Chains have many uses. Leonardo da Vinci dreamt up a concept of a chain. In his early drawings, he visualized how the chain could be used to lift significant weight or power a machine.
We have all types of chains in our world. Bicycle chains allow us to use our human power to transport us around. A lock with a chain can help us secure that same bike to a bike rack. Chainsaws give us the ability to fell an enormous tree in no time.
The point of this post is to discuss figurative chains vs. literal.
Chains can bind. Chains can hold you down. Chains can keep a habit strong. Chains can drive you. Chains can allow you to attach new habits to existing ones.
Chains can constrain. A ball and chain attached to your leg makes it difficult to move.
You’ve probably heard various quotes about chains. Something like:
“Whatever worked in the past, build on it; whatever didn’t work in the past, break the chain that binds you to it.” – Marianne Williamson
Breaking a negative chain
Do you have a consistent bad habit in your life that is holding you back in any way? It could be sleeping too late or not preparing for the day. Maybe it’s eating too much fast food or drinking sugary drinks. Has your habit become so fixed that it feels impossible to break? Is it smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol?
Think of the habit you have that you want to break and imagine it as a rusty, old chain. The longer you’ve had this habit, the stronger and rustier this chain has become.
Forming a positive chain
To break the rusty metal chain, you need to form a brand new, shiny chain to take its place. Forming the new chain will take some work. As you begin this new habit, it will be a challenge, at first. BUT, the more you do it, the longer you can stay consistent, the habit becomes easier. The challenge can turn into a game and turn into something you look forward to.
I, personally, was not pleased with how late I was sleeping. I’d wake up every day as late as I possibly could before I had to go to work. I knew this was a bad habit, but I tried to trick myself into thinking sleeping longer was better for me. The result was: I’d wake up sleepier. I would be in a rush. I would feel unprepared. I didn’t give myself time to think about the day.
I had to form a new chain to break this old one that has been oxidizing for a long time.
I had recently read a report by Dr. Charles Runels stating the number one thing a person can do to take a stand against heart disease and many other diseases that affect us is WALK. Walk three miles per day. I had been thinking about when I could get three miles of walking done as it takes the average person about 15-20 minutes to walk one mile. I’ve always heard walking is great, but thought it was a waste of time and thought you should be running instead!
My solution was to wake up and walk the dogs in the morning. I knew the path I wanted to take them on and estimated it would take about 30 minutes to complete the walk. This told me I could knock out half of the daily mileage I needed by doing this.
What’s interesting about forming new positive habits is: they’ll likely carry over into other areas. With this new habit, so many birds, one stone.
- I’m getting up earlier.
- I’m knocking out half of the recommended miles I need per day.
- The dogs are getting exercise!
- They “go” on the walk (which I bag up) reducing the poo in our yard!
- I started losing weight.
- I have more energy!
- I’m accomplishing something early in the morning.
- It gives me 30 minutes of time to listen to the Bible or pray or just listen to the early morning world!
So many more positive things have come from forming this ONE NEW, SHINY CHAIN!
Better yet, I’ve DESTROYED the old chain. I’ve pulverized it into a pile of rusty powder!
Maintaining the new chain
A very important piece of starting a new habit is MAINTAINING it. Jerry Seinfeld was asked how he does so well at writing comedy. He said he writes at least a joke everyday. He explained it is important to make sure you don’t “break the chain” of whatever you are trying to do. No matter what, make sure you maintain the chain.
When you create your habit, it’s important that your first one is something that is achievable on a continual basis. If you can keep it maintained, it becomes second nature and something you look forward to doing.
In the book, The ONE Thing, Gary Keller explains that it will take much discipline to make a habit stick, but the use of discipline is only temporary because, eventually, whatever you’re trying to accomplish will be second nature. Typically, you’ll read a habit takes 21 days to form. Keller explains that it actually takes 66 days to form.
For me, 21 days, or three weeks was usually when whatever I tried to accomplish would finally end and I would re-attach the ball and chain. I would go strong for two weeks and my interest and passion would wane for the final week.
This current habit of getting up and walking has been going on for me, as of this writing 51 days, or since Easter. On Easter morning on March 27th, 2016, I took the dogs on a walk. It actually snowed that day here in Kansas City!
I actually feel like my habit was firmly embedded somewhere around 28 to 35 days. It’s absolutely second nature now. I set out all my clothes the night before and even whisper to the dogs we’ll go walking in the morning. Laney will cock her head when she hears “walk.” Ruby just stares at me blankly. 🙂
Chaining onto the new chain
Once your new habit is formed and your shiny new chain is impervious to even Superman, you can now start “chaining” habits onto that chain. This was powerful for me. I’ve lived for a long time being great at STARTING something, but not maintaining it. It felt like a HUGE accomplishment to maintain this walking chain. Once it became easy, I was ready for a new challenge. You’ll find that making a decision to form a positive habit and maintain it is addictive!
I decided I would start working out after the dog walk. We have belonged to the same gym for a long time. It’s actually owned by the Chiefs great, hall of famer, Will Shields. It’s called 68’s Inside Sports. I was okay at making it to the gym a couple of times a week. It usually wasn’t planned and was more, “spur of the moment.” I decided my new challenge would be: walk the dogs, feed them, grab my stuff for the gym and go. This required more preparation the night before. I would get my clothes ready for work, prepare a protein drink, prepare a pre-workout drink, get vitamins ready (another habit I’ve chained on) and make sure my gym bag was packed with everything I need.
I’ve been going strong now for about 28 days going to the gym after walking the dogs. There have been a couple of days here and there that I needed to miss due to other priorities, but I’ve worked out more in the last 28 days than I probably have for the last year combined!
This was a new challenge I gave myself as the walking became easy (not boring) and second nature. The results of these two new habits chained together have been amazing.
- I have tons of energy!
- I feel ACCOMPLISHED before going to work!
- I can see abs for the first time in a long time! (A change in diet has helped with this, as well.)
- As of this writing I have lost 16 pounds of fat and have probably gained a few in muscle!
- I’m stronger!
- I’m more confident!
I truly hope this post has encouraged you to break a chain, begin a chain and maintain a chain!
Please comment and let me know what you’ve been able to accomplish!
Header photo credit of chain: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rr_msw/