by ignoring them!
Break bad habits
by ignoring them!
Life coach Richard
Blakeborough loves a
nice glass of wine, but he
doesn’t want to have one
... well, only occasionally.
I was excited when I saw my first column
in Family Care, and even though I wrote it,
I found myself re-reading it.
I was conscious of my comments about
alcohol and reflected on that behaviour,
because I’m a coach: I need to model the
behaviours my clients may want to change
in their own lives.
I'm not perfect! but if i can manage six
weeks, then i can manage seven ...
don't focus your energy
on what you don't want ...
... i'll focus on what i do want!
Before my heart bypass operation, I had
not touched wine for over four years.
Post-op, though, I was struggling to find
a way to manage my intake so that I could
still enjoy the wine, and not let the habit
become an issue.
In the past I had tried several techniques.
I created SMART goals, I declared
my desire to a support network, I
ceremoniously poured a bottle down the
sink in a pseudo-ceremony; I even tried
I did have a modicum of success and,
after all, had already proven to myself that I
could leave wine alone for over four years.
At some point, though, normally a point
reached much sooner than I had wanted, I
would let my guard down and have a quick
glass ... and then I was back into my habit
After viewing my Family Care article, I
decided it to try something new.
What’s the point of doing the same thing
time after time?
The result will be the same.
So I just stopped focusing on the thing I
didn’t want, because a friend of mine told
me that ‘holding on to anything too tightly
can squeeze the life out of it’.
I stopped talking about it, stopped writing
Back on the horse!
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about it, stopped thinking about it, and
stopped doing it.
In the interests of journalistic integrity,
the ‘stopping’ lasted six weeks. I’m not
But if I can manage six weeks, relapsing
only because I was snowed in when
Canterbury got its snow, then I can
manage seven weeks – and the speed
with which you get back on the horse, as it
were, is the key.
Out of mind
What was different this time?
Previously I was soooo focused on the
thing I didn’t want to do that I ended up
constantly focusing my mind on that very
My mind was full of the issue I didn’t
want to think about, repeatedly reinforcing
the idea of not being able to have it.
Let’s face it, who really wants to lose
We are virtually hot wired to seek gain
and avoid loss.
I discussed these ideas with my NLP
(Neuro Linguistic Programming) trainer
mate, and he agreed that when we focus
too much on what we don’t want, we can
actually draw ourselves towards it.
Woofy the Cone Dog!
Now, this is all very esoteric, so let me
provide a good pragmatic example.
Years ago my employer sent me on a
defensive driving course, which also involved
a skid test.
I remember having to battle with the car as
we entered a skid and being told not to hit a
single orange cone on the track.
Panacea PATHS.indd 1
Now, I wanted to impress my work
colleagues, and as I was first up I worked
very hard on not hitting the cone.
Not only did I hit it, but it split! So we
replaced the cone and tried the simulation
exercise again. This time, to help me really
focus, the instructor told me I should
imagine the cone was actually a small dog
that had strayed on to the racetrack.
There was no way I was going to hit a
dog, no way at all.
I hit the skid and put every ounce
of thought, effort and contorted facial
expression into not hitting the dog (cone).
I hit the cone.
In attempt three, the instructor said,
“now I want you to simply focus on where
you actually want to go. Don’t worry about
hitting the cone. Don’t think about the cone.
Just put your car in the place you want it
to be by only looking at the spot on the
racetrack where you want the car to go.”
As we hit the skid I ignored Woofy the
Cone Dog and looked solely at the spot I
wanted the car to arrive at.
I missed that cone by several feet and
went where I intended.
Is this ringing bells?
What does all this mean for you?
Sometimes when we have goals or
dreams to change a negative habit or avoid
a problem (I want to stop cracking my
knuckles or I want to lose 10 kilos) we are
focusing on the very thing we don’t want.
If this is ringing bells for you, try reframing
the idea: “I want to recreate my body at x
kilos”, rather than “I want to lose 10kgs”.
Don’t focus your energy on the thing you
don’t want, because energy flows where
Focus on what you do want. Ignore the
thing you don’t want.
As with anything, if you already have a
system that works for you, great!
Keep working with anything that gets you
to where you want to be. If, though, you’re
struggling to reach your goals, try playing
with some of these ideas.
Trying anything is a better education than
doing nothing and hoping something will
And remember ... sometimes 'holding
onto anything too tightly can squeeze the
life out of it!'
One day Richard was
a fit and healthy young
man. The next day his
cardiologist told him he
had heart disease and
needed a triple bypass.
His book, Life after
a Bypass, explores
before and after surgery. Learn about
Richard and his book at
or phone him on 027 588 9700.
Richard is our regular coaching
Do you have a life and wellbeing
question for Richard?
Send it to PO Box 133, Mangonui,
Far North 0442, or by email to
"I’d like to thank those who
requested a copy of my e-book
– I hope it helps."
10/06/11 5:50 PM