Why are good habits so hard to keep?
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” —Warren Buffett
It is January and it feels like the whole world is trying to be a better version of themselves, including me. The parking lot at the gym is packed. All of the fresh produce at the grocery is gone. There seems to be an abundance of information to help me be more mindful. I found lots of ways to get more organized. My bank has sent me new and interesting ways to save more money.
It also seems like I tried all of these things last year and probably the year before that and so on. It got me to thinking about why it is so hard to break a bad habit, and so hard to form good ones? It is probably not that the bad ones are any harder to break than the good ones. Habits in general are hard to overcome.
Our brains use habits as “timesavers”. These habits are easier for our brain to handle. There is a lot of science here that I do not understand but habits are the brain’s “easy button”.
We often feel a reward when we carry out a habit, especially if it includes something wonderful like sugar, alcohol or shopping. Even if we don’t realize it, we are probably feeling a small high. This makes us subconsciously want to do it over and over again.
Habits are usually automatic. These activities and behaviors somehow manage to find themselves in our routine without us even thinking about them.
The first step is awareness, and hopefully this column has already made you more aware. So, to answer the question that titles this article “ Why are good habits so hard to keep”? Maybe because we aren’t turning them into habits before we give them up!
According to Tom Bartow in a recent Forbes column, stated that there are three essential phases of habit formation:
Phase 1: THE HONEYMOON- This phase is that initial inertia to get going in forming a new habit, when sticking to your goal is easy and exciting.
Phase 2: THE FIGHT THRU – This phase is when the excitement fades and where most people “fall off the wagon” if you will. In this phase, it is important to recognize your lack of motivation, to remind yourself why you want to create this new habit and to imagine the future if you follow through.
Phase 3: SECOND NATURE- This is when you finally are on the brink of a habit. You’re staying with your goal and it feels relatively easy. In this phase however, it is important to not regress and become discouraged, and to not allow disruptions in your routine. Stay focussed on your goals and before you know it, your good habit will be a subconscious task you do over and over again.
If you would like to read more about the phases of good habit formation, you can read the referenced article at https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2013/04/15/habit-formation-the-21-day-myth/#64fb5b52debc .