The Power Of Habit

by Srinivas "Sage" Reddy | Join Sage on Google+ here

I plez it everyday.

“Here, lemme show you. Put your fingers here like this… and strum with your right hand,” he says. It’s summer of 2005 and he’s Tony, my new neighbor friend in Austin, Texas. Tony is a cop. Every evening he sits outside his apartment and picks on his guitar. I try my hand on his guitar only to experience deep frustration.

“Why would anyone anyone want to play this thing?” I shake my head and wonder in bafflement. It’s uncomfortable to hold; I don’t really care for how it sounds; and it’s excruciatingly difficult, if not impossible, to play. Tony goes on and on about major and minor chords, how you can play the same chord in multiple positions, bla bla bla, all of which go right over my head.

I confess, part of the reason for my “yuck” reaction is my bruised pride. As a percussion nut, I’ve been able to pick up many musical instruments and play them right off the bat without any formal musical training. Until now, that is. This darn guitar, this thing that everyone loves, has brought me to my knees. It’s humiliating.

And Then “Love” Happened

Now, six years later I can’t live without my guitar. Not a day goes by when I don’t sing and play my guitar. Now a pretty good singer-songwriter and guitarist, I love it so much, I’ll even say, “Who needs a girl when you have a guitar?” OK, that was a joke. And don’t let my wife read this. :)

So when it comes to the guitar, I’ve gone from “what’s this thing?!” to “I can’t do without this thing!”. Go figure!

But it happens all the time and it happens to a lot of people. Even so, what’s interesting is that I’ve built my guitar prowess on top of a very busy life: a life coach, an author, an entrepreneur, a husband, a blogger, a foodie, a gardener and a drummer. How can you find time for a guitar when your life’s so busy?

The answer, in one word, is… habit.

A half-an-hour-a-day habit.

Of course, I often play a lot more than that, but I have never required me to. I’m committed to half-an-hour a day and no more. Also, my focus is always on my song, not the guitar itself. So any given week, I’m working on a new song while firming up the song from last week. With this simple half-hour a day habit, I’ve built a vast portfolio of songs that number in several dozen, all original.

The guitar, as you may know, is extremely versatile. There’s no limit to what you can do with it. It can take several lifetimes to master just one of these styles. Then there’s singing, which is a world unto itself. As a child, when I sang with bellowing passion at friends’ birthday parties, my older sister would grow red in embarrassment. And that didn’t help.

So can one pick a guitar in their thirties, start singing and make a career out of it? Most people would say, NO. And they would be right. But fools go wherever their hearts takes them, right? My music has certainly paid me back monetarily, more than I ever invested in it. But who says playing music has to be about a musical career? Why can’t you make music because, well, it makes you happy?

And that’s why I do it. I am happiest when I’m singing and playing my guitar. Besides, the discipline that my guitar has wrought me has spilled over into my day job.

And Then It Died

But recently I’ve noticed something. I haven’t been playing my guitar and singing like I have for years now. Come to think of it, it’s been a whole month since I last played it. Why? What happened? It’s not because I lost interest; I simply haven’t had the time. Or so I’ve been telling myself.

Which is a lie.

Yes, I’ve been very short on time lately. But isn’t that always the case for any of us, especially entrepreneurs? Ok, I have a confession to make. Something happened several weeks ago which broke my half-hour-a-day-guitar-habit. It was a day when I was so absolutely overwhelmed with what was on my plate that I had to simply let go of a few of my daily habits. Like guitar and meditation and toning… and yes, even a shower.

That day, instead of reaching for the guitar like I usually do after lunch, I told myself I’d do it in the evening. Heck, why don’t I try playing it in the evenings? Evening came and I thought, “Nah! I should go back to playing after lunch as usual. I’ll just pick it up tomorrow.” Next day lunch came and I thought, “Nah! I’m busy again. But I’ll surely play in the evening today.”

As you may suspect, this nonsense has gone on for a month now.

If my guitar habit were my favorite garden tree, the tree has died. And we are doing a post-mortem analyss on it. Do you know how a habit is born, is sustained or withers and dies?

