We were right all along about habits!
Years ago (maaaaaaany years ago) I worked at Apple and had a 48 minute commute, when you count traffic jams and various highway adventures. I did the same route for months–in fact, I didn’t know there were other routes possible, and it became such an unthinking habit on the drive I was able to do all sorts of other things: listen to audio books, dream of novel plots, etc. I didn’t do any of the really dangerous seeming things I saw others doing, like putting on makeup, eating, or even READING, for heaven’s sake, but my commute had certainly become routine.
One day, someone suggested I get off the highway at a certain point and take a parallel street. Turned out, driving that route shaved off 4 minutes from the trip.
Pop quiz: the next day, after learning that alternate route, which path did I drive? The habitual one? or the new one?
If you answered, “the new one,” congratulations!
Scientists, with their nefarious ways of picking on poor rats, have found that old habits never die. They lie, available, for the brain to pick up with the flick of a chemical switch, AND they’ve found out that by flicking that switch, a current habit will simply vanish, to be replaced by a behavior that is better, which becomes the new habit. Jeisyn wrote about an element of this some time back when he talked about replacing an old habit with a new one and a potential problem with that.
That problem is called “ecology,” and refers to the fact that new changes impact the system. Unless the new change is one that fits,
it will probably be discarded and go back to the old system. These scientists have found part of that dynamic. What amazes me is that they seem so gosh darned SURPRISED at the fact that old habits can be overridden. I’ve worked with people who wanted to quit smoking and sometimes it merely takes one session for that old habit to be replaced. Now, that’s certainly not the case with all clients, but readiness to change and having a better option waiting in the wings certainly can speed up and smooth replacing the outdated habit with a new one.
Now, there are several implications in this study, some of which the scientists seem to have missed, but which anyone who has worked with habits, addictions, and various related issues, would certainly be familiar with. Can you guess some of them?
I have seen, over and over, people get in control of their brains, learning to flip that biochemical switch in their brain that allows them to simply walk away from an old habit, to replace it with something better. This study shows me something that I’ve always known was true: that changing those habits is possible. People simply need to learn how to flip that switch.
If you’re like some help flipping that switch, please feel free to contact us at Bright Mind. We have coaches trained to help you get more in control of some of the routines in your life.
- Quitting Smoking â Trading One Bad Habit For Another (belmarrahealth.com)
- Save money as well as your health by quitting smoking (savingmoneynow.com)