I have no doubt that starting small and forcing yourself to repeat actions over and over again will have the desired outcome of instilling a learned behavior that will work sometimes. Like eating an elephant.

However, even accepting that as true, you’ve still left one critical element out of your design by not designating WHEN you will repeatedly attempt to perform a learned behavior in the hopes of generating a positive habit.

Most positive change work requires a definite timetable, a schedule that identifies specifically when you will perform the desired action. This should be replicable, something you can do at the same time every day. This creates an anchor for your behavior, the knowledge that you have to do such and such an action at such and such a time. It also installs a trigger mechanism by identifying a specific time of day with the habit building activity.

If you don’t do this, the inclination to postpone the activity to a more opportune moment ends up resulting in the failure of the effort.

I’m basing this on 20 years of change work conducted in residential and outpatient substance abuse recovery programs. Addicts, of course, live highly chaotic, discontinuous lives but, then, doesn’t that sound more and more like what contemporary civilization is becoming?

Alan is a poet, journalist, short story writer, editor, website developer, and political activist. He is the executive editor of BindleSnitch.com.