Sunday, February 16, 2014

Concerning willpower and the changing of habitual behaviours - a 30 day project

I thought it might be interesting to test my willpower over the next thirty days by striving to achieve the following goals:

STOP activities
- Television
- Sitting on sofa
- Caffeine (tea, coffee, etc)
- Sugary foods (e.g. cake, biscuits, fizzy drinks, chocolate)
- Half carbohydrate intake
- Complaining

START activities
- Daily: Go the gym
- Daily: Run (distance irrelevant)
- Daily: Meditate for 5-10 minutes
- Daily: Stretching exercises for 5-10 minutes

Additional ideas (optional): brush teeth with left hand, write with left hand, gratitude (acts, diary, communication)

Why thirty days? There is an idea floating around that it takes 30 days or thereabouts for a new habit to form. I haven't looked into the validity of this idea but I needed to pick a number and 30 days was also the length I chose for the weight loss experiment that I attempted a few years ago. It is long enough to be testing and meaningful but not so long that I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

To make the environment conducive to success I have taken the following measures:
- Deleted the tv guide app from my ipad
- Sellotaped shut my box of tea-bags
- Finished my stock of coffee
- Restocked the fridge with loads of healthy food (and no junk)
- Added some new music tracks and podcasts to my ipod to add (to pep up the gym sessions) 

I intended to spend a bit more time in the preparation phase, putting a meditation plan in place and thinking up various low carb, high calorie meal options, etc, but this would have meant delaying the start date. Preparation can go on forever and as they say, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

In terms of rules this is not an all or nothing experiment where a single failure kills the whole project. Indeed, I fully expect to fail on some days, on some of the goals.

Where this differs to other challenges along these lines is that it is not a goal orientated enterprise. There are clear distinct goals out of necessity (and a great many of them to boot!) but the focus is on understanding, not transformation. I hope to observe myself over the days and in so doing better understand my willpower, the pull of the existing habits and temptations, and the effectiveness of potential strategies to maximise the probability of success. A few changes may well result which would be to the good, but I am not banking on it.

Today is day one of thirty. It isn't over yet but I can report that I haven't experienced the caffeine crash that I was concerned about, and have experienced before. Perhaps it will strike tomorrow when I'm at work, where tea-making visits to the canteen are very much a habitual behaviour; during the working week, I'll easily consume around ten mugs of tea or coffee through the day and then a final one when I get home.We'll see. Hopefully everything goes swimmingly.

I'll be keeping track of progress using good old pencil and paper, so won't post on again the topic for another thirty days (or less, if it all goes to ruin).


A spot of carb over indulgence the night before the experiment kicked off!

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