Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

Freeing myself from a bad habit

this isn’t me, but I would like that hat, or scarf. Whatever it is, I like it.

Happy Sunday!  When I logged on this morning, I discovered that I had won the “define Heffaloftus” poll over at Renee Schuls-Jacobson’s fantastic blog.  Woohoo!  What a nice treat.  If you’re here visiting from Renee’s blog, welcome!  If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Renee’s always interesting and entertaining blog, hop on over and see what Lessons from Teachers and Twits is all about!

As you might have noticed (hardy har), Pesach is soon approaching.  As we discuss the narrative of our ancestors’ liberation from Egyptian bondage, we can also think about what is enslaving us, so to speak.  Which habits or behaviors are holding us back from actualizing our potential?  Each holiday on the Jewish calendar brings down a specific energy from the spiritual realm, making certain physical actions easier.  Pesach is known as “zman cheiroseinu,” the Time of Our Freedom.   Meaning, this is prime time to break free of negative behaviors and/or bad habits that have crept up on us.  I had a friend who used this time of year as an opportunity to stop biting her nails.

One habit that has been weighing heavily on my mind is my unproductive use of the internet.  I don’t know how many of you can relate to this, but I’ve developed an unfortunate groove of sitting down and logging on mindlessly.  I find myself frequently checking to see if anything “new” is happening.  New messages, new updates, new whatever.  I could be doing something productive  online (like writing a blog post), but I just spin my wheels.  Worse, when I’m egregiously unproductive, the guilt I feel for not doing my household duties is exponentially magnified.  It’s a yucky feeling.

Two weeks ago, our computer was out of the apartment from Friday until Monday.  Now, I don’t have one of those smart-phone thingies like all you hip kids, so no computer meant no at-home internet access.  For three-and-a-half days.

It was a great freebie.  I didn’t have to exert any willpower to change my bad habit because the object of my habit was simply removed.  This enabled me to take a more objective look at my routine, to stop and reflect on how I wanted to change.  Because I do want to change.  I recognized that I was stuck in a rut and I didn’t like being there, but inertia and lack of willpower (or maybe it was just fatigue, not an unreasonable assumption) was making it awfully hard to change the pattern.

Without the computer, I found myself having to find {gasp} other things to do around the house.  I got more housework done (no shocker there), read more, spent more time with my kids, got more exercise, went to sleep earlier.  It was amazing.  Now, I’m not about to get rid of the internet or anything, but this forced separation did allow me to get a glimpse of what my life could be like if I exerted just a little more self-control in this area.  If I took myself off the auto-pilot I was on.

So, you know how it is when you start paying attention to something in your life, and then all of a sudden it’s everywhere?  Yeah, that happened.  I was listening to a shiur last Friday, and the Rabbi quoted the Ramchal’s essay, Derech Etz Chaim.  He said that one of the most important things a person can do is to contemplate the actions in his (or her) life.  That to actively think about, to be conscious of what I am doing is a tremendous protection against making bad choices and actions.

Whoa, right?  Sign me up!  I’d like to be all contemplative and in-the-moment and be protected from bad decisions.

I’m stoked about changing my non-productive pattern.  Still, I’m realistic about the strength of ingrained habits, and I don’t expect to be instantly “cured” of my rote behavior.  That said, I certainly intend to harness the spiritual energy of this time of year to develop new habits to replace the old ones.  Practically, this means waiting to log on in the morning until after I’ve accomplished a certain amount of things, not logging on after Shabbos until I’ve picked up the toys and (somewhat) cleaned the dishes, etc.  Sometimes it could even mean just waiting five minute before going to the computer to check my email or Facebook page.  In those five minutes I’ve created a window to insert consciousness into an otherwise thoughtless action.

And on that note, I am off to do some dishes!

Here’s to freeing ourselves from bad habits!  Chag Sameach everyone!  Have a great Passover!

What would you like to free yourself from this year? 

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15 thoughts on “Freeing myself from a bad habit

  1. Thanks for the Torah perspectives on this – cause we all know we should kick bad habits, but to have some nice backup is great :)

    The encouragement is great!

  2. I have been contemplating something similar to this post for the last several days… interesting that we are on the same wavelength for so many things. Thanks for verbalizing my thoughts!!!

    1. Sometimes I think certain ideas are just floating around more than others. This may very well be one of those. Glad to verbalize! Would love to read your post; send me a link if you do it? Thanks!

  3. Yup, definitely addicted to the internet and its constant updates. I think that instant communication and information at our fingertips might be the slavery of our generation… and it’s hard to free yourself from something that you can’t completely abstain from.

    1. Good line – “the slavery of our generation.” That’s going to make me think about what I’m doing when I go online.

  4. Hey, Rivki! I’m here from Renee’s. Great definition, by the way! =)

    You’ve got some great stuff posted here. I’m in the same boat with the Internet; it’s an easy go-to when I’ve got nothing to do. I find myself wasting so much time on it.

    I did a 3 week fast at the beginning of the year, and one of the things I did was limit how much I went online: once in the morning for blogging purposes, and once at night. It really helped with time management. Then my fast was over, and I fell back into the routine. I guess I need to just make it a rule for myself…

    Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to read more of your stuff!

    1. Hi TJ! Welcome! Thanks for popping by. The fast sounds fantastic, and I can totally relate about falling back into routine. I think I read somewhere that it takes 40 days to make a new habit. 40 days is looooong time. We all have to find whatever incentive works for us (I bribe myself with a new pair of shoes, sometimes).

    1. I know, it’s a vicious cycle, lol! Thanks for the link love; I’m honored to have “won” the definition competition. You have such great content on your blog – it’s such a fun place to visit! Love it!

  5. I can totally relate. I was told by a Rov not to keep my computer at home so I pay my neighbor to board my computer. Of course, I can come in to use it, as I’m doing now, but not having it at home certainly limits my online time. I’ve also got addictive tendancies in that department and I’m too old to be wasting time. Good luck in your struggle. best

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