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Success Harmony Newsletter
"OUT WITH THE OUTHOUSE"
to another January, welcome to another time of resolutions made and broken.
What are yours this year? Better health, better wealth, more cute dates?
Quitting something, starting something, making more of something, doing
less or more of something? Or are you one of those people who have given
up on resolutions altogether. "Yawn. They don't work. Next "
that resolutions don't work. It is that WE don't work enough to make them
are typically made to change one habit or another. We make resolutions
to get more sleep, to quit smoking, to lose weight. Even when we make
a resolution to get another job, we are effectively making a resolution
to change the way we habitually go about our day. Instead of mindlessly
going to our existing job, looking for a new job would require looking
at ads, calling up people to ask about opportunities, networking, etc.
defines the word "habit" as: a) A recurrent, often unconscious
pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition, b) An
established disposition of the mind or character. The unconscious, established
part is what makes habits so tough to change, no matter how simple they
an outhouse at the barn where my horse is boarded. A simple, old fashioned
outdoors outhouse with no plumbing system. There is a large sign inside
that says "no toilet paper down the hole. Use garbage container."
There are at least ten exclamation marks after this statement. Simple
enough. I consider myself a person of at least average intelligence, and
certainly above average compassion for not wanting to make trouble, so
I'd sit down, look at the sign, nod, do what I needed to do, and throw
the toilet paper Oh no. Down the hole. OK, I must have thought of
something else. I would look at my hands with disbelief. How could they
do the throwing quicker than my brain could tell them to do something
else? I'll do better next time, I would think.
the same sequence of events. Next time after that, again the same thing.
Next time, I would set myself up beforehand. I'd open the lid of the garbage
container so that it would stare at me and so that I wouldn't forget.
Still, the years of now unconsciously ingrained potty-training behavior
from home would win over my conscious thoughts every time. I am not kidding.
It took me about six weeks of visits to this darned outhouse before I
could reliably place the toilet paper where I was so clearly asked to
hearing about a weight loss study that started with the researchers wanting
to study how easily people could break their habits. So the researchers
asked the participants for a simple change in their daily routines - if
they got out of bed on the right side, please get out on the left side.
And vice versa. After a few weeks, the researchers apparently decided
to end this study, because none of the participants managed to do this
consistently! You may say that, of course, it is harder to remember to
change inconsequential habits such as outhouse routines and where to get
out of bed in the morning. In fact, most of us are happy enough to simply
make it out of bed in the morning, let alone be conscious of what else
is happening at that time! But it is just as difficult, and therefore
that much more frustrating, to change the important habits. Smokers, for
example, often say that the hardest part of quitting is not just the nicotine
withdrawal (they have various patches for that, after all), but it is
finding ways to alter their habits. For example, if part of their routine
was to light up when they sit down to drive, they need to find something
else to occupy themselves with, otherwise their hands will go to light
up a cigarette before their brain has the chance to stop it.
If you did make any resolutions this year (as I hope you did), should
you find this column encouraging or discouraging? Well, it is a bit of
both. If you thought that making your resolution was going to be easy,
then maybe it's discouraging. However, my hope is that you read this article,
have a laugh or two and say to yourself, "aah, I just have to stick
with it for long enough, I need to forgive myself if I mess up, and I
simply keep my new conscious behavior top of mind until it replaces the
prior unconscious habit!" If you do that, you will have fun with
your new resolutions and you are much more likely to be one of the fortunate
ones who have conquered New Year's resolutions. And the great news is
that, the better you get at changing one thing, the easier it becomes
to change anything else that may be important to you. Watch out, world!
Here ya come!
setting, sunshine and smiles,
can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to
be doing at that moment."
"Habit rules the
"Millions long for immortality
who do not know what to do
with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon."