Measures for making and breaking habits

‘How long does it take to form a new habit?’

People often ask this question, but it isn’t useful. Habit formation depends less on duration and more on frequency. In one week, a person who does 10 push-ups everyday will get much farther than somebody who only pushes-up 10 times during the weekends.

When it comes to making new habits, a more useful question is ‘how often does it take’.

Yet, the question of ‘how long does it take’ is still useful, when we speak about breaking habits.

When it comes to breaking habits, duration makes sense. If you want to break a habit of snacking on potato chips, each day you go without snacking on chips is a small step towards breaking the habit.

Think of forming habits in terms of reps. Think of breaking habits in terms of duration.

The effect and cause trap

Celebrities lead lavish lives. Their fans sometimes also try and lead lavish lives to be celebrated and admired.

Yet, the reason they admired those celebrities are because they are great actors, entrepreneurs, sportspersons etc., and not because of their lifestyle.

Startups that need to scale often hire a bunch of talented people, hoping that all those people will help them grow at a rapid rate. If it helped Twitter and Uber scale, the same might work for them?

Yet, they often forget how Twitter and Uber scaled mainly because they had a great product – not because of how large their headcount was.

Athletes often endorse the high-end models of certain sporting brands. This tempts their young fans to also splurge on this equipment, in the hope that it will elevate their own game.

Yet, replacing standard sporting equipment with a high-end variant doesn’t really boost sporting performance.

The effect of celebrity is living it up. The effect of building a successful product is the need to hire a large team. The effect of being a world-class athlete is the privilege to endorse certain brands. Only too often, we mistake these effects for causes.

Cause and effect. In that order.