Supposedly it takes six weeks to cultivate a good habit, and a lifetime to cut off a bad one. I don’t have an addictive personality; I enjoy smoking but I don’t crave it, nor do I smoke on a regular basis. Alcoholism runs in my family and I have a high tolerance, but I’ve minimized my consumption drastically in the past 5-7 years for reasons that have nothing to do with guilt, shame, or sobriety. I don’t partake in illegal drugs and I’m not interested in pharmaceuticals. I don’t have any beef with people who get high, or feel they need prescription pills to function—it’s just not for me.
Lately I’ve been trying to start up habits of a more positive nature: more walking, more photography, more writing. Every morning I struggle to remember and write down my dreams. Each evening before bed I meditate (or, for those uncomfortable with woo, I “indulge in brain exercises pertaining to creative visualization”). Instead of using Amazon, If I want to make a purchase I get out of my house, travel to an independent store and either buy it or have the staff order it. If I’m meeting with a friend, my cell phone is turned off so they have my undivided attention (unless we want to use it to take photos).
Do I have bad habits? Fuck yeah I do, and some of the better habits I’m trying to generate are meant to kill off the worse ones. For example, when I go out I try to talk to at least two people I don’t know, however briefly. As an introvert this is excruciating for me, but hopefully as I keep doing it things will improve and I’ll find it easier to interact with strangers. Another example: During the latter days of my previous job I was constantly ordering lunch via Seamless because there was so much to do that I couldn’t leave the office—and the last thing I wanted to do when I got home (well after 8PM) was cook! These days I have the time to make things from scratch, but once I get a new job I must make things in bulk & freeze portions for the week, devise lunches that don’t require reheating, and not burn a hole in my wallet by ordering out. Again, good habits replacing bad.
Habits are hard to break and hard to start. For some of my new ones it’s been well over six weeks and I still fall short of the goal at times. But perhaps it’s the constant attempts that matter more; that’s what provides the ritual, the repetition that finally puts things in motion.