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  • Kanika Bhatia

Break the habit.

Maxwell Maltz was nothing short of a few miraculous incarnations in rhetoric. Why, you ask? Imagine a man who can give you, your ideal nose or lip and also tell you how long you will be waiting before breaking that nasty smoking habit. Maltz was the genius behind the discovery of how it takes 21 days to change, make or break a habit. He did this research based on acceptance process of his patients to a new nose, or getting rid of that phantom limb after an accident.

This theory is picked largely by authors, personal development leaders, and even our Prime Minister as an introductory step to the first Covid19 lockdown in India. It’s one of the few theories in the world that do have a practical application and work across industries, age and gender. It’s often adopted to train employees, as they are orientated to a new company with it’s own specific culture. It remains a testing ground for rehabs, AAA and believe it or not, my gym trainer. I have successfully managed to quit gym, and a horrible vaping habit last year when JUUL came out with its cucumber flavour. In my defence, it was refreshing sir.

However today I am here to introduce a fresh challenge to all of us. As a rule of the game, you can try all of them individually because let’s face it, they are hard. I will define my purpose behind the suggestion, and why is it important that you do break this habit. Hopefully by the end of this immortalised ( I do notice the irony) year, we will enter 2021 with some satisfactory sighs and good habits. You might be able to give your yearly resolutions a skip altogether too. They might even help us upgrade on a scale of Trump to as useful as Michelle Obama. So let’s begin?

  1. Casual Sexism: Root cause of this diseased outlook to life can be blamed on our forefathers. But just because it’s tradition, doesn’t mean it’s right. That logic is extended to dowry, sati, honour killings and many more. Can they all be measured in the same scale of bad decisions that messed up our society? Yes. Have we learnt enough to redeem ourselves? No, not really. Numbers and history can only be successful for a paleo diet, not for backhanded sexism on dinner tables. So maybe not expecting your mother to clean up after you, not numbering men and women based on looks, not picking a child’s wardrobe based on his gender and definitely not stereotyping kinds of women, might be a great place to start with. Breaking this habit might just help us recognise mothers, fathers, crushes and daughters, as more than just the role they play in relation to us. They are individuals with very specific characteristics. I am not putting you under human and moron together, am I?

  2. 90:10 ratio outlook: I have been a victim of this twisted sadism of sorts. The blue dot theory which defines how humans are doomed to look for problems, no matter how perfect the scenario, should have been enough to help us ‘cut it out.’ But did we? Nope, we are a stubborn lot determined to pull down and bulldoze what we see in our rampage. With online aggression the perfect tool, we micro mastered our way on telling others what they were doing wrong. Even if someone manages to have a reasonably balanced outlooked to life, work towards creating a better, least judgemental space, we might still find a way to call them out on the filter they used on their story. Hence, for 21 days, try and see if 90 percent of the communication is sound, balanced and non derogatory, you will shut it on the 10 percent. You will leave it upto them to improve and work on. If they figured a larger share of the problem, they will figure the rest too.

  3. Trivialise yourself: You know evolution isn’t essentially a smart process. It’s important, but it isn’t necessarily the brightest of the class. It however is the persistent child, to whose demands parents succumb to because they can’t shut him up. Now, even with so many centuries of data, we haven’t learnt the most important lesson of human kind. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Your average age of 79 years, isn’t even worth a blip in the larger scheme of things. We are so insignificant, except to the 10 people who love us unconditionally (debate for another time), that we make a negligible amount of difference to the world. Having said that, I am not asking you to drop your guns, throw in the towel and just eat and perish. Give large amount of importance to the work you do, to the people you care about, but reduce your inflated ego. Stop imagining the world revolves around you, it doesn’t. Stop believing every decision will make or break your life, it won’t. At the risk of sounding like a low budget Harari, nothing stays in place forever. Nearly every action is reversible or alterable. For the next 21 days, take yourself less seriously.

  4. Get political: The illusion of freedom amidst humans, is worth a case study. We have been made to believe that having hundred options to choose for our breakfast cereal ensures we are decision makers of our lives. Unfortunately, the mist of choices is what took our true freedom away. At the risk of sounding philosophical masked by science, we no longer have the option of not existing as a data in an excel somewhere. We don’t have the choice of abandon. When societies develop, politics become an ingrained reality that you can’t ignore. Currently, we are probably the most politicised world we have ever been. Hence even your “evolved” decision of not being political is a very political stand. However, politics remains the misunderstood middle child. It exists and needs as much as the other facets of the world we live in. For 21 days, make informed rationales. Learn about the world around you. Understand if you’re truly being apolitical or is it the script of a certain ideology read enough times before you to make you left or right leaning intrinsically? Educate yourself to side with the right side of history. Left and right ideologies are more than just chalk and cheese debates. This ensures our future generations grow up to stand for less extremism and more balance.

  5. Mass bias: One of the most common failures in history is numbers defining prejudice. We inherit these bias with our genes, but luckily, they aren’t as permanent as them. A common method is to divide anything on an ideological difference of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Whoever them might be. There is a very interesting conversation between a Brahmin and a Nawab, in Qurratulain Hyder’s ‘Fireflies in the mist.’ The Nawab invites the Brahmin to lunch, followed by an enquiry if he is evolved enough to now eat with muslims and christians. The Brahmin simply smiles to deliver the message. The conversation ends with Nawab mentioning how he respects taboos associated with their and his culture. No harm no foul. Lesson: don’t hate what you don’t get. Don’t look at the world with a coloured lens defined by our limited upbringing. Our parents are not the library on all that exists in this world. Just because it’s your culture, it doesn’t mean it’s flawless. Cherry picking evidence to support your thinking is a classic example of confirmation bias. We see, listen and accept only those facts, notions that support our cause, whatever that might be. Just because a mass of people believe Hinduism is the oldest religion, doesn’t make it so. Jews, Chinese and Muslims lay that claim too. So believing in your superiority for no reason is a case of mass manias, and nothing else.

  6. Belly Breathing: This remains the non controversial, easiest of the lot. It’s almost earth shattering when you realise that their are experts required to teach people how to carry out the basics of human existence: sleep, eat, breathe, repeat. Breathing from your stomach is one of the number of things evolution messed up on. We were belly breathers till we decided to use our chest for no good reason. Result, we became shallow breathers with lack of good oxygen in our systems. My unscientific, limbic brain likes to blame this for our impatience, bad decision making and lack of chill in life. This remains the single most fundamental exercise for a better, longer life. A longer shelf life gives us more opportunities to undo our general fuckery.

Try them in the serial order suggested. Maybe we do see a change in the world around us.

Disclaimer: In no way, does the writer claim to have mastered any of the above. She is a work in progress herself. However that belly breathing? She is nailing it.


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