day 21 – is impatience a habit?
They say it takes 30 to 60 days to break an old habit and form a shiny new one.
Easier said than done.
When you stop doing something you’ve practiced for as long as you can remember, your entire being takes notice and lets you know in no uncertain terms that it’s not necessarily pleased with you and your silly hippy dippy ‘detox’ ways. Your habits have, after all, spent a lifetime forging neuron pathways and convincing your brain they’re essential to your survival. They will not go away without putting up a fight and it can sometimes feel like your habits have dominion over your life.
What if I’ve managed to convince myself over the years that I am the way I am and there’s nothing I can do about it? That it’s interwoven in my genetic code. That the Caron impatience is simply a gene and removing it would essentially be akin to cutting off a limb, which is to say impossible, so…, oh well.
But what if it isn’t a gene? What if it’s just an accumulation of rust and calcium deposits on an old piece of machinery that no longer serves a purpose? What if impatience is simply a habit? What if habits are learned, not instinctual? What if it’s possible to unlearn them? Can you teach an old dog a new trick?
If it takes 30 days to stop craving sugar, booze, cigarettes… how long does it take to drop the baggage that you’ve accumulated over a life time? The little habits that have created your character– imprinted like the crow’s-feet etched into the soft skin at the corners of your eyes.
Could I not as easily smile in traffic, in a queue, when the Internet connection is tortoisely slow, as opposed to letting anger bubble up in me like hot lava– so quickly and violently and without notice? Couldn’t I just as easily chill out, see it as an opportunity to make a cup of tea or read a book? Why does impatience get the first say in the matter? Why does everything have to happen right this second?
The good news is my neurons are not made of steel. They are elastic, moldable and changeable with enough time and effort.
The bad news is, I’ve got a nasty case of what the Greeks called “akrasia”: the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgement through weakness of will.
I managed to stop complaining for a month. I went teetotal for 30 days. I’ve trained for 30k runs and 3 peak challenges and stopped putting milk and sugar in my coffee after spending 5 days in Paris in 2005. Surely, I can tackle impatience? Small (little impatient) potatoes.
What if the next 30 days were a different kind of detox? What if I took control of the feeling before it took hold of me? What if it was as simple as breathing through it? I wouldn’t know. I’ve never tried. Maybe it’s time that I do.
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken” Dr Johnson