Trading Up Bad Habits

Each month we do a character exercise with the kids. This is the application of using Jiu Jitsu as vehicle for personal development outside the academy. Our current focus is removing a bad habit and replacing it with a good one– a skill all of us should master if we are to become what we could be.

Posing the Question

Best-selling author Jordan Peterson has presented many worthwhile interpretations of how to change behavior through a proper understanding of psychology. A major tenet in his teaching is to ask yourself good questions and then to act on the answers that are presented to you. My favorite of which is:

“What could I do, that I would do, to make my life a little better?”

If we ask this honestly, it will not take long until our minds become flooded with aspects of our lives we could improve. Some of these will be positive, an injunction for an action to be undertaken. Some will be corrective, a call to remove a suboptimal tendency which does not serve our ultimate aim. We shall focus on the latter.

My Bad Habit

My bad habit was drinking too much caffeinated coffee with cream and sugar. I’d have a cup during my morning ready. Another during writing. And by nine o’clock, I’d have downed two cups,. On days I teach, an afternoon third would inevitably follow.

Caffeine, cow’s milk, and sugar– I daily consumed three of the worst things I could put in my body. This had to change.

Trading Up Bad Habits

I asked myself Peterson’s question:

“What could I do, that I would do, to make my life a little better?”

I could make the coffee decaf. I did. It was as start. And I allowed myself the same delicious creamer. The next week, I drank the decaf coffee and replaced the sugary-dairy creamer with a sugary-non-dairy creamer. The week after that, I traded the sugary-non dairy creamer for half-and -half (a questionable improvement). And then this week, I am now enjoying my decaf coffee with a plant-based creamer with no sugar.

Through steady, progressive improvements, I replaced a bad habit with a better one, without the feeling of sacrifice.

Call to Action

I’ve always been too proud to acknowledge the weakness of my own psychology. That’s changed. Maybe it’s getting older. Maybe it’s realizing that if I had myself completely under control, I would be who I want to be, which I am not. But lately I have found great success (and enjoyment) in finding all the ways I can improve, and making those improvements in gradual, seemingly irrelevant changes.

Peterson has talked at length about the psychological significance of the Pheonix as a representation of the need for rebirth. The key, he has suggested, is not to consume one’s self in some dramatic resurrection but to burn off a feather at a time. Only changing the things you are willing to change, today. Repeating this process causes a constant evolution which is sustainable and approachable– leading to that personal resurrection over time.

Removing one bad habit at a time, we become what we could be. We start with something simple, like coffee. And then, as we gain mastery over ourselves, we set our sights on something bigger. We constantly trade up our bad habits, in every area of life, as we become something more. The more worthwhile the behavior change, the more feathers we burn off in its achievement. Slowly over time, we are reborn.

One habit at a time, we change ourselves. One habit at a time, we change the world.

Further Reading: Check out Professor Chris’s new book “5 Rules for White Belts“. Want to start training at our academy in Florence, NJ? Sign up for our Introductory Special and join the team!
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