Breaking a bad habit

Even though I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions (you can read my new year’s post to find out what I did instead), there is at least one bad habit I’d like to break. There’s something I say all the time, without thinking, and for no good reason.

My boyfriend pointed this out to me, a couple months ago.  I had the refrigerator door open for about a minute when he asked,

“What are you doing?”

“I need to figure out what I want to eat.”

“Do you? Do you really need to?”

“Huh?”


He pointed out that I start many of my sentences with “I need to figure out…”  I need to figure out what I want to eat.  I need to figure out how to be happier at work.  I need to figure out how to fit everything I want to do into my schedule.  I need to figure out how to stop saying “I need to figure out.”

“It sounds like you’re always taking the burden upon yourself to solve something,” he said.  “It worries you.  It keeps you up at night.  Maybe you should put a quarter in a jar every time you say that phrase.”

Maybe I should.  He was right.  The need to figure things out did keep me up at night.  I brought the idea of starting an “I need to figure out” jar to my Creativity and Personal Mastery group.

“You know, there are studies that show that using punishments doesn’t change your thoughts as effectively as cognitive behavioral therapy,” said one of my group members.  He reads a lot about psychology.

Instead of paying quarters into a jar, he suggested using a super-simplified version of cognitive behavioral therapy – the three C’s.

Step 1: Catch it.  Habitual thoughts often surface without us actively thinking about it.  Notice each time you think or say the belief you’re trying to change.  I found that I begin as many as 30 sentences a day, outside of work, with “I need to figure out…”

Step 2: Check it.  What is it that you are thinking or saying?  Is it really true?  Challenge it.  I need to figure out… But do I really need to?  Do I need to?  Is it really something that needs to be figured out? Right now?

Step 3: Change it.  We can choose our thoughts.  So if the current one isn’t really working, choose a different one.  Do I need to figure out what I want to eat?  No.  I am trying to decide on what to eat.

I’ve been using the three C’s for about a month now, and I’m happy to report that it has helped me reduce the number of times I actually say “I need to figure out.”  But there may be a bigger underlying issue to address.  Why do I feel the need to figure things out, so often?  I don’t know, yet, but at least I’m comfortable saying that it’s not something I need to figure out, right now.  It’s time to go to sleep.

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