A friend of mine recently gave up coffee. Her morning ritual, for years, was to make a cafetiere of strong black coffee and sip it while she prepared for her day. “It’s not just the caffeine,” she told me. “It’s the ritual. It’s part of my life.”
She was unsure about giving it up, so she decided to do a three day habit challenge. Rather than say “I’m quitting forever,” she took the attitude that it was “just a break” until the next time she went grocery shopping. Instead, she bought chai tea and coconut-rice milk. When we caught up later I was as surprised as she was to hear her say: “I really don’t miss it.” She said the ritual of making and drinking chai was just as satisfying as the coffee it replaced.
Now she has the occasional decaf cappuccino when she fancies it, but the long-term habit is broken.
This is not to say you should give up coffee, or anything else. The point is, most of us have habits that feel “unbreakable”. These may be positive, negative, or neutral, but they are part of our lives and can determine our behaviour. Anything we can’t control by definition controls us — whether it’s anger, procrastination, or our morning latte.
Examining and challenging our habits is a healthy way of asserting self-control. It lets us focus on the important things and stops us getting bogged down. Habits are powerful, and can be a positive tool for managing our daily lives. However, it is worth questioning them to see whether, and to what extent, they truly serve us.
Here’s my challenge to you:
1) Think about the things you do every day.
2) Identify one habit you could live without.
3) For just three days, change your routine.
4) Ask yourself honestly what this habit holds for you, and what you might do instead.
You may not choose to change your ways, but the process of self-examination and self-discipline will bring you to greater mindfulness.
Share your 3-day habit challenge in the comments!