How good are you at changing habits?

mask-5My guess is that if we surveyed everyone in Houston today, about how faithful they are to wearing a mask, and social distancing in public, the results might not match our experience. Just like the results of driving surveys that ask drivers whether they are better than the average driver. Apparently 70+% of us believe that we are better than the average driver. That certainly doesn’t line up with my experience on the road in this town.

The same thing is happening out there with masks and social distancing. This should be no surprise to anyone. Not because there is resistance to the concept, or disbelief that this will have any impact — although there is some of that going on, to be sure. No, it’s just a well known fact of life that it’s hard to make changes.

When’s the last time you tried to take on a new habit? What happened? Think of what happens every year in January with diets, gym memberships, etc. And these are habits that would have a tangible, positive impact on us personally. Habits need reminders, repetition, incentives and community support to stick long enough for your brain to rewire itself. Some researchers suggest it takes 15 days to create a new habit, others suggest over 250 days. Do we have that much time?

Right now, all I have to imprint this new habit is a “recommendation” to wear a mask in public. This will offer protection to others in case I have the virus and am asymptomatic. This would be even better if everyone around me would do the same. Sign me up! I’m on board, but I’m going to have a hard time sticking to this. I know already.

My brain is not wired for this yet.

I’m sure I’m going to dash off to the store and forget the mask — I forget my reusable grocery bags all the time. I’m going to go out for a walk with a friend and forget the mask — I sometimes forget my key. I’m most definitely going to show up at church without a mask — I can never remember to bring my name tag. I’m a fan of this program, but I’m a very imperfect human being.

Thankfully, we don’t have a culture of publicly shaming people for not adhering to social norms — but that might help me remember right now. I wouldn’t dare violate a “recommendation” when I lived in Germany. The consequences could be mortifying. I love my German friends, but you know what I’m talking about here!

Thankfully, we err on the side of personal choice rather than government mandates and punishment — but that might also be quite useful to fixing this habit with me right now. I wouldn’t dare break a rule that might result in a police citation when I lived in England. It would just be too embarrassing; I would feel like such a fool.

Thankfully, we don’t plaster our public spaces with public service announcements and constant reminders on loud speakers — and that might also help me get it right now. I wouldn’t dare be that person seen doing the wrong thing when I lived in Singapore. It would make me feel so anti-social and selfish.

I don’t know what resources we have available to us in a more individualistic, wild-west culture that will help us “get with the program”. We have a pretty poor track record when it comes to disciplining ourselves for the benefit of our own person, let alone the greater good.

We need a campaign along the lines of the “Don’t Mess with Texas” slogans that were effective at reducing road litter in the 1980s. The success was attributed to the fact that it appealed to the pick-up driving, gun-toting, tough guy mentality of those who were the worst culprits. It worked. Got any ideas for a “Wear Your Mask” campaign for our state?

In the meantime, I’m trying … we’re all trying at our house to “get with the program”. Feel free to call me out, if you see me maskless (except when I’m exercising)!

may 4th



2 thoughts on “How good are you at changing habits?

  1. Rhonda J Sweeney May 4, 2020 / 5:32 pm

    I carry my bandanna in my pocket when exercising…..just in case I need to run into Kroger. And I have several of the more substantial real masks for more serious occasions. But you are right, it is a weird feeling. They have told us we must think of ourselves as sick, infected, and wearing the mask protects others from our sickness, the virus, our cough, sneeze, spit. Of course we are not sick and we know it, but we must pretend that we are, in case we might be. And if we had gotten the virus and have the antibodies, or once we are vaccinated we must either continue wearing the mask to show our support or not be treated as pariahs or “deniers” or perhaps to carry a “passport”, certificate, or tattoo of our immunity. I am not thrilled with this new way that has been inflicted upon us, but then I am seldom out these days except for exercising when I don’t wear the mask. I this is still required come fall, I will need to buy some “fancy” masks to wear to the opera, coordinated with an outfit, perhaps lace? You are right, many countries are more compliant to directives, some place higher value on community over the individual. But I have never been a fan of the sledgehammer approach to a problem which this seems to be. Solution, buy several masks and put them wherever you are likely to pick one up when you pick up your car keys, There is a pop-up store at Shepherd and West Gray that has the blue pleated kind for $2 and the stiffer white kind for $5.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnmorstead May 4, 2020 / 6:30 pm

      I’ve heard about the pop up store. Am going to pick up some more.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s