The power of familiarity: How to break bad habits and build better ones

become familiar, shy puppy

In a previous article, I wrote about how making the unfamiliar familiar is how you do the impossible. The truth is though, there are a few impossible things in the universe, according to physics. But there are so many possible things that you’d never really have the time to miss the truly impossible ones. 

So, what are these possible things? Basically, anything you can think of, and want, reasonably: break bad habits, build better ones, quit an addiction, find love, make a lot of money, acquire new personality traits, get yourself out of a toxic environment and situations if your wellbeing is gravely affected, wriggle yourself out of a bad mental and emotional state, etc. 

Possible or not, here I come

Not long ago, I decided to delete the word impossible from my dictionary and use want instead. Not long after that, I also decided to delete the word difficult, and use possible in its place. I started focusing on what I truly want, not limited by what I feel is actually reachable. I also wouldn’t decide to go after something or not, based on its difficulty level. I’d focus on possibility instead. After all, what I’d learn if I do the difficult, I wouldn’t be able to learn doing the easy. But it’s also okay to do the easy: it would save time.

The importance of time management

What do you do with your time? What do you get from what you do with your time? What is your time actually worth? The value of your time is determined by what you’re capable of doing. And what you’re capable of is determined by what you know. Now we’re getting closer…

Knowing is not enough, must be familiar too

Here, the keywords are: common, day-to-day, ordinary, accustomed. These are some words that apply to familiar but not to know. Familiar and know are synonyms but they have these subtle differences. You may know something but if you’re not familiar with it, you’ll struggle to pull it off every single time.

Know but not familiar

What do you know but aren’t familiar with? Do you need to eat more healthy, do more exercise, quit smoking, start a business? 

You may know what you need and want to do, but you’re not familiar with doing it, which means you’re not used to doing it. It’s not something you normally do.

Know and also familiar

Is eating healthy a common thing you do? Yes? Are you used to exercising?

When you’re familiar with doing something, not doing it feels wrong.

A couple of years ago, a work colleague gave me one of the most powerful advice I’d ever received: “if you do it the right way, and get used to doing it that way, then the feelings come.” When you’re familiar with doing something a certain way, not doing it that way will make you feel wrong. This goes both for the positive and for the negative.

What are you familiar with that isn’t working for you? Unfamiliarize yourself with it.

How to become familiar with things that are best for you 

Just a few days ago, I was having a conversation with a very close friend and business associate. He wanted to buy a high-tech gadget. But, as the number cruncher, I didn’t think it was a great idea. Not right now, at least. There are other alternatives, one-tenth of the price of the one he wanted that would work just fine. But, no. I later realized he had come in contact with this particular one he wanted, and became familiar with it. And no, he doesn’t want a better one in the future, just the one he became familiar with.

How can you become familiar with things that are best for you? Exposure. Action. Just by doing it.

Have you ever started a new job? Did you feel the stress the first few days? Even if you know exactly what to do, you’d still feel the stress: because you’re not yet familiar with your new position. The same happens when you move to a new home. Even if it’s your dream home, you will feel the stress nonetheless until you become more familiar with the new place.

Remember, you were once unfamiliar with everything you’re familiar with today. Most of which you didn’t have control over. The good thing is, as a conscious adult, you can now decide what you’d like to become familiar with and take the necessary step.