Have you ever tried to break a habit? At best, it is an awkward experience because we take ourselves off of "autopilot" and go into a "manual" mode. Things we didn't think about ... now we do. And when it comes to breaking bad habits, the bad habit can preoccupy our thinking. The result is we feel awkward and often worse than we did before we began the tough shift to an improvement.
Athletes know that a normal part of breaking a bad habit is a slump in performance. It is expected. Perfection is not the standard, but progress. How to be positive when negative is all about is a matter of choice. Awareness, developing alternatives, and acting upon your better/best intentions (AAA) is preventive medicine for the sanity of the soul.
The AAA Method: AAA = Awareness + Alternatives + Act on it!
Habits are defined as acquired behaviors. The implication here is that if we can acquire new habits, then we can also dispose of bad ones. Now there's hope!
Imagining life with benefits of our new habits is the easy part. Making it happen—not so easy! Our underlying premise has to be that we're capable of far more than we understand or will push ourselves.
I'm a fan of the Discovery Channel series, Surviving the Cut. While each branch of the U.S. military is training its soldiers for different missions, one consistent theme comes across—these soldiers have very real probabilities of facing life and death situations. They need to understand that they are far more capable than they know and understand. To a large degree the mental challenges exceed the physical hardship.
Your self talk comes into play here. If you believe you're a failure, a slob, worthless, insignificant, stupid, or you can't finish what you start, then you're projecting lies into your present and carrying them into the future. To what benefit is this?
Personal motivation—a compelling reason, a why, a purpose—combined with a willingness to pay the price—passion—defines the outcome. That said, extraordinary moments of truth emerge in the midst of the ordinary that test our purpose against our progress. Positive thoughts may get us started but will they sustain us?
No matter the outcome, you're learning about you! So even if you don't accomplish what you set out to do, you're learning something new about yourself. Use that Awareness to develop an Alternative strategy that you Act upon (The AAA Method).
Moments of truth are pronounced in our self talk. I'm not talking affirmations, positive talk, or positive mental attitude here. Let's get to the guts of the matter, the real inner conversation. The ones haunted by doubt, fear, anger, discouragement, disappointment, and hopelessness. We need to be equipped, which is why I encourage you to put the AAA Method to work when your self talk becomes self-defeating.
It is like there's a debate team living inside you. Who will win? How's your self talk coming along? Use the AAA Method to intervene on behalf of your new, better habit. You'll be on-purpose and better for it.
Recommended Reading: Read Pat Pearson's book STOP Self Sabotage. I like the way this lady thinks. She brings great depth to the topic. She's a casual business acquaintance so I can personally say that I have respect for her work.