Because I asked. I've spoken to thousands of students across the U.S. and Canada about unproductive habits of every kind. Each participant was asked: "What habits(s) do you most want to stop or reduce in your life right now?" Now I realize this data is not scientific but still, the answers were startling.
A group of 265 students (Grades 7-12) anonymously listed 92 different destructive habits with which they were struggling - a total of 1031 times! This means that each child had an average of four habits from which they wanted FREEDOM.
Who Are These Kids and Where Do They Come From?
For only 265 kids to self-identify 1031 bad habits and addictions seems incredible. Yet there was nothing unusual about the type of schools these kids came from and the communities they lived in - high-end private schools to low-to-high income public schools.
These weren't your typical "at-risk" students, referred by school officials, guidance counselors or parents. And for school staff, it was an eye opener. Many had been unaware of how many students were suffering in silence, and willing to ask for help. School educators were stunned to hear of the multitude of behaviors kids felt they were addicted to.
How do we reach these Kids?
Although speaking in schools is a small part of the totality of all the work I do, I have done enough to know that trying to scare students out of experimenting with inappropriate, dangerous or illegal activities is not the most effective approach.
That's why I use my personal story of unproductive habits in a different way -- as a way of connecting my own challenges, pain and choices with theirs, and how I found freedom, so as to inspire those in pain (or just simply committed to changing their life) to attend my Habit Mastery Success workshop and 4 Week follow-up program that I teach and create on the same day as my keynote. (You can find out more details about that school program here.
What I've discovered is that kids relate to this. Yes, many are alienated or angry. Those who may not have "serious" habits or behaviors, are often just as afraid - and desperate for a way out - as those that are dealing with more destructive addictions and life circumstances. But when someone is honest and direct with them - not trying to manipulate or fix them - and has practical answers to the problems they're facing, they are ready to listen.
How Much "Choice" Do We Really Have?
What I've recognized and teach educators and kids (both educators and kids self-select themselves in participating in my Habit Mastery Success program because the unproductive habits people are personally dealing with are not disclosed ) in my workshops, is that being a victim is a choice. Yes, we may have been "victimized" and experienced bad things in our lives. But how we look at, and interpret the meaning of those events, is a choice that has always been available to us to create and recreate for ourselves!
As a teenager, some of my choices led me to engage in unproductive behaviors and substances - constantly fighting one of them, only to find another one pop-up in it's place. By getting to the root - and transforming the habitual thinking patterns that were driving my bad habits, and becoming responsible for the thought and behavior decisions I had made, I am now able to live free from ALL "Addictions", rather than as a victim of my past. Speaking of "All Addictions", although I do not teach the 12 step model in schools - or within my Habit Master coaching practice which serves high-net worth individuals - I am the founder (and an inactive member) of - All Addictions Anonymous - which you can find out more about by visiting this link www.alladdictionsanonymous.com
Applying this in our Schools
What I want parents, teachers and students to know, is that they have this same choice. My Habit Mastery Success programs help participants shift their attention and energy away from the seemingly hopeless nature of their "bad habits," and redirect it towards developing positive and empowering commitments.
We focus on their power to choose, to support others, and to be supported by a community and buddy system, while stopping or reducing their "bad habits" (if that is what they choose).
This message encourages and enables young people to make far more change than any threats or negative statistics could ever do. And the results are consistently miraculous which you can see for yourself by clicking here.
What Kids are Dealing with: the Full List
As promised, here is the full list of unwanted habits, or behaviors (and the number of times each was reported) as listed by 265 of the students who took part in my workshop and 28-day Habit Mastery Success program. Of these students, 182 were females, 76 were male and 7 did not specify.
