Knocking out a habit means avoiding stimuli that trigger a habit loop. Many people, having not performed the behavior in awhile, think the habit is gone for good. This is not the case. Take the time I stopped training martial arts for a couple months due to several infections and injuries. By the time I was ready to go back, all my training-associated habits (e.g. training BJJ on Fridays instead of partying) vanished and my gi’s were gathering dust in the back of my closet. Of course, I would occasionally reminisce about martial arts after running into an old training partner or watching a youtube video. But it was easy to subdue a passion of mine by avoiding it.
This is one of life’s greatest dangers. I talk about fire and seizing the day because dreams die with a whimper. It’s not like I superman punched my instructor on the way out. I had plenty of reasons to quit. This wasn’t new. Haruki Murakami, a marathon runner and writer, elaborates
"I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished."
I rediscovered my few reasons. My gym needed certain paperwork signed in person before they could cancel a membership. This meant I had to go into my dojo-with the stink of sweat, familiar faces, and bodies hitting the mat-and tell my instructor that I quit. I couldn’t do it; the cues pulled me back in. And I’m extraordinarily grateful for that.
It’s been a month since I started training again and I already have ringworm and a hip injury (torn labrum anybody?). Yet I’m typing this from my gym, because I know the pitfalls of removing cues. I will continue showing up according to my regular schedule because I want to train for the rest of my life.
So don’t worry if you have cheated on your diet for two months straight, or have yet to write a single page of your next book. Just feel the warm embrace of your old habits.This is both your burden and your key to freedom: habits lay dormant, but are never truly gone. Print it out and put it on your wall.