how we speak to ourselves, very often under our own radar. We all have habitual feelings that come up after we think certain thoughts, or compare ourselves with a co-worker or loved one.
Getting some of these patterns into the light of day is the path to greater real control. Bringing more awareness to those internal habits can lead to greater mastery over how we feel, and lead us to be more productive, and feel more fulfilled.
To gain more awareness of your internal habits, here are some simple things to try:
1) Notice where your attention goes first thing in the morning when you wake up. This influences how your energy level and how your feel as you head into your day. You can jot this bit of data down every morning for a week and see what patterns you notice. The patterns are there, just awaiting your attention and discovery. Do they serve you?
2) When you run into a challenge during the day, what do you say to yourself? You likely do say something mentally, if not out loud. If you dial up your awareness in that moment, what do you discover? Does it support you? Does what you say to yourself make you more effective in the moments that follow, or less?
3) Toward the end of the day, where is your attention overall – on what you DID accomplish that day, or what you DID NOT accomplish or complete? How does that affect you?
Giving more attention to your internal habits can show you what’s been working well, and what may be hampering you in your happiness, well being, or success.
Start with the internal habits and work your way out to the external ones. See how that affects your mood, your effectiveness, and your success.