How to Change a Habit

When someone is sending electric shocks to the hair follicles on your face, you’re apt to listen more than talk. I listened and learned about The Charge – Activating the 10 Human Drives that Make you Feel Alive.

Bev had good things to say about this latest recipe for success and while it made me cringe with its nauseatingly pat tagline, I bought a copy, taking cover under the notion that it would give us something to talk about. While it’s fair that a definitive list of life’s secrets might induce involuntary eye-rolling (I always wonder, “Why ten?”), there is no call for anyone’s tiresome skepticism here.

Upon finishing the book, I gave my copy to a friend who was in need of some insight as she navigated an unbearably dysfunctional job situation that was undermining the confidence of this otherwise competent and fabulous young woman. I thought about JoAnne a lot as I turned the pages.

It had something for me too. While The Charge is the reason why I took on some scary projects instead of lesser undertakings and while it reinvigorated – at least temporarily – the blind courage of my 20-something self who somehow ventured off to Brussels with little money, a copy of Let’s Go Europe and a plan that went as far as “Take the train to ‘Le Gare du Nord'” – I mostly liked it for its solid practical tips more than for its fleeting inspirational passages. For example, “When this, then that” can help you develop lasting good habits. The idea is to add an action onto a well-established routine, as opposed to trying to change a behavior without the benefit of context. It’s the difference between saying, “This year I’m going to eat better!” and saying, “From now on, when I finish dinner every day, then I am going to eat an apple.”

It’s not sexy, but we use the rule to keep the litter box clean. Since it’s in the basement, it could easily be out-of-sight-out-of-mind until there was a revolt. But we have forstalled an uprising by saying: “When we feed the cat in the morning, we then clean the litter box.”

The Charge is loaded with other – probably better examples of – tips that made it worth it to replace the copy that I gave to my friend. While my enthusiasm for it might have been a case of my being particularly receptive to its insights for whatever reason when I first picked it up, I suspect that the book will hold up nicely as a reference.

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