Old habits die hard

Old habits die hard. An old adage that I use often. But never did I think of how useful sometimes old habits can be to build new habits.

Let me share a personal example here to explain this.

During this lock down, when the gyms were closed and there was very little opportunity in the day to take out time for any kind of exercise, due to long hours of work, I started with a promise to myself that I will take out one hour each day for at least 5 days in a week for exercise. I also decided that this one hour will be in the evenings once I had closed my work hours.

But come evening and I would drum up n-number of excuses for not being able to exercise. I also got ample support from the weather as invariably it would start raining come six in the evening.

So I decided to split my exercise hour into three short 20 minute chunks. Clearly the intent was there. So I decided to simplify the process. Now the next question was, when do I fit in these 20 minute chunks of exercise?

I decided to ‘attach’ these 20 minutes of exercise to existing habit. The idea being that the existing habit would act as a stimulus.

So the old existing habit I zeroed on was my meal timings.

I decided to do these short bursts of exercise just an hour before each of my meal times and also throw in another 20 minutes leisure walk post dinner.

This had two advantages:

a. It became an activity that was part of my meal time. Strong chance that I would never miss it.

b. There was no extra effort in terms of planning that I needed to do. Strong chance that I would stick to it.

I started with this nearly 2 months back and it has worked for me like a charm.

Old habits have their own advantages.

Setup a system that will help you create new habits. Here the system was to attach the habit that you wish to form to a pre-existing habit and let that old habit do the trick for you.

BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist and researcher calls this  ‘tiny habits’.

As almost all my posts are about how students can become self-regulated learners, students can try adding that extra math practice, or SAT questions, or language home work to an existing habit. For example, every time you play a video game, decide to do 10 math sums, or every time you get on to social media, try and add one new word to your vocabulary wall.

Go ahead and try it, and let me know if it works for you too!



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