Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why We Continue Undesirable Behavior And What To Do About It

You may know atleast one person who has a damaging habit. He/she knows about it, and still continues to indulge, even though it is eating their life away. It may be alcohol, drugs, sex addiction or more milder but still harmful forms like workaholism, shopaholism, etc.

Many of us continue various forms of undesirable behaviour-unhealthy eating, not listening to one's partner, idling away time, not exercising, etc. We all know this habit of ours is not good, but we still continue the same foolish behaviour.

What could be the reason for not stopping unwanted habits?

Recently I saw ads against smoking, issued in public interest by the Indian Govt. They contained vivid images like squeezing a sponge (resembling the smoker's lungs) and a dark, slimy liquid oozed out of it. Another ad showed closeups of the sad, anxious face of a little girl as she watched her tobacco addict father coughed. These ads were scary and did the job, they showed the logical conclusion without softening it.

So facing the stark reality is an effective way to stop undesirable behaviour.

Often people know the consequences and still continue. Why is this?
This is because they are distracted and cannot visualise clearly. Our exclusive attention must be focussed on the consequences and then imagine them happening to us. When we hear about bad things happening to others, it is always them. its happening to somebody else, not me. Much like Yudhishthira said in the Mahabharata, "the greatest wonder in life is that people see others dying all around them, and yet they never think that they are also going to die one day."

Eliminating our unwanted traits and acquiring fulfilling ones gives us lasting joy in life, a sense of mastery over our destiny. But the trigger for that change is fear. Fear of the consequences. And that fear will arise only when we can imagine the same consequences for ourselves.

Another reason people try to avoid thinking about the consequences is that it makes them squirm, The discomfort we feel when we visualize the unpleasant consequences of our bad habits makes us avoid thinking about them.

This is where meditation practices like Vipassana can really help. Meditation encourages us to sit through the discomforting experience. Normally we try to divert our attention with TV, movies, alcohol, food, socialising etc. But the issue still remains. In meditation, we have the breath to hold on to when the discomfort arises.

And when you can sit through the discomfort without running away, believe me, you will fell much closer to a more fulfilling state of being!

So the three keys to effective personal transformation (which is nothing but discarding unwanted habits and acquiring good ones) are:

  • Get into a relaxed state of concentration (meditation recommended)
  • Take just one habit at a time
  • Visualise the consequences of your habit and imagine them happening to yourself
Now if you can't think of enough consequences, just google:

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