They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit - "they" meaning Oprah and most diet plans. I've found this to be true a few times - I gave up coffee and gum once and now my addiction to them has waned. I'm also pretty great at Lent. The problem is that it takes about half that time, or one week or one day to fall out of a good habit. It's sad, but it's true. I mean, how sad is it that it is so difficult to do things that are good for us? Well, that's because "easy doesn't change you". At least thats what SoulCycle instructors say.
I've fallen out of a lot of good habits in the past few months. There were times when I was close to doing good things, like get up early and go to yoga, but my bed is so comfortable and I have this pillow that Brookstone doesn't make anymore, and it feels like a goddamn cloud. Also it's really cold. And the mice in my kitchen will not leave. I've killed four. FOUR! Gilmore Girls was released on Netflix, and then Friends. When I marathon, I go full force, and I literally can't do anything else. Rachel got off the plane!!! (I knew what was going to happen and I still cried like a baby. A snot cry.) I'm also pretty sure I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) because every year around this time I hate everything. So there's that.
I’ve spent a good deal of time lately thinking about hibernation. Animals hibernate, why can’t we? Right - we have to work. But what if the whole world took a one month siesta? We could all stock up on enough food and booze and not leave our homes. We could all sleep a bunch and watch House of Cards. If we all collectively agree to do this, then those of us who basically choose to do this anyway will feel less guilty about it. I know there are a lot of logistics to work out regarding this, but it’s an idea.
I feel like I’ve spend the majority of my life trying to figure out how to adopt new habits. I’ve been trying to figure out a morning routine for years. I’ve never been a big breakfast eater or a great face washer, so that doesn't help. I start books and never finish them. There was a period of time when I was thinking about becoming a yoga instructor, and then I forgot about it. I have notebooks and post its and iPhone lists of random ideas and goals that I’ve completely forgotten about.
And then the other day, a video popped up on Facebook feed - Gretchen Rubin: The 4 Ways to Successfully Adopt New Habits. I saw it and my brain was like, “Um. WHAT.” I watched it and my mind was blown.
Rubin divides people up into four different personality types to determine how people do or don’t develop new habits. I learned that I’m an Obliger. This is how she defines the “Obliger”:
“Obligers regularly meet outer expectations because they don’t like letting others down, but they struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves.”
Um. Hello. The word STRUGGLE is in it. That is me. That’s why school worked for me because I had expectations to uphold, and then I graduated and was like, “Wut”.
I haven’t read her book yet, because it’s not out. I preordered it. And even though I don’t know the answers yet, it’s pretty cool to have this newfangled awareness. If I weave outer expectations into inner expectations by holding myself accountable for not meeting my goals, I think I’ll have more success. I've never been able to just go to the gym. I've always had to go to class, or bootcamp or a trainer. Voice lessons, acting class, writing class, due dates, accountability - those are all things that have helped me stay on track. So maybe I'm not so behind and confused as I thought I was. Maybe I just have to go back and do the things that worked for me in the past. And now I’m in a coffee shop writing this and it’s snowing like a Christmas movie outside and I think I’m going to be okay.
It’s really difficult not to compare your life and its successes or failures to other people. I really need to stop googling famous actresses and finding out they’re younger than me and crying about it. I don’t think you can get anywhere in life if you keep doing that. Whenever I do that I slap myself later, and I’m like, “Elise get it together." I think we do this because for some reason we believe it’ll help motivate us. But the best kind of motivation comes from within. It’s like Dorothy finding her way home. The answers are always within you. So I’ve hit a couple road blocks - who hasn’t? Just take a deep breath and keep going.