Motivation Fades, but Habits Grow Stronger
Motivation fades, habits grow stronger. This is the core reason why people who start going to the gym at the start of the year don’t generally stay there long. In my experience you don’t see the guys who start at new years after maybe a month and a half the latest. The reason is, they might be really motivated to make the change, but motivation is a thing that always waxes and wanes. This is why you need to create habits out of the things you want to do regularly and view them as such. You aren’t motivated to brush your teeth, but you do it every day because it’s a habit. I’ve gone to the gym two times a week for years, not because I like it, but I go because I have to go. If it’s a Tuesday or a Thursday I go to the gym, I do sometime enjoy going, but I will go regardless. There are no exceptions because it's a habit, a rule.
Forging a Habit
I’ve personally started a habit of playing an app called Duolingo every day. I set a goal in the app and I fill it every day during my work since I have some time between customers where I can get a few sentences in etc. Because of this simple habit I’ve learned the basics of Spanish in a month. If you can make a small habit in your routine it will make a big chance over time. I was very motivated to do it at the start, but at times I haven’t been very interested in doing the lessons, but I still do it every day because I view it as a habit, as something I have to do whether I like it or not.
When you do something over and over it reinforces the connections in your brain, making it easier to remember/do/etc. That’s why repetition is used so often in learning, and it’s also useful in creating a habit. You just need to do something 10 times consistently to start the process and then keep doing it because it’s a habit you’ve created. Every time you do it, the next time is easier because the connection is stronger in your brain and eventually it would be harder to not do it than to do it.
In with the New, Out with the Old
So how to break bad habits? If you’ve done something for a long time the connection in your brain can be quite strong so breaking the habit is harder. However if you are cognizant of the habit you can take over and “manually” direct yourself towards something else. For example change something about your life that’s leading to the bad habit. Let’s say there’s a pizza parlor next door so getting a pizza is really easy if you’ve forgotten to cook. Then you can start making sure there is something ready to eat at your place always and buy foods that are easy to prep. Make sure the pots are cleaned etc. so you can go directly to cooking. Delete the pizza parlors number, throw out the menus. Thus making the cooking easier and buying a pizza harder. You will still most likely need to exert some mental effort in the beginning, but as I mentioned you will form the new habit surprisingly quickly!
Keep in mind that you should try to break these habits where it’s easiest. For example I personally really liked baked goods and if I have some at home I will eat them. So trying to eat them within reason or not at all while having them is hard, but not buying them at all is much easier. As a result I don’t buy anything unhealthy and because of that when I get a craving I would actually need to go out and buy some. The cravings tend go away after a while when the connections and associations in your brain get rewired.
Keeping Good Habits
Keep in mind that you can also break good habits by accident if something in your life changes. For me personally it was the aforementioned going to the gym habit that broke, because I moved. I haven’t gone in a month and half which is by the far longest break since I started going few years ago. This can happen because of various reasons, but it’s important to keep it in mind and make an effort to keep the habit. If you see a change coming in your life try to plan ahead to keep the habits you want to, perhaps even see if this change makes it easier to get rid of some bad habits. I know I won’t have trouble starting up gym again since I’ve spent so long going twice a week that this month and a half wont rewire my brain, but the newer the habit is the weaker it is so it’s more important to not make any exceptions to it. This is a perfect example and time to utilize the “I’ll just do it for 5 minutes technique” Meaning I’ll just go to the gym for the abs etc. I’ll just write the first sentence of my blog post. I’ll just do a few sentences in Duolingo, you’ll notice after you start that you’ll end up doing it for much longer. This blog post is a perfect example, I was just going to write down the first paragraph because I had a rough idea for it, but now that I’m typing this I’ve written the whole thing. So start typing.
PS. I’ve started the gym up since I wrote this post. The move did however break my writing schedule for this blog which I’m in the process of fixing. It’s still a “young” habit, so easily broken, unlike the gym. As long as I keep working on it I will form a habit out of it and so will you with whatever it is you’re trying to form.
“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
I'll give you a recommendation for a TED talk to watch related to the subject, it goes over a lot of the same concepts and isn't anything new, but it's a really compelling story that brings up many of the things this post does.