Weeds and bad habits

weedsBy Irene Conlan –

Arizona had more than its annual average rainfall in the first two months of the year. Put water on the desert and it blossoms and this year it is spectacular. The cacti are in bloom with the brilliant colors only an arid desert can produce with a little water.

My front yard, however, is spectacular in a different way – weeds. Dandelions took over while I was away for those two weeks and when I returned my yard looked like a jungle. It was definitely not a pretty sight. I was a little annoyed with my son for not taking care of it – and then I discovered what he had been battling.

These are not ordinary weeds. They are monster weeds. This is the absolute truth. We went out every day last week to work on the yard and discovered that if we remove all the weeds in the morning we have of them by afternoon. And not only have they appeared but they have grown to at least an inch in height. No kidding. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it first hand.

I think they are under control now but it will probably be a daily war of  the weeds for the rest of the summer. Dandelions thrive when the temperature goes beyond 100 degrees, going to seed quickly so thousands more of them sprout downwind. It will be a busy summer.

Unwanted habits are a lot like weeds. You pull one out and two take its place. (or so it seems). You stop smoking, for instance, and you eat more so now you have a weight problem. Yikes! You stop biting your nails but start twisting your hair and grinding your teeth as your stress level increases. Your work on procrastination causes you to lose your temper because you  feel so rushed.

But wait, there’s more (as they say in infomercials). It doesn’t have to be like that. To overcome a habit you need to do the same thing you do with weeds.

Start with making strong decision to get rid of the habit. This is important because in the beginning, it may seem like more work than you wanted. Once you have that decision made then:

  1. Make a plan. What is the best strategy for overcoming the habit? Do your research. What you would do to curb overeating won’t be the same as what you do to stop procrastinating and what you do to stop smoking will differe from what you do to stop biting your nails.
  2. Get the tools you need. For weeds I needed a hula hoe and some weed killer. For smoking you will need hypnosis, the patch, the pills or sheer cold-turkey determination. To stop biting you nails you may need something to paint on your nails that tastes awful, a manicure, or acrylic nails for a length of time.
  3. Become aware of what triggers the habit – stress, a reminder of something in the past that started the habit, etc.
  4. Find healthy substitutes for the old undesirable habit; e.g., if you crave a cigarette because you’re used to having something in your hand when you talk on the phone, keep a bottle of water handy. The same works for snacking when you’re not hungry.
  5. Visualize what you life would be like without the habit. You will not have the taste of cigarettes in your mouth  or the smell of stale tobacco on your clothes and you will have a new lease on life (literally) if you stop smoking – imagine what that would be like for you. If you stop overeating, see yourself as slender and healthy. See lovely hands and nails if you stop the nail biting. Whatever the habit is, see and feel what it would be like once the habit is gone.
  6. Give it time. It generally takes three weeks – 21 days – to overcome a habit or replace it with a new healthy habit. Every day you succeed, celebrate. If you mess up, don’t beat yourself up. Start over – yes, at day one. But it is so worth it.

Once the habit is stopped or replaced with a new desirable habit stay on the alert like you do when you’re looking for more dandelions. At the first sign of weakness, take action. Don’t allow yourself to go back to the old way of reacting. Pull that weed of old behavior out now and don’t let it re-seed.

Cleaning out the weeds in the yard looked like an impossible task to me just like stopping an unwanted habit may look to you. But the end result? Absolutely worth it. Don’t let the thought of it intimidate you. Start now.


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