7 Myths about habit formation…busted

At the 31st annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, NM, TAA members Erin McTigue, Tracey Hodges, and Sharon Matthews presented a session titled, Moving from “Pesky” to “Productive”.

In this presentation they shared advice on developing a healthy, sustainable writing habit. To establish a growth mindset capable of accomplishing this goal, they acknowledged seven common myths about habit formation – and the reality of each.

Myth #1 – You can form habits through motivation

Bad news: Having all the motivation in the world will not insure habits formation.

Good news: If you have trouble building habits, it does not mean that you are unmotivated.

Myth #2 – Learning about benefits will help us form new habits

Educating people about the benefits of a behavior does not equal changing habits. Habits are formed through doing – not thinking about them.

Myth #3 – Lack of will power is to blame for our failure to form habits

Habits mediate our behavior between self-control & positive life outcomes.

Myth #4 – Goal setting is more powerful than environmental change

The environment tends to be more powerful – e.g., Want to eat more healthy foods? Put the junk food out of sight and leave washed fruits & veggies within sight and reach.

Myth #5 – To cultivate discipline you need a lifestyle overhaul (a la: cleanses, bootcamps)

Lifestyle overhauls have a much greater chance of failure than small, incremental change (i.e., microhabits).

Myth #6 – It takes 21 days to form a habit

Time helps but depends on how “difficult” a habit is – e.g., drinking water before meals was achieved by most study participants in 18 days; regular exercising took more than a year.

Myth #7 – Apps can change our behavior

They can help you monitor behavior better than change one’s behavior.

To build healthy, sustainable habits (in writing or other areas of desired growth), the presenters suggested that you examine your current habits for underlying features that make them strong. For the habits you wish to form – your “not yet” habits – consider how those features can be applied and what conditions are preventing those habits from forming.

The complete Moving from “Pesky” to “Productive”: Developing a Healthy, Sustainable Writing Habit presentation is available in the TAA Presentations on Demand library.


Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.