Habits are Harder to Form in Adulthood?

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Hi all,

I hope everyone is doing well! Today, I want to talk about one way I use without knowing that makes me value and hang onto my habits more: leaving my habits for a while. I have been getting back to some of my old habits recently and I like this. I also have been thinking why some habits are harder to form in adulthood. I want to combine these in this post.

We all have habits. Some from our childhood, some we form in adulthood. The ones we form in childhood become a part of personality. The ones in adulthood depends, at least in my case. Let’s say that I was an avid reader as a child. Chances are that I still am one. I also probably read just as much now as then. If I have not established myself as a good reader as a kid and try now as an adult to become a good reader, whether I am still a good reader or not depends on circumstances and time. Let’s say A decided to read regularly as an adult and I was never a regular reader before. At the beginning of A’s decision, A will be enthusiastic and read regularly. Later, this enthusiasm will likely fade away and A will not want to read anymore.

If I was A, I would give up on it for a while and get back to it as soon as I can. That is because if I force myself into this habit, which I am forcing to be part of my personality now, my personality might reject this foreign material entirely. Instead, I find it better to leave it when the enthusiasm fades away. Then what happens in my case is that these breaks become shorter and shorter and eventually the new habit becomes a part of my personality.  This process takes a while but eventually gets to the point. One difference between habits formed in childhood and adulthood is that the former is easier to form and harder to leave. But habits can become a part of us in adulthood too.

All this means for me that I just needed that break to get back to my habits. I hope that this second stage will be more permanent. It also means that we adults should not give up on a habit we want to establish, whether it be reading, exercising, sleeping early etc., just because we could not pursue it without fail or without taking a break. I think it is in the nature of many habits formed after childhood.

Let me know what you think about this. Do you have habits that you successfully established in adulthood? If so, how did you do it? Are there any other differences between childhood habits and adulthood habits that you can think of?

Betul

38 thoughts on “Habits are Harder to Form in Adulthood?

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  1. I have had an okay time forming new habits in adulthood…what I have found much harder is BREAKING the bad habits that I formed in my teenage years (especially the way I talk to myself with my “inner voice”). I guess these two can be related though, because if you break a bad habit you are usually trying to replace it with a better one.

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    1. Good point! I think teenage years are still our formative years, so like childhood habits, they will be hard-core to us. But as you say, when we manage to break them, it is usually by replacing it with a new habit. Otherwise, the emptiness that will result will get us back to the habit.

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  2. I think habits are equally as difficult to form/break, but as a child, there was less to have to juggle. For instance, as a teen I may be able to form a good routine for exercise because I had more flexibility with my time and fewer obligations. As an adult, I have a lot of obligations to have to juggle. This can lead to a lot more avenues to make excuses. “I’m tired.” “There’s no time.”

    Habits of any kind take discipline. If you want a result, you have to be disciplined to make it happen. Period. As a child, I had trouble with this because I wasn’t disciplined. I didn’t have enough motivation to stay disciplined. Also, I was lazy. 😉 As an adult, I had to get real: Do I want to achieve my goals or do I want to fail at them over and over? Of course I want to achieve them. So I force myself to stick to my habits and routines that will point me in the right direction. Sure, I have more chances to make excuses, and I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self to stop wasting time – but I can’t let myself make excuses. Either I “do” or I “don’t”. I ask myself, “Did I work toward my goals today?” Answer is either yes or no. I don’t want to say “no” so I stick to my healthy habits.

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    1. I should also add that, as a child, many of “my” goals were actually my parents’ goals for me, so that could also be the reason why I had a hard time sticking to good habits. As an adult, all my goals are my own, so that adds to my discipline to stay on track. If I fail at my goals, who am I disappointing? Just myself. So I think that it’s equally as hard/easy to stick to habits at any age, but for different reasons. 🙂

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      1. That is a good point too! It is true that parents almost determine the patterns of our lives. That saved us the trouble of finding a habit that will fit us, the trial-and-error. But it is good to try and fail too:)

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    2. Good points! The way it worked with me is that as a child, I could add anything to my habits list without much mental effort. As an adult, as you say, it requires mental effort. Maybe that is why it helps me a lot when I take a break from the newly-forming habit probably due to the mental effort we put. That is one of the points that makes forming habits harder. As for time, honestly, I find it difficult to form new habits even if I have time. Maybe it is because we normally do a lot of things due to our responsibilities and we want to do nothing as soon as we find free time. Actually, maybe it is me who is like that.

