I’ll just skip it this one time

I’ll just skip it this one time. That’s what I told myself when I decided to not write my weekly blog post over a month ago. And here we are, many weeks later, wondering where the time went. Have you done this? Maybe you decided to skip going to the gym, just this one time. Maybe you decided to skip working on that side project. Maybe you even decided to skip your weekly blog!

“I’m just really busy right now.” “There’s too much going on.” “I’ll pick it up next time.” Have you said this to yourself? I know, you’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. When we’re busy, we start an important and often downward-spiraling sequence of decisions about what to eliminate from our schedules.

Being efficient and dropping things you don’t absolutely need is important, but dropping the wrong things can have consequences much bigger than you anticipated. If you have a good habit that you really want to keep, know this: maintaining momentum on that habit is critical. Breaking your good habit just once is the first in a fairly easy set of steps to breaking it for good. The end result is that you’re not just dropping it “this one time” you’re actually dropping it for a month, or a few months, or even longer!

Skipping it and seeing no immediately bad consequences is what they call in psychology (in the theory of operant conditioning) a lack of positive reinforcement. You are giving yourself permission not to do something, and you are conditioning yourself to remove that behavior (the good habit) that you really did want to keep. So to maintain your good habit, instead of saying “I have to do that thing” say “I choose to do that thing”, and do what you can even if it’s just a few minutes. And go ahead and feel good about it! Just doing it, even a little bit, creates more motivation, and a reward at the end creates even more motivation!

In summary: If you have a positive habit, don’t think that skipping it just one time is harmless. Skipping a positive habit just once can start to break that habit and that is probably not what you want. If you can maintain your habit just a bit, just enough, that can go a long way to maintaining it for life.

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