3 Ingredients to a New Habit that Sticks

Habits
Habits

Completing something is a fancy feat indeed! Continuing is another thing altogether. Why is it that it’s so difficult to change a bad habit or create a new ‘good’ habit? Ways of being do not shift easily.

…I completed my 30 day writing challenge a few days ago, although you wouldn’t know it since I didn’t announce it, didn’t write about it, in fact I didn’t… well… write! I got to 30 days and immediately figuratively let my belt out and relaxed slothfully on the couch!

Well here I am back again after a brief hiatus to pick up the pen and get back in the saddle…

Completion in itself is an achievement for which I am un-humbly, unabashedly patting myself rather chuffedly on the back for.

How are you at finishing stuff? I am not so great. I’m an enthusiastic starter. All full of promise and speed, but I often run out of steam. A combination of procrastination and self-serving justifications stop me.

Why do we do it to ourselves? How frigging great does it feel to actually finish something. THIS GREAT <————————————-> !!!

Completion!
Completion!

So in this instance, I did it. Did my 30 days. And what do I have to show for it? Well had a whole lotta fun doing it, did something I’ve been talking about doing for a long time, got ‘Freshly Pressed’ (front feature page of WordPress.com), lots of new subscribers, lots of new kindred connections, and slightly toned writing muscles. But best of all and above the rest… I got to finish something and it feels good; satisfying.

Words are powerful, your word is the most powerful of all. If you can do what you say you’re going to do, creation happens merely by uttering the words. As soon as you say you’re going to do something, if you are absolutely your word it is created in that moment of utterance. Sounds like a tall order but how cool to think you can create anything, do anything, be anything just by putting it into words.

I love words!

So now that the ‘challenge is over’ the new challenge it continuity.

The jury is out on exactly how long it takes to form a new habit. It seems to be human nature that new habits don’t stick easily. Just think about how difficult it is to make a lasting change… a new diet, a dietary restriction, regular exercise, morning meditation, etc, etc.

There are certain things most of us do with clockwork regularity. They are ingrained. Brushing your teeth for example.

My mother was a dental nurse so she was an absolute toothbrush nazi. I remember one night at a party towards the end of high school I called to ask if I could stay the night at my friend’s house. She said no. Reason: I didn’t have my toothbrush!

Toothbrushing
Tooth Brushing

These days I pathologically cannot skip brushing them AT LEAST twice a day.

So then, do habits have to be formed early on in order to stick for a lifetime? And then do they need a few years of repetition before they become hardwired?

I wonder how long?

I wonder how long I would have to write for an hour a day for it to become inconceivable to not do it?

Admittedly towards the end I did start to feel a ‘need’ to do it rather than a ‘have’ to do it.

However I quickly dropped that short-lived habit… And now I’m back in the saddle starting from scratch. I wonder? Or is it a case of two steps forward and only one step back? Hope so. 🙂

I’m reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at the moment.

It’s taken me years to finally get around to reading it. It looked dry and boring so I always avoided it but it’s actually pretty interesting. I’m only one habit in so I may change my tune but I have to say that for all his talk of being aware of the subjectivity of personal paradigms he seems to be setting up his own paradigm as gospel. Anyway, that’s all on that… If you have an opinion on this point I’d love to hear it.

Covey talks about how habits are formed. He says that it takes an intersection of 1. knowledge, 2. skill and 3. desire to form a habit. All these three elements must be present in order to form a habit that sticks. He goes on to say that the change that you want to make by acquiring the new habit must be

“motivated by a higher purpose, by the willingness to subordinate what you think you want now for what you want later.”

For me the important note here is “higher purpose”… If the new habit you want to acquire doesn’t contain this element there will be no drive for it to continue.

And that whole short-term pain for long-term gain thing is interesting isn’t it… It is definitely a learnt aspect of human behaviour. Do you remember being a kid and being told to wait for stuff. A day, a week, even just five minutes was TORTURE… And forget even trying to conceptualise the idea of a year.

My boys are the same. I tell them to wait and it’s as if I’ve told them to chop off their fingers. Pure torture.

There’s lots of info on forming habits. Scarilly, this article says it takes up to 254 days to automate a new habit. Wow, sounds like a mission… Although, perhaps I have my answer to the “how long” I asked above… Up to 254 days to automate a new habit! … Well, 30 days down, 224 to go!

What is a new habit you would like to stick?

Please note that in a few days I will relocate my blogging to my professional writing site @ leonieorton.com

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2 thoughts on “3 Ingredients to a New Habit that Sticks

  1. I thought it only took 30 days to make a new habit stick! Never realised that it could take longer….maybe that is where a lot of people fall short – they try it for 30 days, and then forget to keep going…maybe I need to stick at it for 254 days for it to finally sink in!

    Great article…I havent read the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – it sounds good. Will have to get a copy 🙂

    Cheers
    Lisa

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