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Habits

It’s been a tough few weeks, for a variety of reasons that aren’t that important in the big scale of things but have really shaken up my introspective little life. As is now typical for me, I had a bit of a meltdown and decided to plan my way out of the problem by coming up with a new plan.  By now I am aware that the plans are broadly the same each time but I usually manage to come up with some sort of gimmick to re-motivate me.  This time I am literally using shiny stars to reinforce my reward system (thanks to the genius of Gretchen Rubin at http://happiness-project.com/). This is necessary to try and keep me on the straight and narrow and bed in some new good habits.

Habits are tricky things. Edith Wharton had some pretty definite views about them in ‘A Backward Glance’:

“Habit: the deathly process of doing the same thing in the same way at the same hour day after day, first from carelessness, then from inclination, at last from cowardice or inertia… Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.”

There are lots of studies out there that tell us we need to be doing something on a daily basis for at least 21 days (this seems to be about the average) before it becomes a ‘normal’ behaviour for us.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever managed to truly embed any good habits in recent years and I increasingly worry about that.  I think it’s good to try and make changes for the better; if nothing else you can surprise yourself and your cynical nature sometimes and that can only be a good thing.

I’m very good at starting; I make plans, write lists, even make wall charts. I’m quite good for a few days and then one of two things tends to happen.  I either hit a lazy spot when I start to reason that I have earned a few days off and then forget to start again OR something will happen to throw me off my stride and suddenly the chasm of the pointlessness of existence re-opens before me and I’m struggling to remember to function let alone eat more greens or do yoga for 40 minutes each night.

The frustrating thing is that most of the time these new habits are okay; they are not as onerous as I think they are going to be when I keep meaning to do them but never get around to it; they often make my day-to-day life a little bit better as they are supposed to but the fact that historical evidence suggests that I will yet again fail and fall off the wagon at some point is always there. So why try again?  Well, I guess because it’s better than not trying. In the same way that I have to believe that there is some sort of point or reason to everything, I have to believe that trying is pretty virtuous and it’s better than just accepting all the bad habits which got me into this mess in the first place.

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