It’s no secret that behaviours such as eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking are good for us in the long term. But why is it that these behaviours are so difficult to adapt into our lives?
Let’s use the example of taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You know that taking the stairs is a good option, because it will help you to incorporate more exercise into your daily routine. But on the other hand, taking the elevator will save you time, and is the easier option. So what’s the better choice today? Well, we can argue that over the long term, taking the stairs is the better option. BUT in the short term, such as today, taking the elevator may be the better option, especially if you’re short on time. Oftentimes, those short-term rewards (for example, of making it to a meeting on time) outweigh the long term ones, so most people are likely to take the elevator this time. Because you were rewarded with making it to your meeting on time, you’re likely inclined to take the elevator again next time. With time, you form a habit of taking the elevator.
So what if you take the stairs today? You might be more inclined to make that same choice again next time, and the next time. Gradually, a healthy habit develops of taking the stairs more often. Perhaps with time, you end up significantly increasing your walking, and see additional health benefits such as better cardiovascular health.
Knowing this, are you more inclined to make the seemingly more difficult choice today that may lead to a new, healthier habit forming tomorrow?