Dealing with backslides
By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor
Anybody who tells you that changing your habits is easy is lying; especially if that person is you. There’s a very definite reason why “thinner thighs in thirty days” plans don’t often work, and it’s not because squats are ineffective calisthenics.
People seeking to change habits they no longer desire often find themselves in a four-week cycle, give or take. The subject’s first week is full of Yes-I-Can enthusiasm. In the second, the new habit takes more conscious effort to maintain. It grates. In the third week, the new habit starts dropping off. In the fourth, the old, undesirable habit re-emerges in force, and the subject will either begin again the next week, or give up entirely.
This is almost unavoidable for most people who are used to unconsciously maintaining undesired habits. Substituting a new habit and maintaining it through force of will is extremely challenging, and it usually takes a few tries to get right. Do not think that maintaining the new habit will remain difficult—after four unbroken weeks of dedication it actually gets much easier because the new habit becomes unconscious.
Having experienced the four-week cycle myself, I can say for certain that it is a necessary step on the way to your new habit. In persisting through multiple cycles, I found that I was able to maintain them for longer periods of time, and with less effort on my part. In the case of weight training, I spent a long time trying to train at home with my own equipment, but I was only able to commit fully when I entered the gym—aside from the positive environment, making a commitment to the other people at the gym was a great source of motivation.
So, don’t allow yourself to be thrown into existential despair because you break an impressive streak or revert to an old pattern. Instead of hurling yourself on your upturned sword in disgrace like Brutus before you, take stock of the circumstances under which you faltered, and resolve to avoid that pothole in the future.