As part of my nightly routine, I would floss my teeth before bed. This went on for years until I suddenly stopped six months ago. How did such a strong habit break overnight? Inertia.
Inertia is the tendency to remain unchanged. In physics, it means an object stays in its state of motion unless acted upon. The same is true for habits. Once a habit is established, it sticks. When it breaks, it stays broken until actively restarted.
Consider my flossing example. For years, I did it nightly. It was effortless. Then, I ran out of floss. I made a mental note to replace it, but it slipped my mind for the first few days. That was enough to break the habit. As it got superseded by more “urgent” tasks, topping up dropped down on the list. Before I knew it, a few days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Just like that, a habit I spent years building had disappeared in an instant. All it took was a minor disruption to the routine.
I’m ashamed to admit that it finally took me six months to replace it. But there’s a silver lining - when I finally got it, I picked up right where I left off. The habit resumed as fast as it stopped. All it took was a quick intervention.
What’s the lesson? When a habit breaks, address it immediately. It will remain broken until you fix it. It won’t yield any results in the meantime either. But once you pick it back up, it will be easy to continue. Why leave it broken when you can make that time work for you?
P.S: You can find more of my thoughts on Twitter @_suketk.