To “make war for peace” or “fucking for chastity” sounds like oxymorons, don’t they? Sadly if you take the time to observe, they are exactly the sort of patterns that people engage in. There’s plenty of people who would like to be rich, yet spend freely without a budget. I’ve seen my share of women who say they want a good man, yet freely cheats on the men who they are dating. How many people do you know that would say they’d like to be healthy, and yet go on smoking and getting drunk regularly anyway?
It might sound like a silly thing to screw up on when you point it out openly, but failing to align one’s intention & goals with one’s actions is a frequent pattern that people engage in. The way it works is that long ago you may recognize the mistakes you’re making, be it smoking, overspending or whatever. But over time you would grow accustomed to the erroneous behavior, and whatever guilt you may have felt toward it would fade away. Even if the guilt doesn’t completely disappear, you learn to accept and dismiss it – “oh, it’s not THAT bad” or “I’ll work on getting rid of this habit after new year’s”.
To give you a personal example, I had the bad habit of buying crap I don’t need to deal
with my stress. In 2011 I bought a collectible figure for $60 shipped – this was the first time I bought something out of stress. I thought it was a terribly overpriced purchase and felt bad about it for weeks. Fast forward to 2015 and I was regularly spending a couple hundred dollars per transaction, sometimes as high as $700-800, and making one transaction every couple of months. I still felt bad about these bigger purchases, just not nearly as bad as the first $60 purchase I’ve made, and I’ve learned to dismiss my own guilt about them in exactly the same way I listed above. Likewise, a person can go from feeling guilty about smoking a couple of cigarettes a day to thinking smoking a pack a day is normal (or normal-ish). The process of internally normalizing and accepting whatever bad behavior one may be engaged in makes one blind to them, and would eventually produce the sort of paradoxical person as a health conscious man who smokes and drinks or the family man who beats his wife regularly.
Over the years of working with my own bad habits and observing my own mind, I’ve come to the realization that nipping a bad habit or pattern in the bud when it first forms is the easiest way to get rid of it. When it’s new, you haven’t accepted it as part of yourself yet and the stronger sense of guilt you feel about it can be used as a tool to fight it.
Procrastination, in this context, is what holds open the doors to your heart and allows bad habits to enter and prosper inside.
If you fail to nip a pattern in the bud, and have an existing set of habits and behaviors that doesn’t align with your own goals, one of the best things to do is just list them side by side and describe what you see. Even better if you say what you see out loud. “I would like to live a long, healthy life and I smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day” or “I would like to retire early and I spent $700 dollars last month on stuff I don’t need”. When you put the intention and behavior side by side like this, contradictions between them becomes very clear to see. When you recognize your own behaviors for what they are, it becomes much easier to tame them and free yourself from their hold on your life.
In the end, recognizing the contradiction between what you want and what you are doing is crucial – if you’re unaware of something, there’s nothing you can do about it. If you’re not sure whether you have any bad habits that’s actively working against your interests, a decent exercise to do is just list all your major life goals, and list everything you’re doing in your life that’s either advancing them or deterring them. Chances are, among the things deterring your goals are at least a few bad patterns that you can start working to eliminate.