Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You Mean I Have to Do It Again?

I read somewhere that it takes 28 days to form a new habit or break an old one. I asked my neighbors for their opinions about this statement last night. One neighbor said she never starts anything if she doesn't think she'll see it through. Another neighbor said she doesn't believe anyone starts anything they are not going to see through. If that's the case, why are gyms so busy in January but virtually empty by February?

So, obviously I've been trying to start a new habit. I first did the Five Tibetan Rite of Rejuvenation in a yoga class in Albany New York but I've never been able to do them consistently. In the rites, in case you don't go the link, you start with a few repetitions and then work up to 21 repetitions. The entire program takes less than 10 minutes and it's supposed to keep me young. A no-brainer, right?

But for some reason after a few weeks, I quit doing them. I'll get up to, say, 17 reps and then I'll think, oh I can skip them today. Then, it's two days, then three, get the picture. But after a few months or a year, I'll go back and start doing them again. It's as if my willpower needed a break. I read an interesting article in the New York Times about willpower. Apparently, it's like a muscle and the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes. That makes sense because some people can start a new habit or practice and continue it with no problems.

Often, though, I will pick up a new routine that I had dropped and try again, like I'm doing with the Tibetans. I did morning pages consistently for almost half a year before dropping them. After a few months, I started again. Is that a willpower thing or did I just need a break?
The psychology of it all fascinates me. Why do some people, like my neighbor, never start a habit unless she knows she will keep it up? Why do some people, with the best of intentions, quit after a time? Why do some people seem to have no problems starting a habit and keeping it up? And why, do some people, like myself, start something new, drop it and pick it back up again?
I wonder if my way with habits has to do with my career choice. As a stage manager, I work on a production intensely for ten weeks and then I have time off. After a break, I do it all over again.

I'm up to 11 reps with the Tibetans. I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. Hi!
    Thanks for letting me know about your new venture. It feels like we are in the same room having a chat!
    Looking forward to more musings.


  2. Ooh, I love this blog post. So glad we found each other!

    (by the way, I think you can click on my name to check out all 3 of my blogs!)