Being the first full week of January, I am guessing many of us are making some effort to act on good intentions and follow through with our new year resolution(s). But, can we really change? Can we build new habits?
To begin answering this question, I turned to Science of Us and found some interesting articles. First, let’s look at personality. As we try to change, can our personality change? Here is what Science of Us wrote.
“[William] James is the groundbreaking Harvard psychologist whose 1890 text The Principles of Psychology is thought to be the first time modern psychology observed the idea that personality settles down, or stabilizes, in adulthood. “In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again,” reads one of its most quoted lines.
In the century since James wrote these words, a bulk of empirical evidence has proven him right — to a point. As Little likes to phrase it, it’s more like our personalities are “half-plastered” by the time we enter our fourth decade: Yes, much of the way we behave is influenced by our core personality traits, which, research has shown, have a rather strong genetic component and therefore are pretty stable throughout our lives. And most research, not to mention common sense, suggests that though we change a lot in adolescence and our early twenties, these changes slow down once we enter adulthood But, Little argues, we can also choose to act against our natures. Our basic personality traits don’t really change. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change and behave in ways that are opposite to our true selves, when the situation calls for it.”
OK, so the core of our personality does not really change, but we can manage our behaviors and even build new habits that may seem in some ways counter to our personality. So, how hard is it to build these new habits? Once again, over to Science of Us.
“In the spirit of the “New Year, New You” season, here is a gentle reminder about habit formation as it applies to resolutions: Contrary to the colloquial wisdom and despite what certain apps and books would have you believe, it does not really take 21 days to form a new habit. So that shiny new behavior you’re trying to adopt — eating breakfast every morning, going to the gym after work, or whatever — probably won’t have really set in by the 21st of January, and there’s no need to despair if it hasn’t. Instead, at least according to one interesting piece of recent research (which, by the way, I’ve written about before), it could be tough going until March: It takes 66 days, on average, to form a new habit.
Incidentally, the health behavior that was toughest for people to do automatically was exercise; that’s not entirely surprising, as it’s a more complex action than drinking water with a meal. Overall, these findings are a reminder to be a little patient with yourself if sticking to your New Year’s resolution is feeling a little harder than you initially thought it would.”
So, it’s going to take a little discipline. My resolution has a lot to do with running, and that will not be as easy as going to bed 30 minutes earlier each night. But on the bright side, at least the research suggests that such is possible if I can be disciplined and stick with it.