How Long Does it Take to Change Consumer Habits?

Calendar_2I'm slammed this week with deadlines so I have little time to post. I've been looking over some of the old posts during the year of our consumption experiment and this one from five months in grabbed my attention. The original post with comments is available here.

This week as we sat down to dinner; me comfortably snug in my Value Village Shoes and sweaty from the bike ride home from work, Nancy fashionably dressed in her second hand dress, the girls fresh from a joyful jaunt in the garden maze, all of us eager to dig into some local asparagus, field greens, homemade bread, home churned butter, and meatloaf made from deer meat provided by a hunting friend. About half way through the meal, it dawned on me that I hadn't given any of these things a second thought. All of these practices were normal. We've gone from wondering if it was even possible to follow these rules, to having them be a new, no big deal, normal (at least for one night).

I've read different things about how long it takes to change habits. Anywhere from 21 days to three months. Our experience around consumption is that it takes one day to change habits but it takes almost five months for these new patterns to feel somewhat normal. I guess it also depends on the nature of the changes we seek and how ingrained they are.

We've also learned that it doesn't take a long time of preparation to make the changes. We formulated our rules for consumption on December 27, implemented them on January 1, and have been on a steep but fun learning curve ever since. We allowed ourselves a lot of freedom to fail, and were very open to the possibility that we wouldn't make it. I guess we're still open to that possibility, but with the summer veggies on the way, it feels like we've got some good wind in our sails at this point.

One lesson we're learning is that our previous patterns of consumption seemed so unchangeable. It was just the way the world was. Everybody did it that way. It was hard to imagine that there were other ways of doing things. We're learning as a family that all habits, patterns, and practices of consumption are changeable. It might take 5 months to feel comfortable with them, but nothing need be inevitable or set in stone.