Salute to Spouses Blog

We're excited to be blogging about the latest topics in military life. We want to keep you informed on topics such as current events, education, career advice, etc. Feel free to post comments or questions to any of our entries.
Practice vs. Habit

By Amy Nielsen

Practice versus habit. That is the topic today. I recently started a yoga practice. I am also trying to stop the habit of smoking. Why is one called a practice and one called a habit? Why does one have a positive connotation and one negative? Can I change my habit with a different intention, a different word? Can I practice stopping smoking? Should yoga become a habit?

In exploring words lately, I realize that the intention behind the word is the key. So I went to look at the definition of practice and habit.

Prac·tice - noun - 1. The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use. Synonyms: application, exercise, use, operation, implementation, execution. 2. Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it. Synonyms: training, rehearsal, repetition, preparation. Verb - 1. Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency. Synonyms: rehearse, run through, go over/through, work on/at. 2. Carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly. Synonyms: carry out, perform, observe

Hab·it  - noun - 1. A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. Synonyms: custom, practice, routine, wont, pattern, convention, way, norm, tradition, matter of course, rule, usage. 2. A long, loose garment worn by a member of a religious order or congregation. Verb – archaic - 1. Dress; clothe.

Let’s look at the synonyms for each word, those for practice are movement oriented, those for habit are more static. Exercise, use, training, repetition, perform versus custom, pattern, tradition. As I think about how to actually go about doing either thing, breaking a habit or starting a practice, it occurs to me that no matter which I choose I still have to do it every day for it to move me forward along the path I want to go down.

What on earth does this have to do with starting a business you might ask? Almost everything.

How you think about starting your business will determine if it will succeed or fail. If you think about your business as a habit, you will eventually lose love for it and learn to resent its hold on you. If you think of your business as a practice you will actively work at it every day and it will become vibrant and dynamic and changing and exciting always.

What habits do you have now that you need to rework into practices to get yourself unstuck? Not to practice in the future, but to practice right now. You know those memes that say, “The zombie apocalypse is here, your only weapon is the thing to your right! How screwed are you?” Yes, do that right now with a habit. In order to succeed, you have to take that thing - that one habit - learn everything about it and turn it into a practice that furthers your inspiration.

In some cases that may mean finding a new practice that is opposite of the original habit. In order to get there you may need to start out with something close but one step better. The old adage, know better do better, applies here. Really look at the habit you want to remove and decide what purpose it has served until now. There may be a piece of the habit that is useful in building a new healthier practice.

Take smoking. So many people want to stop smoking but, try as they might they can’t seem to do it. They haven’t really discovered what smoking does for them that they might use as a spring board to a better habit. For many, it is breath work. The act of inhaling a deep breath is really what their bodies crave. It is a deeply ingrained response to stress. So many of us live under 24/7 fight or flight response living that we have tightened our muscles up around our rib cages to tight that we literally cannot breathe. Smoking is our body’s way of getting a deep, relaxing lung full of – adulterated - air.

So what to do? How to quit and stay quit of the habit of smoking and turn it into a practice of self honor in four easy steps? First, find an herbal smoke blend made by a trained herbalist that is formulated specifically for you. Or find a good smoke shop that carries herbal non tobacco smoke blends and ask the proprietor about them, make a personal connection. This person can be very helpful in your next few steps.

Next, buy yourself a beautiful pipe that makes you feel regal when smoking it, something that you will use every day. Ask your new friends where you might find a nice one. Look in fancy tobacco shops. Third, learn when, where, why, and how you smoke. Is it outside only, during work only, in the car only? With friends at the bar? Start smoking your new pipe in place of cigarettes when you normally go out to smoke.  Slowly you may find that the smell of cigarettes isn’t as great next to your beautiful blend in your lovely pipe. You might decide that you want to move away from that time to smoke another time. You might find a new time during the day where you can practice your ritual of smoking your beautiful new pipe with some delicious herbal blend. Draw deeply of the smoke and visualize yourself in a place where you feel this way all the time. Eventually you may find that the breath work of smoking takes over and turns into a meditative practice and you cease to use the smoke and continue to use the breath work.

Make your smoke time a special time to check in with yourself on your progress down this path from the habit of smoking to the practice of breath work. If you begin with the intention of stopping the habit of smoking and starting a practice of breath work this progression will naturally follow. They are mutually exclusive but the path to get there isn’t.

There, you have successfully quit smoking and developed a practice of honoring yourself in breath work and relaxation. This same principle is true for business habits moving into business practices. Do you hate writing billable invoices because it makes you feel badly asking for money for your services? Turn the habit of writing invoices into the practice of accepting abundance into your life.

Words matter. Intent matters. Is your business a practice or a habit? Your success may rest with that decision.

For Military Spouses
Apply for the Salute to Spouses scholarship today and begin your education! You’ll be on the way to your dream career.

Salute to Spouses Scholarship Recipients