Are habits tiny or huge?
Confession. I don’t think habits are tiny things.
I think they’re huge things, convoluted twisting structures in our brains. Traversing all the way from triggers and automatic responses deep in the subconscious, to routines, to circumstances, to goals and values, and all the way up to our sense of selves and our identity in the neocortex.
These structures can’t just be turned with a light switch, by a new app.
They are structures that need to be built over time. They involve real neurons that need to change, grow, reroute, and sink in over time.
Building a new habit is like deciding to buy a new house and put it in your brain. You have to clear away some space. You have to allocate some resources. You either need a lot of money to buy the house outright, or you have to save enough money to put a down payment on a loan and then rearrange your long-term finances to figure out how you’re going to pay a mortgage for 10-30 years. You have to get lucky, the market needs to be right, you need to have a steady income, you might need to move to a new city or to a new part of the city before finding one you can afford.
Some people say it takes 14/21/30/etc days to start a new habit. They say science proves it. Research show it. Look, testimonials!LIES.— Buster (@buster) March 13, 2013
You can’t buy a house in 21 days.
You can’t buy a house with an app, or a bracelet.
You can’t decide to buy a house today, and move in tomorrow.
Changing a behavior, or starting a new habit, requires perhaps a thousand small, intentional, actions over time. It requires committing to showing up to work for years, putting in the time. It requires getting your credit score in order (a certain level of proof that you are trustworthy when you say that you can do this). It requires that you think on the scale of 30 years rather than 3 weeks. It requires that you move somewhere that fits your current circumstances and yet still provides the lifestyle that you want. It requires that you time it in such a way that the interest rate is favorable (where you’re not having to throw money and time away needlessly). It requires that you are mentally prepared to allow this change in your life and aren’t going to self-sabotage because you don’t actually believe you deserve it.
Want to eat better? Want to exercise more? Want to meditate every day? Want to write every day? Want to floss more? Want to run more?
Don’t look at this want as a tiny thing. It’s not the same as buying a latte, or even a new phone.
Look at it as you would look at wanting to buy a house. Make lots of space for it.
It’s not a tiny thing, it’s a HUGE thing. You’re changing who you are, what you believe, how others will see you. You will need to call on your reputation, you’ll need to change your circumstances to best fit this new huge thing, you’ll need to ask people to trust you, to allow you to change in their eyes, and in your own.
Changing your habits or behaviors doesn’t take 21 days. It takes 1,000 intentional actions, or more. It requires creativity, resourcefulness, persistance, and vigilance.
Some people never have the opportunity to buy a house. Some people squander their opportunities. You are lucky. Take the opportunity seriously. Be rigorous.
Or stick with couch surfing.