Humans are creatures of habit and routine. Just as it takes us 20 years or more to develop our adult personalities, we’re also developing behaviors and habits that will stay with us for a lifetime. Unfortunately, some of those behaviors and habits are not always healthy or helpful to us. Some may cause us long-term difficulties in our lives or in our relationships with others.
But changing a behavior or habit is not done simply or overnight. If something took 20+ years to learn, it’s likely that it will take an equally significant (if not the same) amount of time to “unlearn” or to change that behavior or routine. It just seems more difficult than it is because it’s a process, not something you can just wake up one day and say, “Hey, today I’m going to do everything completely differently.”
Does it Get More Difficult as We Get Older?
Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that change generally is harder as we age because we become more comfortable and familiar in our lives. And what is our life if not the sum of our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, all of which we’ve learned and incorporated into ourself over our lifetime?
So I don’t think it’s more difficult for older people to change their routines — I think it’s fairly difficult for people at all ages to change their routines. People simply get comfortable and set in their ways because those ways are familiar to them. To change that, to ask people to give up the familiar for the unfamiliar, well, for most people that’s scary and difficult. Humans avoid fear and fearful situations and that’s why most people don’t like change (and don’t do a very good job with change when confronted with it in their lives).
So What Can I Change?
The simplest routines to change are the smallest ones that mean the least to that person. For some, it might be adding orange juice to their morning breakfast or committing to going for a walk at least 3 times a week (versus no times a week). For others, it may be to read at least two news articles in the newspaper or online all the way through. The real key to changing routines isn’t to swap out existing routines for new ones you’ll never change, but rather to challenge oneself each and every day — or at least once a week — with something a little different or new.
Realistically, though, most people cannot change significant amounts in their life without serious effort and time. You can’t ask or expect someone to change all of their routines or habits, even if it may help them stay healthy in the long run. As humans, we’re just too used to and comfortable with our routines.
Grohol, J. (2007). Changing Our Routines and Habits. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 19, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/changing-our-routines-and-habits/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.