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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Green Spot: Changing Habits

Posted by Tim Stobbs on September 5, 2008

Ok, let’s face it changing habits is really hard to do some days.  If you are used to turning leaving on the lights when you leave the room or running the water when you brush your teeth it takes some getting used to to stop doing that.  The same also applies in personal finance as you get used to looking at your spending habits and asking do I really need to buy this?

So how do you change a habit?  Basically in my mind there are two main drivers motivation and willpower.  The rest is bulkly a personal thing.  Some people can use little sticky notes and others just give themselves metal slaps every time they fall into their old habit.  I’m not going to deal with those parts of changing a habit.

Motivation on the other hand is universally required.  People need a reason to change otherwise the brain likes its habits and wants to keep them.  So what to use? Well there are the ususal suspects: greed (money), lust (for something else your going to do after you change the habit), noble (I’m saying the planet), selfish (I’m going to eat better because I want to have a six pack rather than a keg), or envy (gods I wish I could live that cheap).

You might have noticed I didn’t use very nice sounding words about motivation except for noble.  Why?  Because let’s face it your brain is hardwired to look out for yourself second, right after your offspring.  It’s your genes being completely selfish saying they would like to live forever and they are only doing that if you keep alive long enough to have kids and make sure they grow up.  Even after kids your genes are still in the habit of wanting to keep going.  I assume life is merely addictive.  There is nothing wrong with being selfish, greedy, lustful, or having envy.  All completely natural emotions, it is how your use them that matters.

So feel free to play games with yourself.  Offer up selfish reasons to change that habit, be greedy and learn about taxes and keep more from the government or save on your power bill.  Or even use a combination of motivators to make the change.  Get creative and find what works for you.  Hack your brain and find out what make you tick.

Then you need to dig out your willpower, or as my wife likes to call it stubbornness.  I’m not sure what causes this in people, but the level of it does seem to vary some what.  Some people give up very quickly on things while others seem to likely to almost kill themselves rather than give up.  Case in point I’m brutally stubborn at times and so is my oldest son.  It’s rather like watching two tectonic plates crush into each other.

The point is to use what willpower you have and keep trying.  You might fail to stop your old habit a few times, that is ok.  This will likely happen,  but if you can keep pushing the new habit for about a month you will at that point got used to the new habit and find it easier to do.

So what works for you to change a habit?

Comments

2 Responses to “The Green Spot: Changing Habits”
  1. The Rat says:

    Interesting article.

    A lot of people, in my view, underestimate just how powerful changing habits can play in terms of reaching one’s goals.

    I personally hit a reality check about 4 years ago and had a few habits (both personal and financial) that needed to be re-evaluated.

    The first one’s were relatively easily accomplished such as buying groceries onece a week and actually planning meals for the run of a week instead of just going out randomly and buying things on a whim. I had the perception that because food was a necessity, it gave to the mindset to just pick up whatever I wanted at will. Making this change alone has saved me over $200/month – and this amount has been invested instead of wasted away.

    There were a few other financial habits that needed remedying and I tackled them one at a time; however, the lone ranger that proved to be the hardest was quitting smoking. I tried 7 times over the past few years until finally this past January I realized my goal. I have been a non-smoker for over 8 months now and the savings are astronomical. I was spending about $250-300 bucks a month on smokes and these are enormous savings. Obviously, its the health benefits that are paramount with the latter habit, it does nevertheless demonstrate that it is a net positive thing all around.

    I find these type of articles make me reflect somewhat on the importance of habits in one’s life, and the approach to them and even honestly evaluating your own strenghts/weaknesses in terms of habits is key.

    Good stuff.

    P.S. Hit me up on my new website if time permits, leave a comment, etc. I am new to the blog world but have found some interesting sites such as yours.
    Cheers,
    The RAT

  2. Jack says:

    Love the blog and the content, but whew, I think you need to add a grammer checker in addition to the spell checker or a quick proof read before posting. Turning leaving? Bulkly? Metal slaps? I’m saying the planet?
    The slips distract from the message.

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