The Anatomy Of A Habit

It takes about 7 days to sow the seeds of a new habit, and another 7 days for it to sprout. Nurture this for 2 more weeks and it’ll grow into a plant and become well established in the soil of your mind. Years roll by and it grows up into a strong tree. Once your habit tree is established in the garden of your mind, it takes very little effort to keep it flowering and fruiting.

All you have to do it water it everyday and appreciate it. It’s so easy to sustain your habit, it’s child’s play.

But what if one day, for whatever reason, you fail to water your habit tree? No big deal. If this is because of dire circumstances, chances are you’ll get back to your habit. But if it’s because of laziness or “lack of time,” you’ve already started poisoning your tree, albeit slowly. Your habit tree will soon begin to wither and before long it’ll just go belly up and die.

It’s not as if your habit tree is unforgiving. It’s just that habits, like all life forms, do not suffer neglect lightly.

I’ve watched the birth, growth, and blossoming of several wonderful habit trees in my mind/body garden. I’ve mourned the loss of some of them. It’s not hard to resurrect a deeply-entrenched habit that has served you well. Only catch? You cannot put it off till the morrow. If you do, your habit will continue to stay dead.

So whether you want to start a new habit or resurrect an old one, the time is NOW.

Alright, ‘nough with the talking… ’cause my guitar beckons from across the room.

Here’s wishing you a lifetime of good habits!

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has written 23 posts on Ask Sage.

I'm the founder of AskSage.us. I'm a Life Coach, writer, philosopher, blogger, foodie, tinkerer, musician, wisefool and author of the new book Eat for Joy: the 4 golden rules of food.

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Prakash July 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Power of habit, its really very nice topic to discuss here. Habitual person can make things easier by good habits. So habits have much more power than a person itself…………

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Viola Tam February 21, 2012 at 7:07 am

Hi, Scrinivas,

Excellent post… I enjoyed reading your guitar journey :)

I love your Anatomy of Habits – absolutely necessary to be aware of the nurturing part of our habits! We are who we are because of past habits and actions. For things to change, we need to change. We do have to focus on nurturing empowering habits that can get us to what we really want in life.

Excellent insights and discussion from your readers. I appreciate you!

Viola Tam
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 22, 2012 at 10:21 am

Thank you, Viola! Good to see you here. And thanks for sharing your thoughts. Indeed, we are our habits.

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Jeffrey T. Sooey February 19, 2012 at 6:06 am

I completely agree! If we set aside time for a particular project or activity, and continue doing so for several days, then several months, then years it becomes a habit. Continued practice results in expertise. If we want something done let us begin now and make a commitment to ourselves that we will continue doing so for years to come. Goals need to be nurtured. Let us make sure that these habits are ones that will create success and will have a positive effect on us, because if they aren’t then better yet get off that habit! Thanks Srinivas for the great post!

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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 20, 2012 at 11:26 am

Thank you, Jeffrey! I think you’ve summed it nicely and succinctly. Blessings!

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Pastor Sherry February 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm

What a great post, Srinivas! I agree with the above — your storytelling is great! I love your 7 days of planting, 7 days of sprouting, and 2 weeks of nurture : )

Not only that, but your point is well taken. Crises come into our lives and can interrupt, and we can get back on track. But when we make conscious choices to let go of a habit, that’s when we get into trouble. That’s a great thought and one I want to hold onto.
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 17, 2012 at 10:33 am

Good to see you here, Pastor Sherry. And thanks for your kind words. I agree, willing letting a good habit wither away is not just callous, it’s a crime. :)

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Akos Fintor February 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm

On that note:
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

cheers!

Akos
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 14, 2012 at 4:21 am

By “weakest members” I assume you referring to my guitar fingers. If so, that’s too funny, Akos. And clever. Cheers!

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Perry Davis February 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Hello Srinivas

Habits ultimately differentiates highly successful people from everyone else. The most successful people know how to establish habits and routines that guarantee success. Up to 90 percent of our everyday behavior is based on habit. You have demonstrated how we learn new habits. This statement, “whether you want to start a new habit or resurrect an old one, the time is NOW.”, is a powerful call to action statement.

