… it takes three weeks to change a habit
… our habits do not reflect who we really are
.. a habit is just a behavioural pattern we’ve created over time
Some habits you never thought you’d be able to let go of will fall away effortlessly and some habits you never though you’d form become second nature.
Colleen Patrick Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge
This time last year, if you had told me that I would voluntarily choose to never eat cheese or eggs again I would have thought that was impossible. In large part this was based on ignorance of what I was really eating, The knowledge was deliberately, by myself and my culture, keep just out of sight. Every now and then I would glimpse its shadow, and quickly turn away. A not insignificant part of my not knowing, was not wanting to know.
In the video below Colleen talks about habits and why she wrote the book. The following quote is from the video,
” … it’s about the transition process, so any behavioural expert will tell you it takes three weeks, four weeks to change a habit … and in that time it’s all about changing your thinking and changing your behaviour, so … by the end of the thirty days you have new behaviours and new skills, so that’s the principal behind the thirty day vegan challenge
… it’s like the Karate Kid when he was like waxing on and waxing off and all the things that he was learning, and he was like ‘Why am I painting all of your fences and why am I washing your cars; this is ridiculous’, and then all of a sudden he was tasked to use those skills that he was learning without realising he was learning them, and that’s kind of what happens in 30 day. You go ‘oh my gosh, I didn’t even, I’m thinking about things differently, I’m making different choices, because I have new ‘muscles’ now that I didn’t have before, and that’s the whole principle behind the 30 Day Vegan Challenge.”
At work yesterday, I was looking for images to illustrate Classical Conditioning Theory. I found the image below. Here is one of the actual dogs used in the experiments, taxidermied and on display in a Russian museum, still with the surgically implanted saliva catcher. I was suddenly confronted with a lot of horrible thoughts. This dog looks young, when and how was he killed? What was his life? Who is he? He doesn’t even have a name. His only value was his use as a ‘dog’ in a famous experiment. What happened to Pavlov’s famous dogs once the experiments were over? I doubt this would have been my thought process before I went vegan. I would not have seen the dog, only the object of an experiment.
Ironically, the dog conditioning experiments were used to help psychologists explain human behaviour. (Though not without scaring poor baby Albert first, they even filmed it.) So, on some level we know that we are like other mammals, yet still tell ourselves that they are so different from us that we can do whatever we want to them without consequence. In Pavlov’s experiments the dogs were treated like objects, yet we knew they were not because the data was used to speculate on the nature of human behaviour. It is a complete contradiction because if the dogs were just objects then the experiments would have been useless. Colleen’s focus is on individuals, but the habits of individuals collectively build systems. Systems that view animals as objects.
We are mammals, more similar to other animals than we want to admit. Most of who we are and what we do is instinctual and automatic. Very little is at the level of our conscious or rational awareness. We react to triggers in predictable ways. We automatically perform behaviours and think thoughts that we have been conditioned to have. Think about the ordinary, mundane actions and reactions you have in day. The overwhelming bulk of it is habit. Habit of thought in response to an environmental trigger that in turn motivates or triggers a desire or behaviour.
When we push ourselves out of the ‘comfort zone’ what we are doing is consciously making a decision to disrupt our conditioning. It can be as simple as changing what we eat for breakfast, how we travel to work, even choosing to take the stairs instead of the lift.
Since I started going vegan over six months ago my habits of thought and behaviour have changed. A significant change made up of hundreds of smaller changes that add up to one profound change. Some of these changes were deliberate and conscious attempts to change patterns of thought and behaviour. Others occurred without my even realising they had happened.
How much of what we do, we just do because … we don’t even know why. One of the unexpected benefits of going vegan is getting to live life more consciously – making deliberate choices rather than simply doing what my culture has conditioned me to do.
The process of choosing to live a more ethical life is the day-to-day process of changing habits of thought and behaviour.
However, Colleen’s 30 Days by themselves may not be enough for everyone, as they are living with something much darker – addiction. This hasn’t been my own experience, but I want to acknowledge it, because if after pushing through the first few days or weeks someone reading this is still fighting cravings for so-called “foods” that your heart can no longer bare to eat, you may need more than the wonderful Colleen Patrick Goudreau.
“You’re eating through fake signals that have nothing to do with hunger.”
While this quote (from the video below) applies to all of us living in the affluent first world, it is especially applicable, I think, to people living with addiction. However, since the video explains so well the role conditioning plays in addiction by an adorable, sweetheart of a guy who is not only living his way back to an ethical, healthy life, but reaching out to help others, I will shut up. I can’t really add anything more useful than to recommend watching the video.