Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Zero Tolerance for Excellent Habits

My 100-day caffeine-free challenge hasn’t exactly been plain sailing.

I’ve failed twice and bent the rules along the way. Rule bending is not unusual when cornered into absolute succeed/fail situations. In my case I made it “OK” to eat chocolate and didn’t worry about painkillers that contained caffeine. In fact, those painkillers contained a whopping 180mg of caffeine; the equivalent to two strong freshly brewed coffees.

Not surprisingly I didn’t sleep well and still had a racing heart the following morning. I am fast concluding that habits need to be all or nothing - at least until they really are habits.

I think there is a great deal of guff talked about habits. Creating a habit in 15 days, for example, in my experience is unlikely to be successful. I’ve heard it takes 6 weeks to break a bad habit and my own experience of giving up alcohol for lent (48 long days) wasn’t long enough to make it permanent.

Researchers suggest that 66 days is more realistic to form a new habit, and longer for challenging habits.

Attitude of mind also plays a big part. If you don’t really believe the habit is worthwhile it will be very difficult to make it part of your life. Whereas if you are convinced it will be life-enhancing and beneficial, the journey becomes much easier. I found that taking the time to do some research paid back big dividends for me.

So whilst I’m still not through my own caffeine-free challenge I’m twice as sure that zero tolerance is needed for success.

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