Brittleness and Elasticity in Habits

I had to get up early for an appointment today. The person didn’t come on time, so I sat around waiting for him - he was about, oh 2 or 2.5 hours late.

It completely threw me off my my game. I was on the computer, on Reddit, plunking around, waiting, so my initial START of my habit chain didn’t happen. And after I met the guy…I just didn’t do anything until the end of the day.

I’ve talked about what I’ve loosely termed Habit Elasticity in a relatively recent post (”Day 617 & NaNoWriMo”) and an older post (”Day 169, On the Cusp of Habit #3 and Habit ‘Elasticity’”)

I defined it in the latter post as the “snapping back in place” ability for established routines

I’m hoping that there is an elasticity to habits - that once a habit has “set” it is easier to get back into the rhythm. Which is great for 750 words. But I don’t know if my exercise habit has fully set. If it hasn’t, I’ll rely on the SRHI to know when to move on to flossing…But once the stressful period is over, my habits snap back.

I referred to this elasticity in the context of turbulent swaths of time, but it could just as easily apply to instances where the implementation routine doesn’t go well in the frame of a day.

Why did automaticity fail to execute today? The “if” of my if-then protocols didn’t occur, namely “when I wake up, I get on the rower” - instead I did other stuff. Because the first part didn’t discharge, the rest of my behaviors didn’t go off either.

In a daily manner my habits as they are constructed are quite brittle - any deviation and they shatter. But it’s interesting that this does not occur with my golden standard of habit formation - brushing my teeth. 

I’m good at toothbrushing - If things don’t go according to plan I just pick it up after the interruption no problem.

I think there are some reasons for this. Either:

1) Brushing my teeth isn’t a chronological implementation intention - it’s tied to the feeling of dirtiness/cleanness of my teeth. Therefore I’m being reminded of the need to brush my teeth constantly, during the interruption and afterwards. Chronological implementation intentions don’t have this benefit. (One a side note, it may be informative to come up with a catalog of different types of implementation intentions.)

2) Brushing is far more of a habit and is much more highly tied to my sense of self during a day. I’ve talked to athletes who have this - there’s just a nagging sense of something missing if they don’t work out. It’s more than just “having to do it”  - the activity is part of their daily identity and is lacking when the activity isn’t discharged.

3) A combination of these two things.

Clearly it’s something I need to evaluate in my habits.

Oddly enough I almost feel that sense of inevitability in daily habit elasticity with recording, especially nowadays. It is the longest habit I’ve kept up in this project, and I feel like I got practice doing the habit irrespective of a particular implementation intention in the last several months. Perhaps cross training habits like this - implementing them strictly, then loosing those strictures - helps with this.