November 1, 2013

New Day, New You

I love to tackle huge, seemingly insurmountable problems. To swoop in and save the day when everyone else has given up on a sticky issue or overwhelming problem. (Cue: super hero theme song!) 

My problem? Cultivating everyday habits like making time for small talk with colleagues, remembering to drop off the huge pile of clothes for donation, or registering for that free class I wanted to take at the library. 

Often, little events and to-dos pass me by while I am busy saving the world.

To my dismay, I recently learned that it takes more than 21 days to form a new habit. Alas, I cannot force myself to do something for three weeks and it will become natural for the rest of my life. Anecdotally, I know this, but why is that? 

Research shows that intention is everything. Pure willpower is not enough! Instead, it is the deep desire to change one's lifestyle that ultimately wins out in the end. So, unless I truly want to get to know my coworkers better, act more philanthropic with my extra resources or become a lifelong learner, I probably will never will.  

So how to get From Thought to Action? Psychologists propose that I spend a good amount of time thinking about what it is that I actually want to do or achieve. Am I simply looking to cross something off the perpetual to-do list? The satisfaction that comes from random acts of kindness? The confidence comes from being a good citizen and neighbor? Turns out that visualization is a very helpful tool when adopting new habits. Not only does it help with motivation, but it also helps identify concrete steps to turn a one-off action into a routine. I like the sound of that, since it harkens back to my strategy for saving the day (see above).

Now if only I could daydream visualize my way to math proficiency... well, I'm working on it.

NB:I got the idea for this blog, which was originally posted on
If you like to nerd-out on behavior psychology and trying new things, this is the website for you!

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