How to Start Good Habits and (Actually) Stick to Them, According to Stanford Psychologists
Elle Kaplan


Most of what I read deals with the same old desires. Someone wants to lose weight. Another wants to exercise regularly. In finance, we’re told to save X percentage off the top as a habit. But what about less obvious traits that might be due for a change?

What about prejudice?

What about anger?

What about disregard for the environment? For truth? For others?

Here’s an idea.

Let’s say you’re uncomfortable around a certain “type”. This may be due to upbringing, to life experience, or to other factors. So, how can you change, if your habit is to immediately avoid or to seek protection when encountering that type?

Take the current fashion of disrespecting Mexicans. How can you change your habit of thinking one way when the prompt “Mexican” appears on the screen of your brain.

Try this.

On day 1, spend a set number of minutes examining the art of Diego Rivera. Try to codify the components of each piece you take time to examine. Is it oil on canvas? How did he find the model? Where was he when he painted the piece, etc. By separating the experience into component parts, it might make the examiner less aware of the “Mexican” nature of the piece, and more aware of the similarities to other artists from different cultures.

On day 2, eat at a Mexican restaurant, and make sure to ask the owner where they learned to cook. By finding out the humanity behind the dish, the background of the chef, etc., one is more likely to equate the person as a member of the human race, and not just as a “Mexican”.

On day 3, listen to three Tejano songs. Again, delve deeper into the components of the music, to better understand how all music or song, has similarities to all other music.

On day 4, try to memorize the number of States in Mexico and research the meaning or origin of the State’s name.

On day 5, window shop at a store that sells items from Mexico, trying to figure out if a serape and a poncho are the same thing. And so on.

I’ve read it takes six weeks to change a behavior from one that requires conscious thought to one that is semi-automatic. Whether or not, it takes 42 days or another number is not the goal. The goal, is to reduce time spent living within a state where prejudice restricts one’s life enjoyment.

Now apply this to thinking about how you dispose of trash. Or, think about how can we (or in this case how can I) help reduce poverty.

Though eating well, losing weight, and exercising are important goals, I think we really need to develop habits that will make us more tolerant and willing to extend a helping hand.

As always, thank you for your post. They provoke thought, and thinking is my goal as a reader.