The Power of Habits

February 17, 2015

Back in December I read an interesting article in WIRED about habits and software design. However habits also impact our daily lives. Many fitness trackers and health related apps promise to help us develop good habits. Habits can be heard to make and hard to break. Sometimes we like our habits and other times we dislike them. However we engage in them so often they can define who we are.

The hard part of a new habit is trying something for the first time. I like Matt Cutts idea to try something new for 30 days. However it does not solve the issue that mentally trying something completely new can be exhausting. The best way to tackle this is to plan out what you are doing. If you are making a new breakfast food you should know where the ingredients are and have the instructions ready. Leave extra time for screw-ups. First impressions matter and a bad first experience can ruin trying to create a habit forever.

Small changes over a long period of time are much easier to do than large changes at once. This is why I think things like diet and exercise plans fail. Some people enjoy re-inventing themselves but many of us do not have time for that and do not find it fun. However doing something like going to bed 15 minutes earlier or eating a bagel instead of a muffin is not overly aggressive.1 If you do not like your new habit it probably will not last so you should find a different better habit that will stick.

  1. The caloric difference between the muffin and bagel at Dunkin Donuts is 150. It need not be a bagel, just something else you enjoy that is more nutritious. 

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.