Changing little habits can make you feel better. The transition may feel strange, but stick with it and you just might be happier for it. Even something small can make a big difference in your day.
Earlier this month I made a minor decision. I decided to do something about my garage door opener placement in my car. I had become uncomfortable with the opener attached to the visor because the visor doesn’t sit flush with the roof of the car when pushed all the way up. The visor would droop a few inches because of the opener. I found myself pushing on the visor when ever I was driving to see if it would stay up. It was starting to drive me mad.
Go Ahead and Get Mad: Discomfort as a Catalyst for Changing Habits
So in a fit of anger I pulled the opener off the visor and threw it to a little flat space on the console. It sat there until I got into the car again and when I left the garage I deliberately used it and placed it back on the console.
And in this very second I decided that is the new place for the opener to live. Now this probably sounds silly and maybe even foolish, but I have had a habit of having the opener on the visor for the last 15 years. So you can see that this placement has been quite long standing. I saw how ingrained my reactions were when I tried to re-wire my habit, even for one day.
Developing New Habits
The next day I got into the car, backed out of the garage, instinctively reached up for the opener and, “IT WAS GONE!” Oh no! I thought something bad happened. I looked again and then, several seconds and several alarming thoughts later I remembered I am put the opener somewhere else.
I picked up the opener from the console and closed the garage, remarking to myself, I wonder how many times I will be using an automatic reaction and then turn to panic before I realize the new opener position. How long will it take me to not have to tell myself directly where to find the opener? When will the reaching become so automatic that it will feel I have had the opener on the console forever?
And then I realized this will be chance for me to watch how long it takes for me to change. And since it’s something relatively minor, it might give me information on other changes I help myself make and help others make in my counseling practice.
Results of My Personal Experiment with Changing Habits
So here are the results: It took about five days for the panic to subside completely. Every day it decreased, but I got to see my brain go into fear when my automatic response grabbing for the opener wasn’t successful. I used this as an experiment and didn’t get too preoccupied with why my brain acted the way it did. I was just curious to watch how it would adjust and how much time it would take.
Ten days in I would start to look up and then something in my head would direct my eyes down. This movement lasted about another five days. I would instinctively look up and then be guided down to the console. No panic, no worry, just a two step process.
Fifteen days later I am gently heading for the console. I just guide my hand toward the opener. It isn’t quite automatic. I am thinking when I get into the car, “The opener is on the console.” And as I watch the process I know that in a few more days I won’t have to think about it at all, it will be automatic.
I think we’ve all heard that you can create a new habit in 21 days. I believe it.
I just proved it to myself.
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