Typically, the turn of a new year involves a list of resolutions and habits we would like to start. This year, the challenge is to not add more to your life. Instead, 2022 is all about quitting the unhealthy tendencies we’ve been holding on to for far too long.
Habits are formed through repetition. When a behavior is repeated, brain neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future—so easy, in fact, that one might not even realize they’re doing it.
Now, not all habits are healthy or beneficial. Many, in fact, can be quite harmful.
There are a number of physical habits that everyone should certainly quit (e.x. vaping, excessive screen time, leaving texts from grandma on read). However, this article is not focused so much on physical habits, but inward habits.
The purpose of this article is not to make anyone feel bad, but rather, it has been written to shine light into the hidden crevices of our hearts.
So are you with me? For the wellbeing of ourselves, our loved ones, and this world, let’s vow to quit these habits in 2022:
1. Quit Judging & Criticizing Others
We all judge each other, whether we are aware of it or not. When we meet another person, our brain instantly begins the process of evaluation to determine if there is a threat present. Throughout our lives, we make judgements about ideas, situations, and people as a means of self-protection.
While the mind’s ability to judge can protect us, it can also become a cataclysm for unhealthy biases towards others. Judgement itself is a natural instinct to keep us alive. However, being judgmental and critical is the habit we must forsake.
Each of us has an internal metric for how we see and value the world. When we meet someone who lives by a different metric that us, we often become critical of them. We may shame them (inwardly or out-loud) for living a lifestyle different than our own.
Holding different values does not give us a right to judge or shame another person. Instead of judging another, we should ask ourselves why this is something we value. Is this a conscious choice or an unhealthy obsession?
Jesus famously asked, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Or as it is written in another translation:
When we are judgmental of others, we forget that we are all works in progress. We focus on others’ faults when we should instead be working to improve ourselves. We neglect taking personal responsibility for our own shortcomings by projecting our insecurities onto others.
Because the fact of the matter is that how we judge others is how we judge ourselves.
So while it’s easier to make critical assumptions about another, we should really turn inwards first. With compassion and understanding, we must take personal responsibility for our own flaws and shortcomings. Only then can we make appropriate changes to improve our lives for the better.
2. Quit Identifying With the Past
Why do we insist on clinging to the past? Why do we hold onto memories that cause us pain and suffering?
Whatever circumstances you’ve experienced up to this point in time, chances are you have been dealt a fair share of suffering. We all have. Sometimes this suffering is the result of our own doing, or it was caused by something we had no control over.
Though the suffering from our past has influenced who we are today, we are not meant to identify with it. It is only a part of the whole story. As long as we make an identity for ourselves out of the past, we cannot become free of it. As long our sense of self is invested in the emotional pain of the past, we will unconsciously self-sabotage every attempt we make to heal that pain.
It’s important to note that letting go of our identity with the past is not the same as just forgetting about it. Letting go of the past means letting go of its direct influence over the present.
The process of letting go of the past is not simple or quick. It will take time and and endurance to leave the past where it belongs.
To begin, we must first recognize and acknowledge what memories from the past are affecting our present actions. Confront the memories that have been pushed deep inside.
Repressing or avoiding painful memories is unhealthy and unproductive. These memories may not appear in our conscious thoughts, but can still influence present moods and behaviors.
There is always room to grieve over what happened or long for what could have been. We are allowed to have compassion on our past selves. But once we have faced the pain for a while, the time comes when we must release it.
When we release the false belief that the past is responsible for who we are now, it no longer has the power to exert emotional control over our present mindsets.
3. Quit Worrying About the Future
The future is certainly… uncertain.
We can use reason or logic to guess what the future may hold, but the fact of the matter is that we do not absolutely know. And that can be worrisome.
The future can seem quite alarming (especially with fear-mongering news being streamed 24/7). It’s hardly a surprise so many people today struggle with anxiety. And yet, worrying about the future is not new at all.
Over 2000 years ago, Jesus addressed the issue of worry when He taught His disciples to seek first the Kingdom of God:
“So above all, constantly seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly. Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.”
Those who heard this message were living in an unpredictable society. One summer’s drought could mean famine in the winter. A bad day of fishing could mean no food or money for the family. Jesus was well aware of these hardships, but instructed us not to worry anyways.
Concerns about the future are understandable, but they are not helpful. Or as Eckhart Tolle quotes, “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”
When we worry about the future, we miss out on the very real and very near Presence of God. We sacrifice the joy of today for tomorrow’s insecurity.
“No such thing as future. The future is a thought,” Tolle teaches. To quit worrying about the future, we must focus on enjoying God’s gift of the present moment. It is the only occasion that truly exists.
4. Quit Complaining
Most of us complain without even realizing it. It is a tempting habit because it makes us feel good in the moment, like smoking or eating sweets. We want to feel validated, but negative reflection of our lives actually makes us feel weaker.
When you’ve played the victim role your whole life, it’s really hard to get out of it. It becomes a habit while complaining becomes your default behavior.
The truth is that everyone encounters hardships. But when we complain about life, we are thinking only of ourselves.
This is why complaining negatively impacts our relationships. When we grumble about the people in our lives, we are essentially telling them that their efforts are not good enough for us.
And we are telling God that we do not trust our circumstances to change. When we complain, we do not even give God a chance.
From our human point of view, we may think that life is full of good or bad circumstances. But to God, there is only good.
To quit the habit of complaining, we must change our mindsets and shift our focus. It will certainly take some time since our brains tend to gravitate towards the negative. Rather than thinking that the world is out to get you, realize that it the exact opposite. Everything is constantly being worked out for good.
The next time the temptation to complain arises, take a deep breath and know that Life is for you, not against you. Then you, also, can be for others, in love, service, and gratitude.