Trick Yourself into Developing Your Desired Habits

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Inspiration

A few days ago I wrote about a some of my tips and tricks to overcome my laziness in life. Well, I just came back from a workout, during which I thought of fifteen new ideas for a follow-up post. I forgot thirteen of them of my way back, so here are the remaining two before my brain stops working completely:

  1. The more I observe the people around me and monitor my own behavior, the more I realize that humans are creatures of habit. It is truly amazing how powerful habit is. Humans can adapt to pretty much anything, so the question for young people is really what they want to adapt to and what they want to make a habit of.

  2. You are who you spend your time around. That is, you will adopt the spending, eating, drinking, working, etc. habits of the people around you, especially if you are good friends with them. Therefore, you should surround yourself with people whose habits you like and admire because they will almost certainly pass on their habits to you.

  3. This is a not a third point, but a synthesis and conclusion:  if there are people in your life whose habits you do not like and do not want to adapt, you should either limit the time you spend with them or explicitly voice your concerns so that they can curb those habits or behaviors when they are around you. For example, you can say something like this: "I am really trying to save money right now and you are buying $200 leather purses (for guys: cameras), so will you please not parade them around me because that will either make me really jealous and hate you or spend my hard-earned money on something I do not value? Thanks! I love you, girl! Cute shoes!"

The Habit I Adapted

In addition to general laziness, I am also very lazy with working out. Seriously, I hate working out. Exerting any kind of physical pressure with my body is usually very hard for me, so getting ready to go to the gym is a nightmare.

However, I have been adapting to the gym habits of a very good friend of mine, who is also a co-worker. She is gym-crazy and recently told me that she was not always like this. In high school, she felt the same horror towards working out as I do now. However, she persevered with it and made a habit out of working out. And by "made a habit", I mean it became one of her habits that is now hard to shake (how you frame it is important).

So by watching her go to the gym every day after work for two months, I could not help myself but start going to gym. And when I do not want to go (every time), I still do because it is becoming a regular habit. With each after-work gym trip, my brain learns the act of going to the gym and reinforces it as a habit (I just made this neurological process up, but that is how I feel it happen). The more I go, the more likely I am to continue going. Every trip counts.

My Habit That Was Adapted

Curiously enough, I also made her stop spending so much money on clothes, open a Roth IRA and cut back on morning Starbucks. God, I love strong Pareto efficient exchanges.


Katya Zorina said...

Haha! This post is great. And I am not just saying this because you featured my blog :)

Persistence is IMPORTANT. Something I learned when I first started working out is that you have to do it for at least 6 months to make it a habit. My first reaction was: "OMG! There is no way I can do this." But I did. And I feel great about it.

And it's also very true about adopting your friends' habits. Thanks for making me open that Roth IRA! Best decision this year!

Pigou said...

I agree with most of it--especially working out (well, I also have a problem with being on time--improvement in progress). However, I feel like you are missing a very important question--who is going to change whom? And what makes you pick positive habits as opposed to negative ones?

For example, its great that you made Katya open a rough IRA and she made you work out--but what if instead she made you buy expensive shoes and you dragged her for a drink every time she was about to go to the gym?

Also, as someone who has dated a guy with really bad work ethic for many years, I can say my work was not affected...neither was his improved... LOL. My point is that there must be something else here--may be your own determination to maintain positive habits? (or lack names :))


Pigou said...

Right. And the main idea of the comment was that you don't just mimic the habits of those around you, you mimic what you find desirable. (hopefully).

Irina said...

Thanks for the comments!

@Katya: Yes, I have always failed at making a habit out of working out. But having a time frame (even though it is 6 months!) is very helpful. Thank you for letting me know that! I look forward to your guest post!

@Pigou: Good point! It is important to know yourself well in order to be able to have the will power to only adapt the habits that you want and are desirable to you. And ignore the ones you do not want to adapt.

alicesworld said...

I just read an article by JD Roth that said something about staying away from people who zap your energy. He said if you are around someone and you feel deflated afterwards, stop hanging around them. You make a good case for the positive side of that - if you're around people who give you energy and make you excited about things, it can make a huge, positive impact on your life. Good on you and your friend for positively impacting each other.

Irina said...

@alicesworld - I read JD Roth daily and I'm so happy that I wrote about something he also thought about! Thank you for the comment and my friend and I will try to continue to impact each other...but only positively :-).