Seeing Bad Habits as Good Traits

  • Someday Lesson: Personal strengths often disguise themselves as bad habits.

Lilith Deliah on flickr.comWhile I was away soaking up the sun and touring the mountains of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands the Lab Rats got busy turning bad habits into good ones and reformulating their dreams.

Often people are too hard on themselves and focus on what they see as negative aspects of their lives. However, there’s nothing “bad” about anyone. If you spin the negative attribute around enough you’ll see the other side – the good side – and then instead of blocking forward motion with this bad habit you’ll use the good habit as a way to create progress.

Before we get into what the Lab Rats came up with, let’s look at an example in my own life. I live inside my own head too much. This leads to thoughtlessly hurting people, to not remembering to do things that I’ve promised to do, and to being too disconnected from others. Big time bad habit!

On the other hand living inside my head allows me to create multiple worlds that I can explore and then put down on paper. I would never give up this tendency to live in AlexWorld as it’s the one bad habit that really defines who I am – a dreamer. Without this ability to disconnect I wouldn’t be so creative.

Like beauty, the value of habits is in the eye of the beholder. Often while the habit itself might not be the healthiest thing we do, the desire behind the habit can inspire us to achieve our dreams in ways others might not consider.

Now let’s see what the Lab Rats came up with.

Bad habits gone good

(Horatio’s not with us this week as he’s busy with the transition to unemployment at the moment – he’ll be back next week).

Wendee

  • Long stretches of time spent Internet browsing: Able to do research and focus on seeing connected trains of thought
  • Procrastination: Able to do great preparation and planning.
  • Can’t see things through: Clearly identified areas of interest.
  • Gathering (hoarding) supplies: Well-prepared and knowledgeable about my tools, materials
  • Easily distracted: Curious and open to learning lots of new things
  • Lots of bursts of starting / long periods of inactivity: Able to sprint with enthusiasm
  • Too much time on volunteer (versus paid) work: Very charitable. Active in creating community. Good at networking in meaningful ways.
  • Must work in environments where I feel a good fit, feel that I’m contributing: Extremely dedicated team member.
  • Stubborn: Very committed to the things I feel I need to do, my causes.
  • Lots of time mulling over ideas / brainstorming: Not impulsive with making decisions, won’t make a rash decision. Looking and creating as many options as possible to choose from
  • Need to be recognized for contributing: I see the value in the things that I do. Know that I won’t do some things for “free” (could be unpaid, but won’t let it be unrecognized).

Wendee found this exercise very empowering and did a great job turning what others might see as negative characteristics into principles by which she can build her dreams. As an added bonus, by doing this exercise she honed her dreams from last week down, still wanting to achieve the same things but now she’s more highly focused, with the following two items having top priority:

  • Read and write thoughtful things and draw and be creative in many different ways.
  • Be active in creating and nurturing community in the groups I’ve been a part of.

Alessio

  • I don’t sleep enough: Good rest is a top priority for me
  • I work too hard: I’m a hard worker
  • I complain: I voice my opinion about things I am not happy with
  • I get angry very easily: I’m an expressive person
  • I spend a lot of time on the internet: I’m very well informed from a variety of sources
  • I don’t spend money very easily: I’m frugal and make informed decisions on purchases
  • I procrastinate: I don’t take action until I’m entirely convinced that I’m doing the right thing

Like Wendee, Alessio determined that procrastination has a positive side to it – there’s no rash jumping in! By looking at it this week, they’ve got me thinking that perhaps I should learn to procrastinate a little more before doing!

Alessio redid his dream, coming up with a stronger focus on his love of the Internet and his frugalness. In this new version Alessio has the basis for a step by step plan, creating a very clear idea of what he wants out of life.

My dream is to be a successful web designer and blogger. Due to the nature of my work, I can work from anywhere I choose, whether it’s the coffee shop down the road or my dining room table. I have a substantial income which allows me to travel at least twice a year, and I am able to bring my work with me. I am totally free of time constraints and spend my days on my terms, making me well-balanced. After much travelling, I eventually decide to settle down in a little town, providing me with the simple pleasures in life.

