It’s been four weeks since John Tallmadge first shared his #CarlessMarch challenge here on the blog. Research says it takes 21 days, or three weeks, to form a new habit. However, the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick” by psychologist Jeremy Dean found that habits take an average of 66 days to form. Moreover, he found that small habitual changes came quickly and stuck around for longer. Subjects could easily start drinking a glass of water after breakfast and remember to do so day after day, but true behavorial changes came a lot harder.
I often write about taking small steps. Making small changes in your commute, choosing to get up earlier to catch the bus, creating an account on STRNC to find a carpool match, etc. But today, John explains what he’s learned it takes to truly form new habits and make a change:
Now into my last week of #carlessmarch, I’ve realized that I’ve not really shared my motivations for leaving the car keys at home this month. In the first #carlessmarch post I shared, “My reasons are to more fully understand the experiences of our customers who do not drive, and to reduce carbon emissions from my own choices.” Regarding the first, I wanted to directly experience relying on my feet, my bike, and public transportation for getting around. Most of our customers at Triangle Transit and DATA use public transportation as their first option for getting around. And I hear the complaint from some customers that if the decision-makers had to ride the bus all the time, they’d make better decisions. I do believe that it is easier to understand others, having walked a mile in their shoes.
My second motivation is to reduce the carbon pollution that I’m responsible for. I believe the scientists who tell us that climate change is real, it’s happening now, and that the changes will be significant and dangerous if we don’t act now as a global community to reverse our carbon pollution levels. However, despite believing that intellectually, I hadn’t done much to change my daily behavior. For a long time, I’ve felt a disconnect between what I say I believe and the actions that I take. It was time to make a concerted effort to bring my beliefs and actions into sync.
So I started walking, biking, and taking the bus – not for the first time, certainly. I regularly use walk, bike, or take the bus when it’s convenient, but not every day. My routine before starting #carlessmarch was to drive to the American Tobacco North Parking Deck and ride Route 700 to work once or twice a week. But if I needed to pick up kids or do anything else during the middle of the day, or if I was just slow getting out of the house in the morning, I’d drive. On the weekends I would sometimes walk or bike, but only when it was convenient. Changing my mindset to say, “I’m all in” on walking, biking, and riding the bus was important to my being able to break out of the habits I was in. Cold turkey, I guess.
Through our marketing and outreach at Triangle Transit, we are always telling people that they can start small with changes to their travel habits – build in a walk to a friend’s house instead of driving, start carpooling once per week. But the important part is to start. Our 14-year old daughter recently completed her first half marathon. We were very proud of the commitment she showed in preparing for it, and her determination to complete it. She did great. Afterwards, she came across a quote from running speaker and writer John Bingham, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” This was true for our daughter, and it is true for anyone trying to make a change for the better in their lives. Breaking our habits and getting started is the hard part. Helping people find the courage to break from their drive everywhere, all the time habits is what we’re about at Triangle Transit and the GoTriangle family of services.
Do you agree with John? Do you find it’s getting started that’s the hardest part of a new habit, or sticking with it? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter. Just tweet @gotriangle using #carlessmarch.
If you’re still new to #carlessmarch, click here to meet John and find out exactly why he’s going carless. Then follow him on Twitter where he’s tweeting his daily progress with #carlessmarch.