Thanks

Perry A Davis Jr
Music City
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 9, 2012 at 3:16 am

Well said, dear Perry. Good to hear from you again. I bet you’ve structured your day into a set of good habits. :)

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Shelley Alexander February 8, 2012 at 2:30 am

Hi Srinivas, I enjoyed your post about habits! I am trying to make it a habit to take time out of every busy day and relax and meditate and it is really helping me to stay calm and focused in the midst of everything that I have to accomplish. Thanks for the great reminders expressed in such a eloquent way :)
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 9, 2012 at 2:56 am

Good to see you here, Shelley. And thank you for sharing your thoughts about habits. I’ve found that unless I setup a specific time during the day for everything that’s important to me, it won’t get done. :)

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Yorinda February 7, 2012 at 5:28 am

Hi Srinivas,

your post highlights very well how we can establish a habit and I do like your chapter on the anatomy of a habit.
As you have done really well with playing music just for 30 min a day, I have also found that by writing and or working on material for a blog post for 30 min a day has left me with a feeling of achievement and and the resulting post to publish.
At the moment I am in the process to create a vision board poster tutorial for the soft ware I am using and it will be published soon in conjunction with a post, thanks to working on it for 30 min a day at a minimum.

Thank you for your inspiring post.
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 8, 2012 at 2:22 am

Hello Yorinda. Good to see you here again! Thanks for sharing your blogging habits. I do something similar, though when it comes to writing I work in hour-long chunks. I too love the vision board. So I’m looking forward to your next post on that subject. Blessings!

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Ragnar Crowley February 6, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Great post Sage,
Love the comparison between a growing tree and your habits.
It’s so true… easy to do and also easy not to do, but the results become an almost certainty when we create a positive habit and let it grow and blossom.
Thanks for the reminder.
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 3:19 am

Welcome Ragnar! And thanks for your comments. Indeed, as powerful as good habits are, they’re easy to do and easy not to do. I suspect you have plenty of good habits under your belt.

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Theuns February 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Hi Srinivas

What a great post.

Hey I can see my self in it 100% it happen to me also and Geee!!!!! the get back into the habit is not as easy to do as when when you start to do it the first time, I think every one that want to become success full need to work on them self not the broke a good habit.

Make it a great Day
Regards
Theuns
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:48 am

Welcome to my blog, Theuns. And thanks for taking the time to comment. Indeed, habits are easy to start, easy to sustain — and easy to drop.

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viviana from attraction marketing training February 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I like your discussion about the power of habit. Habit is like we embed our action into subconscious mind. It’s driving, it’s like habit for me. I don’t think too much as I get used to it..It was very hard at the first time and as we have more skills, we acquire it as a habit. Life is a choice, what habit do you acquire, good or bad?
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:46 am

Well said, Viviana. Good habits are about marshaling the power of our subconscious mind!

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Jamella Biegel February 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Hi Sage,

I enjoyed reading this post, especially the part on the anatomy of a habit. It does take a conscious daily effort to work on something so that it becomes a habit. I think I will set a daily timer to remind me to something that I hope will become a habit. I will let you know how it works out.

If you haven’t played your guitar today yet, go play!
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:44 am

Jamella, I wish you great success in developing new and powerful habits. I’m back on my guitar habit, no worries. Thanks for the nudge. :)

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Tosin February 5, 2012 at 5:08 am

Hello my friend,

Excellent post! I had to chuckle when you said ““Who needs a girl when you have a guitar?”…lol

I have always admired people who could play instruments and especially guitar. Once had a friend try to teach me in College but could not go ahead eventually due to my college workload.

I love the insights about habits. So true! We should always endeavor to water our daily actions with daily actions and like you said the root will go deeper and deeper.

Procrastination is truly the thief of time.

Thanks
Tosin
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:42 am

Tosin my friend, I bet you have a slew of good habits. I agree, as believers in the power of habits, we need to drive those habit roots deeper and deeper. Cheers! BTW, some of my favorite musicians are from your part of the world. One of my favorite drums is the Djembe from west Nigeria. :)

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Duke Romkey February 4, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Great post Sage. Funny you mention playing the guitar, I gave away one of my old guitars to a friend who nows play it everyday for an hour. Hopefully, they will be consistent with it so we can rock out together one day!
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:36 am

Good to hear that you play the guitar, Duke. And good to see you here! Assuming you like to hang with this friend, I hope you get to jam with them someday. :)

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Rosemary O'Shaughnessy February 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Hi Sage,

Your timing of this post is just perfect for me. I had a very busy week and had a lot of unexpected events that have disturbed my good work habits. But I am delighted I realize this and with the advice of your post . I am going to just get back on track straight away. Take care Rosemary
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:34 am

Hello Rosemary! Good to see you here! Indeed, when we get overwhelmed it’s easy to lose our good habits. That is precisely when we need to hang onto them even more.

