Correcting Already-Formed Habits

Correcting Already-Formed Habits

9. Suspicion cleaves to the dark side of things.

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10. To love one’s wife with too much passion, is to be an adulterer.

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11. Hard is it to correct the habit already formed.

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12. A small loan makes a debtor; a great one, an enemy.

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Okay, well #11 is the clear choice for me today, this morning.

I agree with Publius that it is hard to correct an already-formed habit. Once those neural pathways have been formed, they will always exist. “Correcting” that habit, or better yet, replacing it, is a matter of building up adjacent neural pathways that can eventually supplant the old ones.

An excellent book I read a few years back comes to mind — The Power of Habit (I’ll try not to share a “The Power of ___” book again for a while, although no promises). There is something called the Habit Loop, which governs how we form and stick to habits:

  1. Cue
  2. Routine
  3. Reward

I will unpack this more in a future post.

Also described in the book is a metaphor for how these neural pathways are formed: picture walking through a thick forest, and bushwhacking a new trail. The first time it will be very difficult to pass. Walk it again, and again, and again though, and it becomes easier each time.

Now let’s say you wanted to change paths and were to cut another trail. It would similar to the first one, but different nonetheless. You would bushwhack a new trail again, and now when you traveled that way you would attempt to stay on the new path. Depending on how similar the 2 paths ere (i.e., the neural pathways in your brain), it could be very easy to slip back onto the old path.

How this slipping-back relates precisely to the habit loop I’m not entirely sure. It has been a few years since I read that book. I do know it is possible to keep the same cue and reward, and simply replace the routine in the middle of the habit. Will do some more research and follow up.

In any case, hard that it may be to correct an already-formed habit, it is possible. Understanding the science behind habits and having a higher purpose makes it much easier to stick with it and summon the necessary willpower to create or replace a habit.

Until next time,

T

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You might like to take control of your habits, because I did and that’s why you’re reading this blog.

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