Substituting a habit

Habits by definition are difficult to change. When someone else is responsible for your time, at least bad ones are easy to keep at bay. So if your workplace has a hard ban on having mobile on person, for the 8-10 hours of your work you will not obsessively check your phone for every single notification. If you have limited number of entries allowed per shift, you probably wouldn’t visit the smoking room every couple of hours.

But what if you are responsible for all of your time. As a soon to be a person who will be ‘between jobs’, I have realized that spending my time intentionally will be very important. Scrolling through Instagram for cute dogs and funny comics is no doubt relaxing, but can easily go on for a couple hours thanks to the explore feed that never ends. Or a quick game of counter strike can easily turn into a multi hour grind through competitive if you find some friends online.

From my personal experience, I have realized that it is easier to stop a habit than reduce it. I’d rather not start the game, or open Netflix that day if I have an important task to look after. If I don’t start it I wont have to stop it. But what do you do when the urge strikes. This is where I think substituting a habit for another would be easier.

I substituted my habit of checking Instagram with opening Duolingo. For those who don’t know, it is an app that teaches you different languages. I had taken up french in 11th-12th and it was a great experience visiting it again.

You may have different habits, and you will have to look for habits you want those to substitute with. If your habits are digital you can block the distracting apps by a number of other apps that let you do that. If your habits are spending related you can transfer out all the money in a fixed deposit as soon as you are paid. If your habits are eating related, you can stop buying unhealthy foods altogether.

Habits are an inseparable part of your being. Just getting rid of a habit will leave a void of time and energy that will have to be utilized somewhere. Unless you fill it with something healthy, there will always be a chance of relapse.

So do what any good football manager does with an underperforming player; substitute it for a good one…

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