Lizzie

  • I like to eat too much: I love to cook for myself and others
  • I waste hours messing around on the computer: I love learning things online
  • I’m compulsive about really stupid things: I’m highly focused on things that interest me
  • I like to revisit books and movies instead of checking out new ones: I take my time to pull knowledge out of things on many levels
  • I hate training the dog: With things I don’t like to do, I can work quickly to get them out of the way
  • I’m terrible about keeping in contact with my very small family: I’m a strongly independent person
  • I resent writing and not getting paid for it: I know what I do and do not want and don’t fret about it after deciding
  • I procrastinate on things like my taxes until I get totally crazy: I work very well under time pressure
  • I stay up too late…way too late: I have lots of hours in the day to accomplish things
  • I accept defeat too easily: recognize quickly when things are working and tackle challenges from a different approach

Lizzie interpreted the exercise in a slightly different manner, using the word “could” – which implies changing actions or characteristics instead of embracing them. I took the liberty (it is my blog after all) of rewording the second half of each habit so that Lizzie doesn’t need to change at all who she is or how she works.

However despite approaching this exercise from a point of view of changing who she is, Lizzie didn’t change her dream at all. It remains the same and remains in reach.

Perhaps for Lizzie, therefore, her real goal in getting through the maze isn’t to make changes in her actions, but make a change in her perceptions. You’re on the right track Lizzie!

Measuring Progress

With Lizzie we’ve perhaps discovered her challenge which isn’t achieving her dream – she’s already well on the way for doing that – but changing how she views herself and her actions in the moment. And as we continue to move through the maze, Lizzie will have many opportunities to do just that.

Alessio told me in an email that he’s made some REAL progress. He’s going in the right direction, and the path gets clearer with every step he takes. He always thought that finding his passion would be a monumental task when really “it’s just a simple logical sequence to follow.”

As for Wendee, after a summer of waiting and planning, she has the opportunities that she wants and has been waiting for. Instead of waiting, she gets to DO! And instead of procrastinating about her preparations for the new classes she will be teaching, by looking back at the bad-habits-turned-good she’ll be able to use her strengths to get moving on things!

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9 thoughts on “Seeing Bad Habits as Good Traits

  1. I really enjoyed this post. It gave me a new perspective from which to view my habits and traits. Thanks for writing about this. It was great to read and think about!
    .-= Positively Present´s last blog ..a rain-soaked realization: are you living in YOUR moment? =-.

  2. Alessio says:

    My favourite post in the Lab Rat series so far! Good to see I’m not the ONLY person that can turn procrastination into a good trait! 😉 It’s great that we’re all moving forward towards our dreams!

    @Horatio: Hope you’re doing well, and that unemployment has put a new perspective on achieving your dreams!

  3. Wendee says:

    Yes, this is my favorite post, as well. I see a lot of my other qualities (that I left out) in Alessio and Lizzie. I think it’s very easy for us (and others around us) to complain about our bad habits, but hard to move beyond them. Sometimes, just having a *list* of bad habits that I know I have is enough to keep me from moving forward. Seeing them with a more positive spin is very helpful, indeed. Thanks Alex.

    Go, @Horatio, Go! Best wishes to you!

  4. Kelly says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I wish it were easier for me to turn things around and make them positive! Great job Wendee, Alessio and Lizzie.

    PS I heart your blog Alex.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Money and writing =-.

  5. So thought provoking and definitely a new way to look at the scripts in our minds that might be holding us back. Somehow, posts on Someday Syndrome always seem to come at the right time for me. Looking forward to flipping things around and making the negative more positive, particularly around the way I view my own traits. Thank you!
    .-= Laura – The Journal of Cultural Conversation´s last blog ..When Idol Jumped The Shark =-.

  6. Alex Fayle says:

    @Positively Present
    Your welcome! I used to do this sort of thing all the time with friends writing their resumes. Things they didn’t feel were important I would be able to highlight as a special skill.

    @Alessio
    Thank you! You guys are doing all the work – I’m just interpreting. 😉

    @Wendee
    When we get into a negative loop, it’s next to impossible to break out of it without someone else pointing out the good side of what we see as only bad. With the ebook, however, you were able to do that yourself! Yahoo!

    @Kelly
    If you feel you can’t do it yourself, sit down with a friend and as you list all your bad points, have them provide you with the positive spin. Then give it a try yourself on them. It’s good practice for doing it for yourself. (Or of course you could always check out the ebook or Someday Busting Coaching 😉 ) Glad you heart the blog!

    @Laura
    Exactly – these are scripts we tell ourselves (or have learned from others) and breaking the habits requires writing new scripts. Glad the post came just in time for you (again)!

  7. Horatio says:

    Thanks Wendee. Lots going on at the moment (3 applications, 2 interviews, 2 knockbacks alas), but I’m still with you all. See you in the next chapter …

  8. Mary says:

    Excellent! My biggest issue is being in my own head too much, and I must remember to see both good and bad from this.

  9. Alex Fayle says:

    @Mary
    I spend a lot of time in my own head but the plus side is I’m fairly aware of my thought processes and emotional ups and downs, which is definitely a good thing!

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