The mental adjustment of habit formation

The mental adjustment of habit formation

[00:00:00] **Aurooba Ahmed:** Well, hello. This is The Daily Five with Aurooba, that's me, where we reflect on creating our best lives a little bit every day. Here we go.

[00:00:16] I was thinking about the role of rewards in habit enforcement today. More specifically, the role of short term rewards and long term rewards, which really led me to another topic that I've been dwelling on instead. So let me take you on an adventure through my thought process. Or well, at least a condensed version of it anyway.

[00:00:41] Now, ask most people and many of the habits they are trying to create are those that have long term rewards. Exercise, healthy eating, quit smoking, etc. Most of these habits have clear long term benefits, but they may or may not have short term benefits. That's why there's all this advice out there, including on this podcast, to find ways to make those things enjoyable.

[00:01:06] We're trying to create short term rewards that incentivize us to keep going until we start reaping those long term rewards. Now, that being said, merely finding a way to make the habit enjoyable isn't always enough. There's likely a threshold of enjoyment you need to be able to reach consistently in order to sustainably maintain the momentum needed to turn an action into a true habit.

[00:01:34] How do we do the right thing for ourselves while finding ways to motivate ourselves with meaningful rewards in the short term so that we can actually achieve the reward we were originally looking for in the long term? There tends to be about two popular schools of thought. When you're trying to quit something, especially, or stop doing something, which apparently is one of the top types of goals people set.

[00:02:03] We could do an entire episode on that. Uh, but anyway, things like smoking or drinking soft drinks, you know, there's the quit cold turkey school of thought and the ease yourself off gently school of thought.

[00:02:19] When it comes to something that is medically demonstrable as always bad, such as smoking, a lot of people will lean towards the quit cold turkey route, even if that ultimately doesn't work for them, for the more health ambiguous things, like say, quitting soft drinks, you'll get the cold turkey people, but you'll also get the wobblers, the ones who'll convince themselves that just doing it less is better, or just having it on the weekends is okay, or something of that sort.

[00:02:51] Which leads me to think about drug addiction, or more specifically, the addiction to narcotics. Now, I don't know too much about it, thankfully, but I do know that in certain scenarios being weaned off narcotics is safer than stopping cold turkey. You need to give your body time to adjust or else it starts to miss it, it hasn't been making certain things, and you can go into cardiac arrest and many other things.

[00:03:19] What everyone seems to forget is that you also need your mind to adjust. And that's where we get into the real meat of what I was thinking. The habits we have, the quirks of our behavior, the clothes we wear, the way we wave, all of these things become a part of our identity. The good, the bad, and the in between, all of it.

[00:03:42] When we try to change something about ourselves, we're really saying we want to alter our identity. And that's a hard thing to do sometimes. Your mind needs time to adjust. You have to get to know yourself again in a way. Even if you are the one trying to transform yourself, it's still hard to change. At least it's hard to accept a change in identity.

[00:04:05] So, I think the fundamental thing we sometimes forget is that enacting a change in ourselves or anything we're connected to is really us changing who we are. It's maybe not that habits are difficult to form, It's that accepting an identity change is a tough pill to swallow. So perhaps, as we try to do new and supposedly better things in our lives, we should be asking ourselves quite explicitly if we are willing to alter who we are to achieve this goal or reward.

[00:04:37] Perhaps that more fundamental question can help us forward. you know, move forward far better than artificial short term rewards because in my own experience, I know they don't always work.

[00:04:54] Thanks for listening. Same time tomorrow?