“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” F M Alexander
“Chains of habits are too light to be felt until they are too heavy too be broken.” Warren Buffett (American Business man, investor, speaker and philanthropist.) (I disagree with the second part of this quote, but thats how it often feels!)
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” John C Maxwell (Author and speaker who writes about leadership qualities.)
“Depending on what they are our habits will either make us or break us, we become what we repeatedly do.” Sean Covey ( Author of the ‘7 Habits of Highly Successful…… books)
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”. Aristotle (Greek Philosopher).
I am having a quote binge! I recently gave an Alexander Technique presentation and was looking for some good quotes about habits, I found the above quotes really interesting. The way we move through life is constructed, in part, through a series of habits (things we do and the way we think). Some of these are useful, some necessary, some inefficient and some down right damaging!
Some of the ‘not so great’ habits I had as a child, I luckily managed to stop, like sucking my thumb, a very difficult habit to break for me. But I was determined to stop before starting secondary school! It was a bitter first lesson in the unconscious power of habits, as I time and again sucked the ‘Stop n’ Grow’ that had been painted on my nail completely unaware that I was putting my thumb in my mouth again. I gradually learnt!
As many broken New Years resolutions show us, changing our habits can be difficult, but not impossible. The key is having a workable strategy and the skills in place to enable us to change. The Alexander Technique teaches us the tools to drop those damaging or inefficient habits and build more efficient and healthy ones. We may come to AT to help our bad back or poor posture, but these habit changing, tension relieving tools are wonderfully transferable skills. They allow us to change all sorts of unhelpful physical and mental habits that then allow us to begin to look after body and mind in an integrated way.
The first step to changing our unhelpful habits is to learn to connect mind and body and be more aware of our bodies and the way our thoughts and emotions influence the way we use them. AT gives space to reconnect, build our embodied awareness so that we can notice what our habits are. This building of awareness or embodied mindfulness is best achieved, as one of the above quotes says, by putting it into our daily routines. Sometimes its helpful to start by choosing a few particular regular activities to be mindful of; for example, brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea, walking up stairs or getting in and out of your car. The activities are short and specific and we can set an intension at the beginning to notice our body and thoughts during the activity and see what happens. We are raising awareness of what we do and think habitually, helpful and unhelpful. This is best done in a very friendly, un-selfcritical, curious and playful way, otherwise we may just become one big frustrated ball of tension! We can remind ourselves that without awareness there are no choices available, no chance to change. Therefore, we need to congratulate ourselves when we notice our habits.
Step 2 – Find space to pause and breathe. Take a moment to be with yourself, ask: am I trying too hard and bringing excess tension to my body? Can I do less? There are also 3 other questions that can be really useful:
Am I seeing? – Am I over focused and tight or can I soften my focus into panoramic vision and see the space around me.
Am I breathing? – Sometimes we maybe holding our breath without realising or be breathing in a shallow way, we may sigh a lot or over do the in-breath. ‘If in doubt, breathe out’ is a useful mantra, as it calms the nervous system. Also, notice what you are up to with you tummy muscles, can you let go and allow your breath to be easier?
Am I balancing? – to be easy and well co-ordinated we need to be free in our joints to rebalance and respond to our changing environment. Is your head balancing lightly? What about your ankles, knees and hips, can they soften a little?
Step 3 – Add in some useful thoughts, or as we Alexander teachers call them, ‘directions’.
-My neck is free.
-My head is balancing lightly.
-My back is lengthening and widening.
-My ankles, knees and hips are free. -My shoulders are resting and widening away from each other.
or my thoughts for children
-My head is like a floaty balloon.
-My shoulders are like runny custard
-My body is soft and tall.
This process – over time – guided by an AT teacher – releases us from the grip of our unhelpful habits and allows us to create a new, more poised, free, considered way of being. You can change your habits, there is no magic pill, just the daily cultivation of mindful awareness of body, mind and emotions through AT and its well worth the commitment. For more information about lessons or to book please email me using the form on the contact page.