“Your actions do not have to be big to make a big impact.” This is a statement I heard recently from the woman who started Lasagna Mamas, a movement gaining momentum across the country. This group spreads good will by preparing and delivering lasagna meals to families in need. What a wonderful idea. It is heartwarming to hear that some people do such good deeds.
As I think about the statement, “Your actions do not have to be big to make a big impact,” I think of other examples of this. Every action we take makes an impact, some positive, some not. While all of the actions we take may not be thought of as big at the time, over time the impact of small actions can be big.
I listened to a podcast recently, Habits Building. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, was interviewed. The entire podcast was full of useful information. Do yourself a favor and listen to this podcast and order the audiobook or hard cover of Atomic Habits. I listened to the audiobook about a year ago and am very impressed with James Clear’s work.
Habits have been an interest of mine for a long time, but in the past two years, I have immersed myself into the study of and discipline of habits. I believe this is why I was able to stop drinking alcohol and get serious (again!) about weight management, resulting in losing 55 pounds since May of 2019. I truly believe that it takes more than 30, 60, or 90 days to make or break a habit. In 2006, I embarked on a year’s journey of no spending on non-essential items, believing that it would take me that long to control my spending habits, or addictions. That year taught me some valuable lessons as I developed habits related to spending, some lessons that are still with me this many years later. That journey is chronicled in my book about that experience, A Year in the Life of a Recovering Spendaholic, available thorough Amazon. While I journaled the journey throughout 2006, the book was published more than ten years later in 2017.
If you have habits that you want to make or break, you will need a system, or systems, to help you. One definition of a system by Oxford Languages is “a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done.” One system that is helpful is to replace the habit you want to break with another, considered a substitution. An example of one of mine is the frequent replacement of a glass of wine with a cappuccino. Also, daily rituals that help to cement the commitment, such as walking two miles daily, can be considered a system. James Clear recommends a system of “join a tribe where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.” Examples of the latter system is to avoid frequenting bars when you are no longer drinking and making friends with those whose common behavior is what you want yours to be.
What is the difference in a habit and an addiction? There are different answers to this question. My distinction is that habits are emotional whereas addictions are also physical and may be genetic. When one has a physical reaction to stopping a behavior, it is likely that what began as a habit has become an addiction. As difficult as habits are to change, addictions are even harder. It is best to change a habit before it becomes an addiction. While one can change a habit by will and having systems that help to maintain the commitment, changing addictions often requires external assistance. One example of external assistance is Alcoholics Anonymous.
We are creatures of habits. The more and longer we do something the easier it is to keep doing it, making it more difficult to change. But we can change, once we commit to changing, and develop systems that help us.
It really is quite simple. But it isn’t easy.