Apparently I’ve developed a new annoying habit, which my husband pointed out to me the other day. I say the word “totally” a lot in conversation. As he listened to my phone calls on a long car ride recently, I noticed him holding up five fingers and then flashing five fingers two more times. Puzzled, I turned my back to him so that I could focus on my conversation. When I finished my call, I asked, “Why were you counting to 15?” His answer? “That’s how many times you said ‘totally’ in your conversation.” I found that really hard to believe and chalked it up to the fact that sometimes my husband exaggerates to make his point.

After expressing my disbelief and denying what he thought he heard, I started noticing how often I used the word “totally.” I used it instead of “yes” and dropped it in front of many adjectives and verbs to emphasize my conviction, enthusiasm, and complete commitment. I have no idea when and why I adopted that word and started overusing it, but I didn’t like it.

Now I am determined to totally ban the word “totally” from my vocabulary, but it’s not easy! Here are a few ways I will try to make it happen:

  • Acknowledge awareness – were it not for my husband calling out my poor word choice, I probably never would have noticed it. Now, every time I say the word “totally” it makes me stop for a split second. Sometimes I catch myself mid-word and then change direction.
  • Be mindful – I am learning that I say “totally” more often when I am either not fully engaged in a conversation or really excited about something. In both cases, I am not as present to my word choices as I should be. By slowing down a bit, engaging at a deeper level, and eliminating distractions, I can be more mindful and present.
  • Ask for help – everyone in my household is holding me accountable and drawing my attention to my “totally” count. My daughter is particularly happy to be one of my accountability buddies since I have been on her for overusing the word “like.”
  • Adopt new habits – I am focusing on building my vocabulary again as a way to be more conscious of my word choices and practice using new words. It helps me to stay more mindful and engaged in my speech. Getting “word of the day” emails and doing the daily crossword puzzle have been very helpful.

Bad habits are indeed hard to break. The good news is that once you are aware of them, you can begin to break free of your bad habits and find ways to develop better practices.

What habits have you successfully broken and how did you do it?
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