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patricia February 4, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Nice post, nice metaphor nice post!
Habit is the mother of Success I would say and before setting 21 days of doing the new action until it becomes a habit we need a programming of the mind that allows us to have fun while building the muscle.
I’ve had great results on my self and others while installing these new beliefs and actions.. just like the example of your guitar!

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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:32 am

Good to see you here again, Patricia. Indeed, habit is the mother of success. I agree with you, it’s good to prep yourself mentally and emotionally before building a new habit muscle.

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Warren from Internet Marketing February 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm

This is one of the best analogies I’ve ever heard of or read on the development of a habit. The part that really hits home is the remembering to water it part.

I’m a big believer in the power of developing habits and I’ve used them to accomplish some cool things for myself.
Great job!
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:29 am

Thanks for your good words, Warren. I’m not surprised that you’re a big believer in habits. I’d be surprised if you weren’t. :)

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William Earl Amis Jr III February 4, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Sage,

You have presented this subject wonderfully, well done!

I too have noticed how easily what I enjoy to take time to myself, has been slacked. Just simple little things like taking time to kick back and watch my DVDs. Watching movies for 30 years as a habit to leave my physical surroundings. It sooths me very much and lately I have missed weeks.

I do love everything I do daily. I have my lifestyle that allows me to enjoy all my daily choices of activities. I have no rush or deadlines to meet. Yet, wasted time to set without movement in any directions has been happening lately.

I know its me adjusting from my operation and medicine. Yet, I refuse to given in to slow movement.

Your article has awaken me to get back to my little alone time. Sit in my lounge chair that has been abandon for weeks. Just put my Westerns and Gladiator movies on. Let me drift away for an hour or so.

Sage, thanks for reminding us to take time to enjoy more “Me Time”. It is not selfish and good for the spirit.

Your a master story teller. I feel your passion enriching all your readers and my life. Thanks for being you, Sage.
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:28 am

I so completely agree with you, William. If I don’t make some “me time” daily, I get cranky. But when I do, life’s good. And then, it’s easy to be in a state of grace with others. So, I hope you get back your “me time.” We need to get away from our daily “stuff” and escape into bliss. Sorry to hear about your operation. I hope you are taking care of your good self. Take care, my friend.

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Jayne Kopp February 4, 2012 at 12:54 am

Hi Sage, great post indeed. Isn’t it funny how we can break a habit so easily. They say it takes 21-30 days to create a new one… and we do indeed have to focus on building it.

I wish breaking bad habits were as easy as breaking good ones. :-)

I do agree also that the time is now to start building all those great new ones as well.

Thanks for the nice story. I always enjoy the way you introduce your point by sharing personal examples

Jayne

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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:21 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jayne. And for your good words. It’s true: good habits are easy to lose and bad habits are hard to get rid of. :)

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Andy Nathan February 3, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Habit is such a huge part of my life. It is the single greatest force in me growing my business and then thing I work on improving everyday. I want better habits, because they are the foundation of my business.
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:18 am

Good to see you here, Andy! Looks like you know all about the power of good habits and practice ‘em everyday. Good for you!

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marquita herald February 3, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Brillian analogy and what a cute photo! Oh my you are so right – it takes time and effort to create a habit, not nearly as much to break it I’m afraid. And, I confess, I’ve broken more than a few “good” habits myself. Thanks for the inspiring reminder!
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:16 am

Thanks Marquita! You’re so right. Good habits are hard to make, but easy to break. :)

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Kostas from Online Opportunities February 3, 2012 at 10:46 am

Hi Sage,
Many tasks seem difficult or even impossible in the beginning but once you make them a habit everything seems so easy. It’s just a matter of commitment…
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:13 am

Well said, Kostas. If you’re committed to it, you’ll make a habit out of it.