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  3. Reading takes effort. As soon as illness creeps in at later age, it may be more difficult to read. Then, reading novels may be replaced by reading poetry. Or, certain interests may change. Change of religion may lead to new literature interests. And, adulthood means having to provide and work. That means, less time for reading. Reading a newspaper may replace reading a lengthy novel.

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    1. True. I agree that time is a big issue and we want to do nothing as soon as we find some free time, I agree. What I had in mind was actually something like 15 mins of reading regularly for a healthy adult. Not too much. But I personally find it difficult to establish. Exercise may take longer but it does not have to be every day. I also like your point about change of interests! Maybe that might act as a push-factor!

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  4. Seasons of life avail different passions and demands. At 65 I am entering the final season. My attention shifts from family and career demands to investing in others. I pursue God with a passion in order to be fully available to the needs of others. Each day is a gift and I live it with intention. My day begins early, the habits a matter of course. I do not have the multiple demands of younger people that create the tyranny of time.

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  5. I used to like drawing and making comics when I was a kid. As I grow older, I seem to have somewhat lost interest in it. I still can draw, however, I just don’t do it anymore some reason. There are times when I wish I’d like to go back to my roots. At least, from my perspective, my late grandfather was the one who taught me to draw, so I thought, by preserving that habit (hobby?), it’s also a way to remember him by…

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    1. I think when it is time for you to start, you will stat it again. I used to write short stories and then I took a break for about 13 years. But eventually, I started it again because I felt like it. If you had it in your childhood, it will probably come back. Then, you will willingly pay your tribute.

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  6. it’s funny- i was thinking about habits myself yesterday as i walked. My question( to myself) was what things are habits and what things are just things i’ve chosen to do because they make me feel good? is there a difference? if so, is the difference simply how many times we do them..which seems silly..because then aren’t they all just choices with a time limit? of course THEN i had to get down to WHY i do certain things and at some point almost everything became a regular “choice” …lmao…talk about pointless over thinking!

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    1. These are all awesome questions! Is it pointless overthinking? Probably not if you ask psychologists or philosophers:) I think not all habits make us feel good. I take habits to mean something that we intentionally do (we know we are doing it) regularly for a purpose and that something can be good or bad. Choices are more random (random times, maybe) and that may not have a purpose. Maybe you always choose to drink cappuccino whenever you go to a cafe because that was the first drink you got there and you really liked it. I probably would not take this as a habit. What do you think?

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      1. at the moment i am unsure…but yes, your description here it right on the money.My example would be when i walk , maybe- am i enjoying this? usually- yes. So then i think “is it a habit or a choice?” i guess it could be both. well next i have to take something less neutral into consideration- alcohol, nicotine, sugar, caffeine- any of this things can qualify as a habit and/or choice. being in recovery ( alcohol-one year this saturday) makes asking these questions sort of a perspective oriented thing.On another level though i feel as if i sometimes strive to create a habit( usually a “good” one) and at some point i stop and wonder if i am still choosing it or if it’s just my own dogma….ahh, life and the brain …lol

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      2. I can see that it might be difficult to categorize many things. Maybe it is better to focus on what benefits we get from our actions and leave the decisions whether they are habits or choices for future.

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  7. My 10p worth: If you want a new habit, make it fun. If you want to break a habit, make it into something that disgusts you. Currently learning French using all sorts of colourful ways. Ended my habit of eating meat by looking into the truth of that.

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    1. Good strategy! I definitely use the first point. I think I use the second one too, but more in a way that relates to me: I dictate myself that this habit does not work for me because it tires me, it makes me anxious etc. But that might depend on the habit too.

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      1. Oh I have one other strategy that I used a lot in uni when there was a deadline that I had heard trying to catch up with me, was pulling an all nighter, pushing myself to have something ready using music in my ears as I wrote. One such tune used is björk ~ army of me.

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      2. I realise pulling an all night effort isn’t actually ending the habit of waiting to the last minute, but it’s a strategy of coping with the consequences. Sometimes we just have to face the consequences of our habits.

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  8. Yeah, I think sometimes you have to give up on something for a short while and then have time to think about it and reflect. You can get back to it anytime and will probably get more enjoyment out of it. That’s the name of the game with anything. Life is short and meant to be enjoyed. Very insightful post!

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  9. I agree, sometimes its hard to form those good, healthy habits and break the unhealthy ones. that will change us for the better. One of my personal tips is to think of my priorities, think of what I want to achieve and how that is affected by bad habits. And also think of all the good that can happen if I maintain those good habits. So visualising the benefit of the good habits has helped me gather the strength and endurance in pursuing those good habits.

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