How To Create Instant Habit Change

instant habit changeI’m writing this blog post from the grey coastline of Newport, Oregon.  Coda and I arrived here after two very long days of driving, which was the exact opposite of the plan.

You see, two things have been especially challenging with living in the van with Coda: he has a very low tolerance for hot weather and he doesn’t do well with more than four hours total drive time per day. 

But some things change…

We found ourselves in Fargo, North Dakota with blazing summer temperatures.  And the forecast for the next several days across our route through North Dakota and Montana was record breaking triple digit scorching heat.

There was no way we were going to be able to just drive four hours per day and spend the rest of the day in a park.  We needed to be in the van with the air conditioning blasting.  And I wasn’t about to run the van all day without covering some miles.

So Coda was about to make an instant change in his driving tolerance.

We headed west from Fargo with the intent of covering nearly 800 miles over 10 hours to get to Bozeman, Montana.  The times below are total hours driven which is less than total overall time because we stop every hour or two and take a break.

At the three hour mark, Coda started to pant and show signs of anxiousness.

At the four hour mark he started to drool.

And at the five hour mark…

He laid down and went to sleep:

instant habit change

Coda finally figured out how to get comfortable in the passenger seat and take a nap.  And after that, it was napping and smooth driving for the two days to Newport.

So what lead to Coda’s instant change in driving tolerance?

Quite simply, he had no other choice but to change.

In most instances, I am a proponent of gradual consistent change.  But that’s not to say that instant habit change is not possible…

The newbie private who enters Army Basic Training and instantly starts exercising daily.

The lifelong smoker who instantly quits after watching his  father die from emphysema.

The freelancer who finally starts generating business after getting downsized from her day job.

The obese man who instantly transforms his diet from junk food to lots of vegetables and healthy protein sources after not being able to fit in an airplane seat.

Instant habit change does happen.  And when it does, it results from one of two things:

Instant Habit Change #1:

Elimination of all other options.  This is the new soldier exercising, the freelancer getting her first client, and Coda finally taking a nap in the van.  When there is no other option, we are forced to change.

Instant Habit Change #2:

Leverage of extreme pain, often from a watershed incident.  This is the smoker quitting and the obese man overhauling his diet.  A pain so great (usually mental and/or emotional pain, and not physical) forces us to change because we never want to experience that pain again.

I’m not advocating manufacturing the second option.  This is sometimes referred to as “hitting bottom”, and if it’s coming your way then it’s coming your way.  No need to chase it or attempt to fabricate it.

But the first option, eliminating all other options, can be controlled if you are ready to make instant habit change.  This is sometimes referred to as “burning the boats”.  Here are some examples:

To stop eating food not on your diet plan, get rid of it.  If you have cookies, crackers, cakes or other foods not on your diet plan, then donate it to a food pantry, give it to a neighbor, or throw it out.  I don’t care what you do with it, but get rid of it.  If it’s not in your house, then you can’t eat it.

To stop watching television, get rid of it.  For a no-risk trial, just unplug the television and put it in the closet for a week.  For a more permanent intervention, sell it or donate it to Goodwill.  Or smash the crap out of it with a sledgehammer if you are so inclined. :)

Get away from it all.  Are there just too many temptations around in your day-to-day life?  Then try isolation for a few days, a week, or longer if possible.  Go camping, register for a meditation retreat, or get a rustic cabin in the woods and bring nothing with you other than the bare necessities.  Although this option won’t provide a permanent solution, this temporary isolation can help in jumpstarting new habits.

If you are having trouble with the slow and steady route, then consider instant habit change by eliminating all options other than success.  It worked for Coda, it’s worked for thousands of new soldiers, and it can work for you.  You can do this.

Stay strong,


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