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Val Heisey February 3, 2012 at 4:25 am

Love your story telling style of writing Sage! And your message is awesome too! Thanks for posting this!
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:12 am

Thanks for your kind words, Val. Good to see you here!

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Terry Petrovick February 3, 2012 at 12:08 am

Great Post Sage! I think our habits reflect ‘who’ we are and ‘who’ we are not. It is great advise to nourish our soul and passions whatever that means.

Thanks for highlighting this man!

Terry
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:11 am

Good to see you here, Terry! Thanks for your good words. And well said: “Our habits reflect ‘who’ we are and ‘who’ we are not.”

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Stacy February 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Hi Srinivas,

I think you know that I agree with you completely – since I just hosted a habit building challenge on my blog last month! :) It’s amazing how easily we can talk ourselves out of the daily activity! If it wasn’t for hosting the challenge last month I might not have been as successful with my new habit, now I love it! :)

Stacy
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:06 am

Stacy, I’d say that you’re the “queen of good habits.” :) I admire you for your steadfastness and perseverance.

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the wicked noodle February 2, 2012 at 3:35 pm

The timing of this post really could not be more perfect for my life right now! I’m trying to make a habit for something as simple as going for a walk once every day; it doesn’t sound like much but I’m so busy running in different directions that it’s been difficult to get it going. As a full-time blogger, I’m sitting for a majority of my day so it’s important to keep moving! Thanks for a nice reminder of what it really takes to make something a habit!
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 2:03 am

Good to see you here, Kristy! I feel your pain. :) I too have a habit of walking (actually, going for a spin) everyday after dinner. Not too long ago that habit of mine fell by the wayside and it was hard to get back on it. Now that I have picked it up again, it’s easy to stay with it.

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David Sharp February 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I really enjoyed reading your post Srinivas you have a great way of explaining things with a story which made your topic about forming new habits all the more relevant.

Dave
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 1:58 am

Thank you, David. Good to see you here!

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Lilach Bullock February 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Sage I love reading your blog. Your stories are so lovely and it’s such a great way to get the message across. I also love your pictures you use:)

Habit’s can be good and bad! I’m getting into the habit of writing more blogs, commenting more etc. but I also have bad habits of eating chocolate when watching TV… It’s kind of like a ritual.
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 1:57 am

You’re so right, Lilach. The joke is, good habits are easily to lose and bad habits are here to stay. If I were you, I’d stop labeling “eating chocolate and watching TV” as “bad.” Because that’s what makes the rebel inside you wanna do it even more. Not to mention, who can resist chocolate?! :)

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Kareem Maghrabi February 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Hey Sage,
Enjoyed very much reading your post my friend. Love the facts you have about habits will definitely take a closer look at my habits and make them better!!

Kareem Maghrabi
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 7, 2012 at 1:48 am

Go to see you here, Kareem. All the best with YOUR habits! :)

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Jonathan Gaurano February 2, 2012 at 6:20 am

Sage,

A knack, as I call them, is something I struggle with everyday. I do my best to practice my piano, write, comment, network with other bloggers – everyday. But, I have to follow in these steps – these habits.

The power is NOW! THE POWER IS NOW! THE POWER IS NOW!

Enough! Let’s do this thing! (:
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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 9, 2012 at 2:51 am

Well said, Jonathan! Good to hear from you again. And thank you for finding me. Likewise, it’s a delight to meet you and discover your great insights about relationships.

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Akos Fintor February 2, 2012 at 4:36 am

Hey Sage,

You’re one of the best story tellers that I’ve come across so far.
I had the same thing happened to me with yoga. About a week ago I started to pick it up again daily. Practicing yoga is addictive like drugs (whatever that feels like )

Nothing is more important than to feel good. That’s the whole point to life (nature and animals know that however us, (the superior) human beings totally miss the point. :(
I’m guilty of it as well.

Akos

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Srinivas "Sage" Reddy February 9, 2012 at 2:46 am

Hello Akos!
It’s good to hear from you again. And thank you so much for your kind words. You’re so right, it’s all about feeling good. If I don’t, then I’m doing something wrong. Animals will always be my greatest teachers. :)

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