There is a Japanese proverb saying "sit on a rock for three years". It means that when you sit on a rock which is cold and uncomfortable, it will become warmer, meaning if you stick to whatever uncomfortable, it will get better. Typically, a senior in a company tells a new hire this when the new hire is having hard time and going through learning curve indicating that the new hire should just hang in there for little longer in hope things will get better in the future.
I lately remind myself this phrase often when I start to form a new habit. Since begining of this year, I have been working on few new habit which are said to be helpful to you. New eating habit, journaling, continuing education for Solution Focused Brief Therapy, going to sleep early.
And what I learned so far is limiting time is the key.
Some, like journaling, did not need a lot of convincing to start. But needed little help to continue. So I limited time how long I want to do the new habit a day.
Let's take a look at journaling. I could write and write journal for hours at a time. But I restricted my journal writing to 5 minutes a day for the first month.
There are two reasons behind why 5 minutes.
One is that it is short enough I can do it whenever and whatever circumstances the life throw at me. My plan was to continue everyday. Not to write a grand journal once in a life. I have children. Things happen. But 5 minutes is the time I thought I can squeez in no matter if my kids are sick, if I am sick, or if we go travel or camp.
Another reason for limiting journal writing to 5 minutes is so I still feel excited to write journal and enjoy it everyday, instead of feel burned out. Again, my ultimate purpose was to continue. And knowing myself, I needed to take care of being boared and burned out before they happen.
So limiting time to engage in daily helped me to keep a habit.
Others habits, like going to sleep early, needed a lot of convincing before starting. Why? What will be different? What is so good about it? And as much as I could go on about benefit of a new healthy habit, there were excuses. Very convincing ones.
Because my brain knew that is something beneficial and I was curious how my life will be when I get these new hbits, I told myself, "I will do it only for 3 months. At the end of the three months, I will revisit and continie this discussion of whether I want to have it as my new habit or not".
Not like the Japanese proverb I introduced in the begining of this post, I set it for three months. Not three years. There are reasons why I picked "three months".
First reason was that it is relatively short. Thinking there is an end motivates me and makes it look easier, doable and light.
Second reason was that based on scientific studies, simple behavioral habit forms in about one month. More complex habits which involve many factors and many activities will take about three months to become a habit. Examples of simple habit are Journal writing, walking, or meditating. Example of complex habit are eating healthy, losing weight, be on time, and stop procrastinating.
Because of these two reasons, I thought even if I still don't want to continue and don't see the result at the end of three months, I maybe carry over some parts of a new habit.
Like I said earlier, some became one of my habit. Others did not become my new habit.
But setting a time limit made starting something new much doable and made habits stick easier.