Friday, July 11, 2014

21 Days to Break a Habit

There seems to be some disagreement among “experts” regarding how long it takes an individual to break or form a habit.  This debate was first launched in the 1950s by plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz.  Maltz found that when he performed an amputation the patient would continue to “feel” the phantom limb for roughly 21 days.  After the initial three weeks the patient would begin to adjust to his or her new life situation without the missing appendage.  This prompted Maltz to theorize that “it takes 21 days to break (or form) a habit.”  However, more recent studies have found that it takes on average more than two months- 66 days to be exact- for a behavioral alteration to occur.  It looks like I have a ways to go.

Today marks my one-week anniversary back in the U.S. of A. But, my adjustment has been…. slow. To say the least.  The day after I returned home my brother asked me to watch him play lacrosse.  I left the house and got in the car only to discover…. the steering wheel was in front of the other seat.  I continue to make this mistake on a regular basis.  I figure this is karma for making fun of all my visitors to Africa who would try to enter the car on the driver’s side and I would ask them, “Are you planning to sit in my lap?”  Here I am, yet again, trying to drive while sitting in the passenger’s seat:

Last weekend my dad and I were out running errands and stopped for lunch.  The server asked what I wanted to drink.

Kelly: Can I have a Coke Light please?
Server: A what?
Kelly: A Coke Light.
Server: Well, I don’t know what a Coke Light is, but we don’t serve Coke here.
Kelly: (confused, thinks for a minute) You don’t have Coke? What do you have? (At that moment I had no clue there was any soda product besides Coke.)
Server: We serve Pepsi products.
Kelly: Ok, then can I have a Pepsi Lite?
Server: What’s that?
Dad: I think she wants a Diet Pepsi.
Server: Then why didn’t she say that?

The back and forth with the server actually went on much longer, but I won’t bother you by supplying you with the entire transcript of that conversation.  I think it will suffice to say she thought I was an idiot and customer service post-soda dialogue was sub-par.  By the way, there is NO Pepsi in Africa.  Africa is strictly a Coca-Cola continent.  Talk about a monopoly.  Oh, and in about 2/3 of Africa it is only served in glass bottles, no cans or plastic bottles like in the U.S.
This afternoon I went to the grocery store.  I waited in line, the cashier rang up my gallon of milk, and then asked me, “How do you want to pay for this?”  I was going through my wallet, which you may remember has about ten different currencies still in it, and was taken aback by the question.   Wondering if this was a trick question I said, “Ummm… U.S. dollars?”  The cashier and I stared at one another for what felt like an eternity before she finally said, “I mean cash or credit?”  Kelly: “Sorry, my bad, here,” as I shoved a five dollar bill in her hand.

There you go.  I can say with great confidence it definitely takes more than one week to break (or form) a habit.  Let’s just hope I don’t continue to drive on the wrong side of the road for the next two months- it is terrifying when I realize there is someone driving straight at me.

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