Column: Habit substitutions, not resolutions

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on Dec. 28, 2008

We all have our habits. At the moment, I’m really into the computer game “Civilization III.”

I bring this up because this is the time of year when we seek to remove “bad” habits from our life through these wonderful things called resolutions, non-binding declarations that many times are broken before the first week of the new year is done. And if you don’t tell anybody what your resolution is, nobody is the wiser.

Resolutions to stop a habit are by their very nature self-defeating. Humans are meant to have habits. We’re creatures of habit, as the saying goes. So what I suggest this year is that rather than forming resolutions, you pick a different, yet similar, habit to have. We’ll call this habit substitution.

Let’s use me an example.

I love playing “Civilization III” because it helps me unwind from work, turn off my brain for a bit, and I enjoy conquering the world. It’s my Napoleonic complex. Unfortunately, it prevents me from doing more useful things with my time such as working out, keeping in touch with friends, and reading.

I could resolve not to play it again, and I even could throw it out. But I’ve been down that road before, and inevitably I find another game to sap my free time. What I’m going to try this year is habit substitution.

What’s something that allows me to unwind, turn off my brain and conquer the world? Basketball.

I used to play basketball every day and sometimes twice a day when I was a sports reporter for the NewsTribune in La Salle-Peru. Sure, it also prevented me from getting stuff done, but at least I was getting healthy while doing it, not just working my way toward carpal tunnel syndrome.

So that will be my New Year’s habit substitution. (Doesn’t quite have the same ring as New Year’s resolution, though, does it? My marketing department will have to work on that.)

I’d be interested to know whether any of our readers take a similar approach to changing their lives around New Year’s Day. If you do, send me what your habit substitution is with your name, city and phone number, and I’ll print the best ones in the paper in either next week’s column or a column before that. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Now, it’s time for me to go pump up my basketball.

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