Short story: four months ago, I was very naive with habit building. It was the first time that I realised I was in control of my own life. So I said I would run everyday for an hour, drink a lot, stop eating junk food, work for 3 hours straight, and sleep at 10 pm. Starting TODAY.
Wow. New life. New rules. A superb fire of motivation flashed right into my eyes.
It didn’t turn out well.
I discovered that starting small was the key. So I lowered my habits to the strict minimum. It was much better.
BUT…it didn’t turn out well.
Why? Because there was a day in which I didn’t run.
Here comes the domino effect; one by one, my old bad habits returned.
I felt so disappointed that I didn’t run, or do my homework, or sleep early, not because I was busy but because I DIDN’T FEEL LIKE IT. I felt like a total loser, knowing that I DID lower my habits and STILL couldn’t do something about it.
In desperation, I searched on the internet for advice, IGNORED the ones that told “start small, etc” because I was already starting small and thought I needed some other kind of quick solution.
I stumbled upon an article that said you need to punish yourself if you break a habit.
It was very convincing, professional looking with many arguments. It told something like: there needs to be some discipline; if not, your brain won’t view your bad habits as “bad” and you will still continue making the same mistakes.
I thought I have tried everything except this solution. Influenced-me was like: Mmh…why not?
Eventually…it didn’t turn out well.
Influenced-me followed the advice of punishment, which basically means going to my room, sitting silently in the dark, and mentally telling myself: “You shouldn’t have skipped a day without running!!! Why did you not feel like it? But you promised to follow your daily habits!”
Then, in a more soothing tone (in my head):
“From now on, you’re going to run everyday, okay?”
Guess what? It STILL didn’t turn out well.
currently facepalming to my old naive self*).
I felt even more drained when all I wanted to do was to give up. So I gave up.
Well, the whole point of this article was to give an advice:
DON’T PUNISH YOURSELF!
I don’t know, I’m talking from a subjective point of view and maybe the punishment advice can actually help other people. But if you already feel bad for not following your plan, why would you want to increase that mental pain?
But hopefully, this experiment made me learn new theories:
- Habit building is more about repetition than motivation.
- If you’re punishing yourself, you’re blaming your motivation, which has not much to do with habits.
- If you have skipped a day or two it’s okay; this doesn’t affect your process.
- If you have skipped a week it’s okay; you can still adjust your habit plan.
- If you have entirely given up, it’s okay; you can still start again.
The thing that is NOT okay, is when you punish yourself for not being perfect.