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5 Reasons to Stop Planning and Live Better

5 Reasons to Stop Planning and Live Better

Think about how much time you spend planning. You plan your meals. Plan your day. Plan your vacations. Plan your wedding. Plan your family and plan your life.  How well is that working for you? How many times have you painstakingly planned something only to have the bottom drop out at the last minute? What can we do about all the unhealthy ruminating about planning?

Does it mean we shouldn’t plan anything? No, but we can learn to become more flexible. Here’s a few ways to start thinking a little differently about planning and ease your control freak tendencies.

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1. Notice your patterns

Chances are you didn’t become a control freak overnight. Your need to plan is directly connected to your need for security and adequacy. While planning may give you a feeling of being in control of life and the people around you, it’s an illusion. The first step in learning to relax and stop micro-managing everything is to notice your behavior and thought patterns. Pay attention to what you tell yourself about the need to plan everything. Write down your thought patterns. Notice the triggers that set your need to plan and control in motion. Ask yourself, “Why am I planning this out?” or “What would happen if I just went to the store and bought some ingredients, instead of planning out a menu?”

2. Learn to think differently

Being a stickler can be good in some areas of life, but if we’re honest, we have to admit that even the best-laid plans can go up in smoke. We can easily get drawn into   what therapists call cognitive distortions. These include “all or nothing thinking and catastrophizing.” For example, we may tell ourselves “If I don’t plan my day, nothing will get done.” Nothing means that not one thing will get done. Is that really true? No. We would have to lie in bed all day for nothing to get done. Catastrophizing means you blow things way out of proportion and assume the worse possible outcome. If nothing gets done, what do you tell yourself?  Things like: I’m inadequate, I have to be responsible, I am a loser, or I have to please others, are negative self-defeating thoughts. Try and replace them with positive counterstatements. “I’ll prioritize my list of things to do and if I don’t get to it all, it’s not the end of the world. I’m still adequate,” is a good example. After all, tomorrow is another day!

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3. Accept Change

The one thing we are all guaranteed in life is change. Learning to adapt to life’s unpredictability will afford us a lot less anxiety and mental stress. Sometimes we plan our lives so rigidly that we set ourselves up for disappointment when things don’t go our way. Sooner or later we have to come to terms with the fact that we can’t control life and the people around us. How do we move toward accepting what we can’t plan for? Being convinced that all the stress and anxiety that goes along with it is not profitable for our well being. As long as we’re convinced we have to make perfect plans, we’ll continue to drive ourselves into the ground. Do your best and forget the rest!

4. Face your fears

No matter how much we know intellectually that we can’t plan for everything, we still try. We generally don’t give up until the usual coping strategies we have found for making life work go up in smoke. In the long run we would do better to face our fears and deal with them head on. Facing our fears means unpacking the underlying beliefs that drive them.  What do you believe about yourself, others and the world around you as it relates to having to plan? How does planning make you feel secure? Answer those questions for yourself and you might find that you can plan less and take on new challenges.

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5.  Learn to relax 

Trying to control everything in our lives is stressful, and when we’re stressed our bodies take a hit.  If we learn to pay attention to our physical bodies we will realize that we all live with a certain degree of tension. Relaxing isn’t just about watching television or playing computer games. Real relaxation begins by noticing, so doing a body scan can help. Start by closing your eyes and sitting in a comfortable position. Scan your body starting with your head and neck, moving to your arms, stomach, legs and feet, paying attention to where there is tension. Once you’re done, you can do some progressive muscle relaxation exercises to reduce your tense muscles or perhaps some yoga to take the stress out of your day.

Let’s face it we all want to be in control and planning is great as long as it doesn’t take over your life. Start today to practice healthier ways to stop making plans for everything.

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More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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