Starting and stopping habits
Gretchen Rubin points out how vulnerable a new habit is when we stop. She suggests that it’s often even harder to restart a habit once we’ve stopped. Her advice is to pay special attention to times when you know you’ll need to stop for some reason and create your plan for resuming the habit as soon as possible. (I certainly relate to this perspective with my blogging habit.)
Deciding on a specific day to resume a habit after a break makes it easier to jump back in. I’ve read that the more specific you are about an action you want to take, even down to establishing the specific time you will take the action, makes it much more likely you will take this action. For example, if you say, “I plan to exercise today,” you are much less likely to exercise than if you say, “I will take a walk today for 30 minutes at 4 p.m.”
Rubin says, “The fact is, while some habits are almost unbreakable, some habits remain fragile, even after years. We must guard against anything that might weaken a valuable habit.”
She explains that for many people the idea of not breaking the chain (just keep doing it no matter how you feel) is a powerful strategy to maintain a habit. She says that Upholders really find not breaking the chain especially helpful.
Another challenge is to think about maintaining a habit indefinitely or forever. Rubin says this perspective is unnerving for many. Here’s where small steps can be extremely helpful.
I invite you to watch this TED Talk by Matt Cutts about how he created new habits with small steps. http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.html
Rubin admits that persisting with a habit that doesn’t yield flashy results can be particularly challenging. Watching Matt Cutts may inspire you to stick with a habit that doesn’t immediately result in dramatic change.
Remembering one-day-at-a-time is a great strategy for developing the ability to be present in the moment, as well for sticking with habit development.
Her final advice on this topic is: “Trust the habit. I take that first step, over and over and over.”
The next chapter I’ll explore is titled “Temporary Becomes Permanent – Clean Slate.”