We all have habits, whether they are good, bad or indifferent. We all have certain ways that we do things throughout our daily lives that shape who we are. For example, some people do not buy off brand or generic drugs even though they are the exact same ingredients as the generic brand at a cheaper price and would benefit us by saving money. We all become accustom to our preferences and often times it is extremely hard to break habits even though they can benefit us. So why is it so difficult to break habits? How can we break this habitual mindset?
It’s best to look at habits with a cost and benefit analysis. When we do things that we are accustomed to, we receive the benefit of satisfaction. We stay within our comfort zone because we believe we know what we like and don’t like, even if we haven’t tried it. But when we decide that we are going to try something that is outside our comfort zone – instead of viewing change as a benefit we view that change as a cost. The cost would be the unknown outcome. What if we are not satisfied with the outcome? Acting on change comes with risks, you will not know the outcome until you act on it. The results may actually benefit you, but you won’t know until you act on change.
It is easy for people to remain in their comfort zone because it feels familiar. But what if change was forced? A study in London was conducted when a strike was held in the underground. The strike forced commuters to change their daily route to work. After the 48 hour strike ended most people reverted back to their normal route. However, about 1 in 20 people kept to their new route and noticed that on average they saved 6.7 minutes on their commute time (The Quarterly Journal of Economics). This shows that forced change helped people to realize that they were not optimizing their commute time. People value their time. So if you are able to shave time off of your commute, why wouldn’t you? You could spend more time doing other things.
So how can we break this habitual mindset? First, it is important to acknowledge that we have habits. Further the only way to break habits is to actively change them. We must escape our comfort zone and try new things. Instead of viewing change as a potential cost, we should view change as the benefit, no matter the outcome. Lastly, we must change our way of thinking. While we think we know what we like, there is an entire world out there of full of new experiences and we won’t truly know what we like or dislike until we experience them ourselves.
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