How Habits Can Be Friend or Foe

Warren 'Coach' NyeAll Sports

Mind Over Sport with Coach Nye…

Habits-Friend or Foe

            Definition of Habit

Aren’t we all creatures of habit and if you make good habits then habits will make you, right?

The great Aristotle had said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit’

Our ‘habitual mind’ or as some know it as our, subconscious mind, is over one million times more powerful then the conscious mind. This means that we spend a substantial amount of our lifetime on ‘Auto-pilot’, playing out the mental programs that run our behavior.

For example, while we are playing the game of hockey and being in the mist of battle on the ice, watching the play and other players, conscious of what is going on around us, the subconscious mind is attending to other details such as, slowing down in our skating, knowing when to turn and planning our next move to open ice. The subconscious mind is so vast and so powerful that we do not even know what it is thinking or capable of.

‘Habits begin and manifest deep in the mind and they can be friends or foes’

Good habits within our sport can make our lives easier, helping us do those mundane chores of working out, even without thinking about it. But we also know to well, habits can be destructive, to our well being in many forms. Therefore, we struggle to losing weight, or to gain muscle when needed or not eat properly…to name a few ‘bad habits’

‘Whether they are positive forces in our lives or obstacles to the goals we want to achieve, habits become ingrained through repeated actions.’

Of course, the real key to success than is replacing destructive habits with successful habits.

Here is where we all know that we have this ultimate power within ourselves but we seldom use it. That power is the ‘Power to Choose’. The power to choose and change. We have the power to let go of old thinking and adopt the mindset of creating the habits of Champions.

7 Steps to Creating Good Habits

1.Identify the habit. As mentioned, most of the time we are no longer conscious of our habits, good or bad, so the first thing we need do is become aware. Identify and become aware of the habit.
2.Make the decision, and then the commitment, to change. Of course, this is easier said than done. How many times have we said to ourselves, “Yes, I should exercise more and eat better. Not to worry, I’ll get around to it sooner or later?” Unfortunately, procrastinating just makes it harder to change a bad habit. The longer you put off acting, especially where health is concerned, the unhealthier you, or the situation, will get. A conscious commitment is necessary because that’s what it takes to get the wheels of motion in action.

3.Discover your triggers and obstacles.If you don’t know what your triggers are, or if you are unprepared for the inevitable obstacles, you will set yourself up for failure. To develop good habits, we must be aware of what our habits are. All of us, in moments of weakness and vulnerability, need support or a release for our frustrations. We all have bad days, but we need not resort to unhealthy habits to alleviate the stress. Likewise, we cannot let boredom, anger, or anxiety be triggers for bad habits either. Look for healthy ways of dealing with triggers and obstacles.
4.Devise a plan.Benjamin Franklin had a great plan for overcoming his bad habits and replacing them with good ones. He developed a process whereby he listed 13 virtues he felt were important in his life and then proceeded to work on them. He focused on one virtue per week for a 13-week period. By the end of each week he felt he had mastered the bad habit so he proceeded to the next one the following week.

During this process he kept a journal of his success with the virtues. Since some of the virtues helped facilitate the acquisition of others, he put them in a order beginning with temperance because “it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up.”
This will work well for anyone who is trying to establish a new good habit – vigilance is indeed needed to make sure you stick with it! After temperance, he worked on silence because knowledge could be best obtained “using the ears than of the tongue.”

Franklin had rhyme, reason and purpose for every virtue. He figured that to develop good habits, keeping order would free him up for the things he really wanted to accomplish in life. His resolve, once it became habitual, would help him remain focused to implement all the other virtues. Here for the fun of it is Benjamin Franklin’s list of virtues. You can devise a similar list for yourself to help you incorporate good habits into your lifestyle.

The List of Virtues which Benjamin Franklin incorporated into his life:

  1. Temperance – Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry – Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility – Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

5.Employ visualization and affirmations. Visualization and affirmations are great for integrating the new habit into your routine. While visualization is a powerful motivational tool and energizer, affirmations program the subconscious with the right mindset for establishing a new habit. Together they allow you to feel and imagine yourself carrying out the correct behaviors making it easier to adopt the new habit. Certainly, developing good habits is easier when employing visualization and affirmations.
6.Enlist support from family and friends. Let people know what you’re trying to accomplish. This way they will understand if you want to pass up the desert or go for a walk instead of stopping at the pub on the way home. When your friends know, you are serious about changing a bad habit into a good one, not only will they help you steer away from temptations, they will cheer you on and give you moral support. We all need support in achieving our goals!

7.Find healthy ways to reward yourself. One of the reasons we develop many bad habits in the first place is because they make us feel good, even if it’s just temporarily. The experience of feeling good is meant to soothe or placate us when we’re stressed, dejected, or just plain out of sorts. For example, you might over-eat and feel good while doing it, but then you feel twice as bad afterwards. The same goes for smoking or drinking too much. While you’re in the act you feel relaxed and trouble free, however, afterwards you feel remorse and vow to quit – soon. So, to minimize falling off the wagon and slipping back into old, detrimental habits, reward yourself when you’ve done well. Treat yourself to a new book, a movie, a concert, or new exercise equipment. If you’re short on cash, visit a friend you haven’t seen for a while, go to the downtown art gallery, or enjoy a skinny latte.

One last final thought:

‘Our destiny changes with our thought, we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire.’

I think Aristotle was onto something!


Until next time.


Coach Nye



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