Happiness is Habit Forming: Part 3: Take Action

Habits 3: Take Action

Take action. Yes I have taken action. Last week I vowed following Mark’s advice to take action by developing conscious practice. Now as a basic rule of thumb if I could lose a steady level of weight by following all three behaviour changes I should be able to achieve over two months about one stone or 14 Ibs or 6.3 kilos. (in new money). If it takes me three months then I’ll lose more weight. So that is my goal and I am not achieving it. So far we have concentrated on awareness and mindfulness. Now we’ll talk about the "real deal" taking action. Remember my goal grid below. There has been a slight improvement but not that much.

. Goal



Work-out at health club at last 3 x weekly Monday to Friday

Worked out at health club two days missed third day because forgot IPod.


Eat healthy diet cutting down on saturate fats

Fine most of week but had burger blowout again at Fulham V Liverpool and lots of sandwiches and picky food at my STF trip to Dumfries and Galloway.


Stop drinking on days when work follows and when I do offset it by drinking less on weekends.

Did bit better but Fulham Liverpool game and one weeknight session with a friend meant I don’t do as well as I planned.


Yes I have been mindful but I haven’t really been that focused. Yes I did think about it, yes I knew I had to do it, but to be honest I deceived myself into thinking it was achievable because I thought it’s such a small change that it may have been realistic but was I deceiving myself?

It’s easy to deceive yourself and I am going to give you some insight into an exciting approach which will help you understand why. The "behavioural economist" Dan Ariely in his brilliant book Predictably Irrational shows how we deceive ourselves all the time. Ariely points out that that we subconsciously see our habits as rational, because we get a pay off from them. Much of the time the payoff is negative but sometimes we don’t notice. That because we practice the habit even if its costs us. Like say compulsive shoe buying and in my case book buying. Airely has advice for lots of areas of life. For example poor saving and overspending are the subject of his latest thinking.



Last week I said I wouldn’t make excuses but I would offer explanantions. Habit changing is is also about dealing with thought processes called "heuristics." These are little unconscious rules we follow which often make no rational sense but which can become habitual. I always buy a burger at Fulham matches. Usually it’s a carb injection to supplement the beer. You know I know it’s bad for me but I keep doing it. So much so in fact when the club replaced the usual burger stall where the quality wasn’t exactly farmers market gourmet standard, with one where the taste could only be described as possibly BSE inducing. Yet eat it I did. The reason?  Its tastes fine when allied with a lot of beer. Give me that burger in the CIPD canteen and I would be asking for our excellent Chef Mark to be given the Gordon Ramsay blowtorch.

So having set out the SMART goals for myself my dumb ritualistic behaviour took over. I am not making excuses but understanding my motivations and behaviours. Will I manage to the health club 3 times this week? Will I cut down what I should be honest and call binge drinking at football matches? Will I cut down on the eating which the latest research shows is also bad for your mental health? I suppose you could call it "bilge" eating. I know this stuff is awful and bad for me so why? I might help myself with another piece of evidence. This was widely reported in the press and should concentrate my mind. Too much junk food is bad for your head. Civil servants who ate a healthy diet rich in good stuff and eating fruit and fish more than most were compared with a group who ate mainly fried and saturated foods. The evidence is summarised below. Next week. Will I get fed up offering explanations or will I make some progress? By the way my weight fell by 21bs! How does that Work?



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  • Having trouble finding Happiness is Habit Forming: Parts 1 & 2