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Monk Notes 03 - Why We Can't Stop Our Bad Habits

Change is hard. As in really hard. And if you’ve ever had a bad habit, you know how hard it can be to get rid of it.

Our resolutions for changing our behavior usually follow this three-step process:

1. We are inspired to change
2. We create a plan
3. We attempt to live into this new plan

But more often than not, things don’t go as planned. We do great for a few days, a few weeks, or maybe a few months - but then our willpower seems to fail us.

There is quite a bit of scientific research and theory out there on starting and stopping habits, much of it is very helpful, but if we look at our habits as purely external/biological realities we are missing a critical point. 

Our exterior realities are always tied to and flow out of our interior realities. Change occurs first in the depths and then manifests on the surface, not the other way around.

Our angry outbursts actually aren’t about the inciting incident or individual in front of us, our procrastination isn’t about a lack of willpower or discipline, and our overindulgence in INSERT VICE HERE rarely has to do with that actual vice (at least in the beginning).

In all these scenarios something deeper is going on within us. The behaviors we want to rid ourselves of are often simply coping mechanisms, misaligned tactics we’ve adopted to satisfy a real need or protect ourselves from something that scares us just a little too much.

The problem behind our inability to stop undesired behaviors isn’t willpower, it’s denial. Through courageous and honest reflection, we can discover the real roots of our behavior, and through this process of self-discovery put ourselves on the path to meaningful and lasting exterior change.

As we begin February and our New Year’s commitments begin to wane, it’s worth pausing and asking ourselves the following questions.

For the behaviors we are struggling to kick:
What is this behavior really about? What do I really want when I turn to this behavior?

For the behaviors we are struggling to build:
Why is this behavior important to me? What unseen fears might be getting in the way?

PS. One of the hindrances to habit formation and personal clarity is the amount of noise in our lives. Here is a free "Environmental Noise Assessment" we've put together for you to use. Feel free to download and share.

All the best,

“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” - Fyoder Dosteovsky


Denial and Addiction - Psychology Today

We do ourselves a disservice when we think of addiction as solely pertaining to chemical substances. The truth is, we all have our own addictions in various forms and capacities. And underneath these addictions is the same root. Denial and a lack of acceptance. LINK

Effort vs. Systems - Seth Godin

It's commonplace today to think that the path to success is marked by effort. But "hustle" is actually a pretty bad long term strategy. As the old adage goes, work smarter not harder. And working smarter means leveraging systems (like the Monk Manual.) LINK

Willpower Doesn’t Work - Huff Post

The argument is fairly simple. Willpower doesn't work. We tend to agree. In this article, Benjamin Hardy lays out a few arguments explaining the reasons why. If you like the article, you'll also like his book by the same name. His focus on environment certainly aligns with the intentional design of monastic community. LINK

Featured Art: "Portrait of a Young Woman" - Amedeo Modigliani 1918