We May Not Need Them or Want Them, But We All Have Them!

Got a minute to try to solve this riddle?

I am your constant companion.

I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.

I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.

I am completely at your command.

Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me,

and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.

I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.

Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.


I am the servant of all great people.

And, alas, of all failures as well.

Those who are great, I have made great.

Those who are failures, I have made failures.

I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine.

Plus, the intelligence of a person.

You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.

Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet.

Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.




Hmmm. Whomever or whatever it is, it sure is a force to be reckoned with!


If you’re stumped but don’t want to give up just yet, consider this your spoiler alert and read no further.


Drum roll, please, because here is the unveiling: The answer is, “I am a habit!”


Seriously, habits aren’t mysterious things at all. We all acquire them—good ones, not-so-good ones and “it is what it is” ones. Repeated behaviors become habits, not necessary because they’re what we need or should do, but because, through repetition, they become automatic.


Do you gravitate to the coffee maker each morning? Habit!


Do you brush your teeth before hitting the bed at night? Habit!


Do you say automatically say “hello” when you pick up a ringing phone or “How are you?” when you pass a co-worker in the hall? Habit!


Do you turn on music before you even put your car in drive? Habit!


Yep, we all got them. Habits are such familiar, cozy creatures. Habits are easy—we don’t have to think, we just do.


Just doing can get us in trouble so I have a proposition for you: For the rest of the day, pay attention to those things you do automatically–almost like a robot. Tomorrow, pay particular attention to the habits that you’ve picked up over time that are stopping you from getting to a healthier weight. One key to losing weight and keeping it off is learning more about yourself. What gets in your way? What habits do you need to drop? Then, spend 2 days from now really thinking about which new habits you can adopt—ones that will benefit your overall health and happiness.


Can you get in the habit of pre-packing a healthy lunch instead of winging it at lunchtime?


Can you get in the routine of waking up early to fit in 20 minutes of exercise before hitting the shower?


Can you make writing in your tracker/journal just a normal part of what you do?


Can going to the store with a grocery list become the regular way you shop?


These are just a few things that you can learn to make routine with thought and practice. Come up with some more.


When dropping or learning new habit, be patient with yourself and realistic. Leave the drama to the Kardashians. Giving up a nightly bowl of ice cream is going to take some practice, planning and compromise. You might whine and miss it—I know I did when I gave up my Breyers–but, the truth is that it isn’t going to throw your world off its axis. Put things into perspective and remember, habits don’t happen overnight but they will become a part of who you are if you work at them.


Old-school thinking was that it took about 3 weeks to form a habit. That changed with a research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. The study showed that habits form anywhere from 18 days up to 254 days, with 66 days being the average. How long it will take you to form a habit depends on your commitment level and the difficulty of the habit you’re trying to embrace.


For instance, making it a habit to attend your weekly Weight Watchers meeting may be relatively easy with just a little finagling of your schedule or asking someone to babysit or carpool. With a little ingenuity and a lot of wanting, it will become a routine thing for you to do, most likely, in very little time. On the other hand, learning to pass-up junk food that your partner, roommate and/or kids flaunt every evening while watching TV (yep, that’s what I call it, “flaunting.”) might take more time because there are more emotional and physical triggers attached to it.


No matter how long it might take you to make good habits a part of who you are, I promise that you won’t regret the time and practice you put into it.


Let me end this post with a story about a person on a horse:


The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the rider is going somewhere really important.

A bystander shouts, ”Hey, Where are you going?”

The rider replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”


Like the horse, our habits are the power—the driving force– behind where we are going and where we’ll end up.