Notes to self

Not gold alone brought us hither

Feb 14, 2009

Forming a habit in 21 days

I’ve read references to the researched fact that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. This also applies to breaking an old habit and it can be argued that breaking an old habit is — depending on how you look at it — the same as forming a new habit. Nevertheless, I thought of trying this out and decided to form a habit of running in 21 days.

I’ve been running on and off for the last 6 years, and am much better off because of it. But it could have been even better, only if my running program could have been sustained over these years. Every time I reach a point where I am starting to be satisfied with how well I have been running lately, the inevitable happens. I start taking more off days than I should. ‘A day off will do no harm’, I would tell myself and happily take a few days off. Soon, the realization dawns that I am no longer following the routine and going for a run becomes as difficult as it was when I first started. In short, I find myself always fighting my first battle, and while it does keep me in better shape than not doing anything at all – c’mon, I want to see progress.

Back to my experiment. Here are some observations.

Pros:

  • Gave me a reason to follow a routine for 3 weeks. There were no excuses because I was committed to not miss a single day’s run.
  • I tweeted about my daily run to let people know about my plan and that helped me take my program seriously.
  • I wanted to succeed in my plan because I was almost convinced that there will be no effort after 21 days in sticking to this newly formed habit.

Cons:

  • The last point in the ‘pros’ above is a con too. Let me explain…

During this experiment, I had a mindset that all I needed to do was to stick to my running schedule for 21 days and life will be easy thereafter. I will form the habit, and every morning I will find myself getting up right as the first alarm goes off (without snoozing for many times) and then I will watch my body get up, get ready, get out of the door and start running. I will relax while my body finishes the morning run and I shall just trepeat the routine every day.

Turns out, its not that easy. It does help to put together a plan to help you get started, but even after the initial momentum has been overcome, maintaining a routine does take effort — if not as much, some nonetheless.

After my 21 day program, I am again making excuses to myself. But that’s set to change now. A new source of inspiration has arrived in town: twitter hashtag #running. Every time I read a tweet from somebody who just finished a run, it reminds me of my own runs and makes me feel like running.

BTW, I am going for a long run tomorrow morning. Happy days are here again!