Coffee with Mimi

Published 4:11 pm Friday, July 17, 2020


Community columnist

Habits are a fact of life.  A habit is a behavior which is repeated nearly without thinking, or at least not fighting with it. There are good habits and there are less beneficial ones. One person’s habit could be another person’s dread.  

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There is much research delving into the concept of developing habitual behaviors. I checked out some sources, certainly not an exhaustive sampling, but enough to shed some light on the subject. Actually, just enough to validate a lifetime of experience.

Supposedly, a behavior will become a habit when engaged in for 21 days. That’s what I had always heard.  I looked it up and that’s what I found.

I read a little more and found this idea was put out into the world in the mid 1900s and took hold following publication of a fairly limited study suggesting such. However, there is a little bitty omission to the actual researcher’s findings. Two words have been lost in the transmission; “at least.”  That’s more in line with what my experience has been.  

In this case you can find a number to explain, or justify, just about anything you may want to believe. In your mind, you know you should cut out soda type beverages. It isn’t just the sugar, even the diet versions are loaded with sodium.  

You just need to survive 21 days and you are over it. 

Fact check: it could take up to 254 days to solidify a new behavior into actually a habitual behavior.  That’s a lot longer than 21 days. If you started on Jan. 1, 2020, you would be home free on Sept. 10, 2020.

That’s kind of forever to get to the payoff. But, you know warm drinks are more inviting in the winter and everyone is busy through the spring and there is so much emphasis on healthy activity in the summer, so there is plenty to distract you from temptation. The long haul date could be here before you know it.

To further encourage your resolve, that same source said a lifestyle change can become automatic after 66 days. That’s better.

This year the winning day would have been March 6. This year, I’ll be willing to put money on it; the 66th day is when it all began to go off the rails. Whatever in life that may have been on track for becoming ingrained as a habitual behavior became not so. There were rumblings of a seismic change in the wind.  

March 6th is exactly 7 days before what will be forever carved in history as the day the world was completely turned upside down. At least my world.  

On March 6th, my schedule was built around a carefully timed and planned daily regimen that would get me successfully through a series of activities and events during what is just about the busiest time of any year – the end of the school year.  

My professional, family and social calendar was filled line by line and day by day to ensure a stress free trip through the months of late winter, spring and early summer.

Pretty much every activity was accounted for in a well-oiled pattern. An automatic lifestyle. A habitual existence. I knew what to do and I did it. I guess you could say consulting my calendar was a habit, too.

By March 13th, there was absolutely no specific activity on my calendar for even the next day. Within a very few days, the April calendar was wiped clean, as well. What was to come after that was not at all clear.

My daily habits were all tied to a carefully managed schedule which hinged on a particular routine.  There was a daily plan for it all. My schedule was pretty efficient and I was pretty satisfied.

As the old saying goes, “That will learn you.”     

By the 73rd day of 2020, there was no predictability to life. Clearly, no number of days; 21, 66, 254, a lifetime, had any bearing on what I found in my new life state.

I floundered around for a while. I wasn’t unproductive, but there was a fair amount of inconsistency day to day. I thought I was in the habit of getting sufficient exercise, working around chores and work, and so forth. Well, I guess not.

Each day, with flexible hours stretching from dawn to dusk, I found time slipping away and days blending together nearly indistinguishable from each other. Before, I had a regular routine of walking to and from work and errands. On certain days, I could get in a run. It was enough to consider my regimen a habit.  

Truth about habits, they take work to establish, for sure. Funny thing about habits, they take just as much work, if not more, to maintain. You can’t slip by and expect to get right back at it. 

As day 73 of new normal turned into day 91 and then day 121, I realized I was out of the habit of regular enough walks and runs. It was a start from scratch point. New day 66 has passed, still working on it.