Breaking Habits That May Break You

By D.J. Vanas © 2009
News From Indian Country 3-09

Another year has arrived bringing with it vast potential for growth, change and renewal. It’s also the time of year for frenzied activity where we busily craft and quickly break resolutions, trying to improve our lives in fits and starts. Two of the most popular makeover areas are often our health and our finances.

We try to lose weight and go on the “lettuce only” diet which lasts for… an hour. We want to save money and decide to scrimp on everything, limit our spending and eat only what is left in the break room (which violates our lettuce only diet). That one lasts for… a day.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m a passionate, adamant believer in the fact that we can change any aspect of our lives that we choose, but it leaves me scratching my head at how poorly we go about it. I know firsthand because I used to do the same thing.

I know that sometimes we are so busy hacking our way through the jungles of life that we forget to climb the trees, look around and make sure we’re in the right jungle! Sometimes we don’t just need to make minor adjustments or hack faster but change course altogether. Especially when it comes to breaking the habits that can break us – such as endangering our health or financial situation – the need for change can be more urgent than we realize.    

During tough times, we’ll hear the well-worn phrase, “Well, at least you’ve got your health.” This usually causes involuntary eye rolling. But think about it, without this, what do we actually have? How good can you be as a parent, grandparent or employee if you’re lying in a hospital bed? I’ve know people with cancer or who’ve suffered a stroke that would have traded every dime they ever earned to be healthy again.

Sometimes we allow ourselves to become ticking time bombs with our diet, weight or choices when it comes to our health.


Especially right now, the economy is unforgiving and there is far less room for errors and indulgences we may have been allowed to make during better times. If you don’t believe this, read the paper and see how many people have lost their jobs due to layoffs or lost their houses due to foreclosures they never imagined would happen.

If the economy hasn’t already caused you pain, give it a little time – we’re not out of the woods yet folks. In our hearts, we know money isn’t everything, but it sure helps to pay the bills and when we don’t have enough, it’s hard to focus on much else. 

So how do we make real change that lasts in these areas?  Here are three of the best ways I’ve ever seen:

Pace yourself. Think long term, not crash course! One of the fastest ways to ruin a good plan is to falsely believe that extreme efforts will bear results overnight. Our local gym fills with unfamiliar faces during the end of the year but after January the crowd thins measurably. Many of us won’t stick with an exercise plan that within the first week beats us into misery and pain.

Note: this is NOT how we motivate ourselves to stay on course. If we start with exercises that are easy and enjoyable we start to feel better and gain the motivation we need to exercise longer and work harder. Start small and grow with time.

When it comes to finances, we can make the same mistakes. Instead of causing great pain by cutting out every single unnecessary expense, cut back on most of them and use the saved money to make an automatic deposit into a savings account. Reward yourself for being disciplined instead of punishing yourself for your past mistakes. Remember, this is a new lifestyle, not a crash course.

Replace – it’s much easier to replace a bad habit with a better one vs. trying to simply quit a bad habit.

When the craving for chocolate appears, instead of chanting “don’t do it” over and over again, eat something healthy like a piece of fruit or chew a piece of gum to indulge your craving for sweets without the guilt. Learn to fixate on more positive behaviors. When you’re tempted to make an impulse buy on those new shoes, make a decision before you give in to the temptation that you will go home to think about it, review your financial goals and then decide if the purchase really is worth making. Once this replacement of habits has happened, you won’t think about not doing the old ones anymore because you’ll be habitually doing something else.    

Embrace the changes – don’t just accept them. One of the quickest ways to derail any course change in life is to do it half-heartedly with little personal commitment (i.e. others want this change for us more than we do). Don’t just tolerate or endure the changes, but embrace them, celebrate them and remind yourself daily of why you’re making them.

Think about how happy you will be when you’ve: reached your goal weight, improved those test results at your doctor’s office, when you’ve saved a nice nest egg for your retirement, or reached that specific financial goal! Motivation isn’t automatic and it doesn’t come from others – it’s something we must incorporate daily to light the internal fire that will keep us moving forward.

When you apply these ideas to your own life, in whatever area you need to see change, it will be like pulling your ship off the shoals and getting back into the flowing water taking you to your islands of paradise! I wish you the greatest success on the voyage ahead… 

Latest news:

After speaking at the White House on national Native issues last November, D.J. was invited to be the newest member of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO (a panel of only 100 people nationwide that advise the U.S. State Department on issues of culture, science and education) pending approval from incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Also, D.J. is actively booking his calendar for 2009 and the schedule is quickly filling so please contact us immediately if you’d like him to inspire a new sense of purpose and passion in your audience at your upcoming conferences and events.

D.J. Eagle Bear Vanas (Odawa) is a nationally acclaimed motivational storyteller, success coach and the author of the celebrated book, The Tiny Warrior: A Path to Personal Discovery & Achievement and audio CD series The Warrior Within.  D.J. uses traditional warrior concepts and wisdom to inspire people to achieve their best in life, school and career and owns Native Discovery Inc., a company dedicated to “building the warriors of tomorrow… today.” He can be reached at (719) 282-7747 or, On The Net: