As a free spirit, habits are both wonderful and incredibly frustrating. After all, having things in life that are automatic makes it easier to focus on what is important and a priority. Being a free spirit, however, tends to cause everything to feel important and exciting, making it difficult to say no for the goal of prioritizing. The trouble is when we have habits that we do not desire, how do we get rid of them?
Before TSW started, I found myself fighting a losing battle with setting new habits. What I have found is that to take up a new discipline, you must have a soul-deciding decision to no longer see the previous habit as an option. It must be seen as a non-negotiable, no-longer-an-option, unthinkable action to commit. You must be revolted at the idea: disgusted and unapologetically devoted to the new habit you have committed to. The former you with the old habit has to die, and you must assume a new identity with the new habit. You must cling to the vision of your new self succeeding with the new habit.
When I tell people the strictness of my diet, their first response is typically "Holy cow! I could never eat like that!" The trouble is, neither could I a couple of years ago. What's funny is that people forget that I encounter the exact same temptations they do, I've just built up a muscle to say no. I have found ways to see my cause as more important than the momentary craving. You see, the more we say no to an old habit, we are able to in those momentary temptations to see and honor the big picture. If I give in to an intense craving for sourdough bread with butter, fresh out of the oven, I will have intense itching and a flare for a week because I broke the boundary of not having gluten and dairy. I have to decide, over the rumblings of my stomach, which is more important? Which is more worth the sacrifice? Is this really an option based on what I have decided? Choice is an illusion when we are trying to set and achieve a new habit.
By deciding early on that it is not an option for me to have gluten and dairy, it is easier to say no and see it as being for someone else. "It's not for me." Instead, I divert that craving urge to thinking about the things I can have and be grateful for them. I look for options within my new habit to replace the feeling I desire (prompted by the temptation) with good things and enable my cause. Compound this over time, and it is easier and easier to say no. Moreso, it is important that I set my environment up for success. Not bringing food into the house that will cause temptation is vital. You are only as strong as you are in your weakest moment. By removing opportunities for the temptation to break your habit, you are able to succeed in forming the new one.
By anticipating those times of weakness -because it is not a matter of if, but when- I plan ahead how I will achieve them. For example, if I know I'm going to want chocolate, I can put in my path an organic me-friendly chocolate bar, or I can be lazy and eat the non-friendly candy I have meant for clients. It is realistic to expect a challenge to cheat will come. It is foolish to think that in the times of testing that willpower alone will make me successful. By proactively setting myself up to achieve in a moment of weakness, I become successful in building my habit of saying no and gain confidence in honoring my diet. This compounding feeling allows me to lean into the muscle when I'm at a party and am tempted to cave. When I think about how far I've come, how successful I've been in the past, I can trust my vision all the more. By honoring my commitment, my vision and new habit become more respectable and valuable. My free spirit self becomes even more excited at my achievement, and instead of looking at opportunities that potentially break my habit, I end up finding opportunities to keep my habit in place.