Living Columns & Blogs

Chip away at bad habits all year long

For many people the New Year offers an opportunity to start over. An opportunity to get it right.

Some people renew the resolutions they made the year before, others set goals for weight loss, quitting smoking, healthier eating, more physical exercise and numerous other ways to improve the way they live their lives.

Personally, I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I’m all for doing all that I can to rid myself of all manner of bad habits that prevent me from being my best. And although I haven’t always been successful at doing so, “nothing beats a failure but a try,” right?

So, with that in mind, I’ll just keep chipping away at some of the habits I’ve formed over the years that I recognize as stumbling blocks to becoming my better self.

Here are my Top 3 bad habits I’m determined to break.

▪ Snoozing the alarm clock in the morning for that 10 extra minutes of sleep that I never actually spend sleeping, but instead, spend aimlessly watching the clock tick forward and asking myself later, while rushing through my morning routine, why I didn’t just get up when the alarm first rang.

▪ Finishing other people’s sentences. I’m not sure why I do this, but maybe it has something to do with some instinctive desire to lend a helping hand. Good intentions aside, I have begun to take notice of the looks I receive from some people who take offense to my eagerness to find words to fill the gaps in their conversation.

▪ Offering unsolicited advice. Now this habit is probably the most difficult for me to break because I genuinely enjoy helping others solve their problems. What I’ve come to understand, though, is that sometimes folks just want you listen. And my penchant for encouraging others to “press on toward the mark” or to “follow their heart’s desires” has morphed into giving more advice to others than they actually want.

You would think that after being married for more than 27 years I would know better. My wife, who has been a school teacher nearly as long, has told me on more than one occasion that she is not always looking for answers when she shares the details of her day with me.

I must admit her declaration that she only needed me to listen to her, not solve her problems, was a bitter pill to swallow at first, but our relationship has blossomed since I’ve learned to “grunt” or murmur the word “really” or throw in a few, “you’ve got to be kidding” in response to her rhetorical questions, instead of offering a detailed plan of action for solving them.

Now, if only I could manage to do the same when it came to my adult children, what a stress-free existence I’d live.

Recently, after giving my eldest son one of my impromptu “give it a go, Joe,” “clothes make the man,” “you have the intelligence to do better” talks, the look on his face and the words he uttered moments later convinced me that sometimes people hear what you say, but interpret what you say according to where they are in their development as a person.

In short, what I viewed as a pep talk, through his “lens” was a put down, and it’s pretty easy to figure out where our conversation went from there.

A wise man once said, good intentions don’t always bear good results. Well, I think I get it now.

Nether does unsolicited advice.

Kelvin De’Marcus Allen is a public relations consultant and part-time law student. He lives in Durham with his wife and children. Reach him at