1. Junk Food - 109
2. Internet/Computer - 103
3. Marijuana and/or Hash - 92
4. Alcohol - 89
5. Tobacco - 85
6. Sugar or Candy - 79
7. Over eating - 69
8. Under eating or Anorexia - 69
9. Self harm - 48
10. S-e-x - 41
11. Bullying or abusing others - 38
12. Video games - 38
13. Lying - 29
14. Stealing - 17
15. Ecstasy (psychedelic drug) - 16
16. Nail biting - 14
17. Cocaine - 12
18. Laziness or lack of motivation - 12
19. Gambling - 11
20. Over spending/shopping - 9
21. Magic mushrooms - 8
22. Bulimia or purging - 6
23. Depression - 6
24. LSD - 6
25. Anger - 5
26. Involvement in abusive relationships - 5
27. Over sleeping - 5
28. Telephone usage - 5
29. Movies and television - 5
30. Bad attitude - 4
31. Being a victim or blaming others - 4
32. Caffeine - 4
33. Energy drinks - 4
34. Oxycottin (OxyContin) - 4
35. "Special K" - 4
36. Cursing - 3
37. Fighting with parents - 3
38. Over exercising - 3
39. Co-dependence or people pleasing - 3
40. P-o-r-n-ography - 3
41. Text messaging - 3
42. Pain killers - 3
43. 2-CB (psychedelic drug) - 2
44. Isolation or being alone - 2
45. Rudeness - 2
46. Complaining - 2
47. Diet pills - 2
48. DMT (psychedelic drug) - 2
49. Gossiping - 2
50. Masturbation - 2
51. Morphine - 2
52. Opiates - 2
53. Over working - 2
54. Percodan - 2
55. Pyromania - 2
56. Salvia (psychoactive drug) - 2
57. Stress - 2
58. Worrying - 2
59. Being abused - 1
60. Arguing - 1
61. Gang membership - 1
62. Tardiness - 1
63. Lip biting - 1
64. Self blame - 1
65. Burning self - 1
66. Chocolate - 1
67. Choking - 1
68. Cracking knuckles
69. Choosing bad friends - 1
70. Drinking blood - 1
71. DIPT (psychedelic drug) - 1
72. Fidgeting - 1
73. Fighting - 1
74. Forcing/manipulating others - 1
75. Hair pulling - 1
76. Harming animals - 1
77. Holding grudges - 1
78. I like to watch people get hurt - 1
79. Insomnia - 1
80. Making others feel sympathetic - 1
81. Manipulating others - 1
82. Methadone - 1
83. Negative thinking - 1
84. Opposition to authority - 1
85. Overactive - 1
86. Pain - 1
87. Panic Attacks - 1
88. Partying - 1
89. Suicidal thoughts - 1
90. Unspecified illicit drugs - 1
91. Valium - 1
92. Violent behavior - 1
Only 13 of these behaviors were listed on the original form. The other 79 were written in by students themselves using their own words to describe which "habits" they could not control - and which they wanted help to reduce or stop.
Yet even these numbers do not tell the whole story. For example:
1. In #11 -- Bullying, 38 kids came to the workshop for help with bullying behaviors they were unable Yet wanting to stop. That is what they came to my program for! However, elsewhere in the survey, 93 kids admitted to bullying others, while 58 students said that being bullied was a problem for them.
2. The number of students who experience destructive habits is clearly much higher than those who made the choice to attend my Habit Mastery Success Programs. But to give you an idea on the percentage of kids wanting help, for every 50,000 students I've spoken to in a general assembly presentation, approximately 6000 choose to attend my one hour "How to Break/Reduce a Bad Habit" Seminar.
Some of those 6000 students need more than just knowledge to break/reduce their bad "habit", so they are given a further level of support and commitment to consider. When given the opportunity to spend the entire school day participating and creating a 4 week "Habit Mastery Club" utilizing the power of teams, weekly group meetings and daily accountability, of the 6000, 2000 of them (1/3) take me up on my offer. Of course, many kids who were known in their school to have destructive habits did not attend, and many others are suffering in silence and too shy, self-conscious and anxious to participate in any sort of group program.
It took tremendous courage for kids with such behaviors to attend these workshops. But it is also a sign of how much they want and need help -- and of the potential for change in our schools. Why? Because their choices affect others. The more we can help them overcome their unprod the more other students will see their success and come forward for solutions to theirs. And this in turn grows. I believe it is up to us, as adults, to teach and lead kids to take responsibility for their choices, and to offer them practical steps proven to produce positive results. And the best way to build the self-esteem of our youth - is to stop controlling them - and do it for ourselves!
As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the World." I like to personalize his words for the work that I do by saying it like this: "Be the change you want to see in Others".