Why be less harsh on yourself while changing a habit

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Rujuta Diwekar’s book “Don’t lose your mind, lose weight” talks about many brilliant principles and deep concepts like mitahar.  However, my favorite is the one about giving oneself time. It is indeed much deeper than it sounds and can be applied to most habits in one’s life. In the book, she says that if it took one a few years (say, 10) to put on an x amount of weight, then it will obviously take them more than a few weeks to lose, if not all, then even some of that weight. In this case, at least 3 or 4 years. And if it takes lesser time, then probably it’ll come back as quickly because it won’t happen in a natural way.

Similarly, if this logic is applied to other habits, say stress, and one’s way of working, it still makes sense. So if one took 3 or 4 years to get into the habit of working in an unhappy, grumpy, over competitive and self depreciating way, it will take then more than 2 weeks to get out of that habit.

This concept is similar to the psychological concept of conditioning and un-conditioning of behavior. It can take slightly less or as much time to un-condition one’s behavior as it took one to condition into that behavior in the first place. Of course, this is subject to the will power of that person and other situational factors.

Hence, when we think of changing, we shouldn’t expect “immediate” results. This is the reason why most people give up within a few weeks, because they keep an extremely high goal not realizing that its almost impossible to change in a day. Obviously giving oneself too much time can lead to procastrination too, however even that happens when does not have knowledge of this principle. Understanding that the process of un-conditioning can take almost as much time as the conditioning is the key to change.

So if I want to change my negative behavioral patterns, I must first think about how long I have had those habits, and then have a realistic goal about how much time I would need to fully transform and come above them.

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