When It’s Okay to Break a Habit You’re Trying to Build

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Jul 04 2016

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When It's Okay to Break a Habit You're Trying to Build

Last month my challenge was to not eat sugar after dinner. I’d tried Quitting, and that didn’t work. So Plan B was to embrace moderation in a way that is actually moderate. I could have sugar during the day, just not after dinner. This helped me to curb my cravings, and prove to my stubborn mind that I can live without something sweet after a meal.

What surprised me most about cutting down on sugar

The vast majority of days were a success. I followed my rule and earned my satisfactory pink X on my calendar.

But when I broke my rule, I took an important step. I asked myself afterwards: was it worth it?

Examples of my reasoning before + my reflection after:

  • “uggggggh brexit I NEEED Ben & Jerry’s right now”: not worth it. Ice cream did not fix that.
  • gelato at an excellent restaurant in Italy that I will probably not have the opportunity to sample again: yes, worth it.
  • “but everyone else is having a snack; it would be anti-social if I don’t have one too”: not worth it. No one cares. I just felt guilty.
  • friends cooked dinner for us and even made dessert from scratch: yes, worth it.
  • “It’s July now, so technically my month of no-sugar-after-dinner is over, and I should have something just BECAUSE I CAN”: uhhh yeah, not worth it.

Our brains are excellent at tempting us with false reasoning. [In December Monkey can get himself to do or not do pretty much anything “because it’s Christmas”]. So if you fall victim to your mind’s “logic” for breaking a habit, ask afterwards if that reasoning was sound. Sometimes it is. Mostly – for me – it’s not.

When It's Okay to Break a Habit You're Trying to Build

My verdict on sugar

I became much more aware of when “treating” myself is actually a treat. For the most part, I didn’t miss sugar after dinner, and felt better about having self-control. I did experience some binging during the day, to load up on sweets when I had the chance, but by the end of the month, my sweet tooth calmed down so much that I didn’t even want sugar during the day.

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This Month’s Habit: READ MORE!

I’ve been in a reading drought this year. What I’ve been reading has not gotten me enthused to keep reading. I know I can fix that by reading more books, eventually encountering ones that do inspire me. I can only do that though, by, well, reading.

How do I quantify a reading habit?

I used to read 50 pages a day: 25 in the morning, 25 at night. I hesitated to adapt this pattern again because that is jumping back into TWO new habits, and time consuming ones. It’s frustrating to have to start from scratch, but if I try to jump back into things too quickly, I might crash, burn, and give up.

I find it most effective to tackle a new habit at the same time every day. But I’m not confident when the best time for me to read is. Sometimes I want to ease into my morning with a cup of tea and a read. Other times I want to dive straight into my Most Important Task. Ultimately, I want to read for a bit instead of scrolling through social media when I want to chill out. I’m still not confident about when those times are. So I’ll just have to find out by experimenting.When It's Okay to Break a Habit You're Trying to Build

Identifying motivation

WHY do I want a daily reading habit? Because I want to read at least one book a week. I get to actually read all the books I intend to read. Taking a step back to look at the big picture reminded me of what I’m chipping away at each day. 

My July Habit Challenge

Read every morning and evening. It doesn’t have to be 25 pages each time. I just have to pick up the book and read a page. That initial motion will gain momentum. Wish me luck!

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P.S. all of my best ideas on how to form a reading habit

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