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The Neurosis of Long Term Habit Change

Just had a smart conversation yesterday about this. It's been something I've been thinking on for a while.

There's a bit of a problem with long term habit change. If you're working on something that takes a while to achieve, you spend a lot of time falling short of your target and aware of it.

So, let's say you were currently drinking a lot of soda, and you want to quit.

You start replacing soda with other drinks, trying to order different things at restaurants, buy other things, turn friends and family down when they offer you a soda, get a bottled water instead of a coke at the movie theater with popcorn, etc, etc, etc.

Sometimes you go to a barbecue or a cheap lunch with pizza, and the only drink is soda. You try to just have nothing those times.

Spiraling Into Control

On nickwinter.net

I wrote this as a guest post on the Beeminder blog — comments can live there.

It’s dark. Warm. Safe. You’re in bed, about to fall asleep. Pre-dream hallucinations of commanding a mighty bear army are playing across your sated mind. Zz — wait — what about that CrossFit Beeminder?!

You forgot. You got behind. You skipped CrossFit yesterday, but Beeminder said that was okay as long as you did it today instead. You meant to, but life happened. At this point, you think, “I am sumptuously swaddled in my favorite luxury bedding material, it’s late, and there is no way I’m going out in the street to do the workout-of-the-day in the dark, by myself, in my pajamas. And Beeminder will just charge me $5 this time. Okay, deal. Zzz.”

But I think there’s a better way to use Beeminder. When this happened to me, I didn’t even have to think about what to do; I just found myself out there grunting my medicine ball against a telephone pole and jumprope-sprinting into gloomy rosebushes. [1] It wasn’t even worth considering losing my wager over the tiny matter of some physical discomfort. What wager? Not money — just the certainty that I will always do what I promise myself I will do.

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