Overeating, leaving your stuff lying around, getting short with your spouse after work — they’re not just weaknesses of character. Dan Heath at Fast Company suggests it has to do with exhausting your self-control reserves, which are more finite than you think.
Heath aims to shoot down the popular sentiment that people who can’t change a bad behaviour, whether health or work-related, are simply lazy or just resistant to change. He illustrates his point with a study involving cookies, radishes and impossible geometry problems, explained in the clip above. The gist? After managing to resist the cookies and eat radishes, one group had almost no patience for the impossible problem, while the satiated cookie eaters were happy to work more than twice as long at it.
And here’s why this matters for change: In almost all change situations, you’re substituting new, unfamiliar behaviours for old, comfortable ones, and that burns self-control. Let’s say I present a new morning routine to you that specifies how you’ll shower and brush your teeth. You’ll understand it and you might even agree with my process. But to pull it off, you’ll have to supervise yourself very carefully. Every fibre of your being will want to go back to the old way of doing things. Inevitably, you’ll slip. And if I were uncharitable, I’d see you going back to the old way and I’d say, You’re so lazy. Why can’t you just change?
Intriguing stuff, even if it makes it seem that improvements like changing your morning routine require even more discipline and monitoring than you might have thought.
Agree with Heath’s premise? Feel otherwise? Tell us your take on why bad habits die so hard, or just tend to shift around, in the comments.
Why Change Is So Hard: Self-Control Is Exhaustible [Fast Company]