Do you have a bad habit you’d like to overcome? If so, you are not alone. Millions of people want to quit smoking, stop eating junk food, or give up their sedentary lifestyle.
But attacking the problem head-on may not be the answer.
The pin oak tree (quercus palustris for you budding dendrologists) provides a fitting metaphor. One feature of this tree is that it retains its leaves during the winter months. Though the leaves die in the fall, they remain attached to the oak’s branches until the new leaves appear in the spring and push the old ones off the branch.
You could, of course, remove these leaves by hand. But that is a time-consuming and pointless exercise. The leaves will come off on their own when the new growth appear in the spring.
Bad habits are similar. You can focus your attention on eliminating them. Or, you can focus on developing positive habits. As you do so, you will naturally—and more easily—remove the bad habits.
Psychologists refer to this as sublimation.
For example, you could focus on:
- Eating tasty, fresh vegetables instead of eliminating junk food
- Drinking eight glasses of water a day instead of cutting down on your coffee intake.
- Complimenting your spouse instead of breaking your pattern of arguing
- Reading more books instead of cutting down the time you spend surfing the Internet
- Praying for what you need instead of worrying about what you don’t want
- Intentional relaxing rather than smoking
- Taking up hiking rather than changing your sedentary lifestyle
You get the idea.
The main point is to focus on building a good habit rather than eliminating a bad one.