The other day, I consciously did something I know is “wrong.” As I was going through the process of this infraction, I knew I should stop; I wanted to stop; I couldn’t stop and didn’t stop. I stuck my finger into a jar of peanut butter and enjoyed every last lick. It’s kind of gross, especially since I’m not the only one in the house eating from it. I know the right and prudent thing to do is to get a spoon, but while my mind said why bother, my finger dipped into the jar of peanut buttery deliciousness.
This is one of my bad habits. Like most habits, it’s hard to change. Habits are things you do a certain way and then just keep up that behavior. It’s hard to turn off a learned behavior because your brain is often on auto-pilot during these actions, causing routine to become, well, routine.
Researchers say it takes 15 days to form a new habit; 15 days to repeat an action, set up a new routine and put your brain on auto-pilot for this new normal behavior. New habits, therefore, can be intentionally caused. The power of repeatedly doing something for 15 days can turn into a lifetime behavior. I find this extremely hopeful. We talk so much about the need to break bad habits, but we can also be talking about forming new, positive life changing habits. I like the idea of building new routines better than focusing on breaking old ones.
Instead of thinking about what you need to stop doing, try thinking about what you want to do and then do it the same way, in the same context for 15 days. Intention turned to action is the most powerful change agent we have in our control. Think of who you want to be and what you want to achieve over the next 15 days and create a new habit. You have 15 days to change your life. Start now. Stay mindful. Be kindful.