Day 92: Learning New Habits: Practice Makes Permanent

I first met Martha when we were speaking to different groups in Vail, CO in early 2010. We were treated to a tour and lunch by the hosts and made an instant connection! I later visited Martha at her home in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Aug. 2010.

Guest blog by Martha Kaufeldt.

“For me it happened about five years ago. My eighty year old mother didn’t start until she was 78. And you? When did bringing reusable shopping bags to the store become a habit for you? This simple act of supplying your own sack for groceries can make a HUGE difference on the amount of plastic bags introduced into your local environment. As my friend, solo-ocean-rower, Roz Savage confirms, a single oar stroke doesn’t seem like much at the time, but added together with many others, it can make a big difference. But how does one get into the routine of bringing reusable bags to the market and refusing to accept plastic sacks? So many have heard the message, but haven’t reached the tipping point yet and formed a new habit.

I am devoted to helping teachers learn how to be “brain changers.” From brain research, we can get ideas to help us learn and strengthen our memories, and we can also understand how to unlearn old habits by replacing them with a new pattern.

We know that as you are trying a new behavior, neurons in the brain are prompted to grow and begin to make connections with other neurons. As the learning continues with more activities, tasks, and repetitions, the synaptic connections between the neurons are strengthened and the learning becomes hardwired. If the new neural network isn’t re-stimulated, the brain will begin a natural pruning process to get rid of the little-used branches. “Use it or lose it” is absolutely true. When we repeat a task multiple times, a new track is laid down that eventually becomes more defined and efficient. Much like when one slides down a snowy hill with a toboggan. Each subsequent run etches the route more deeply, making it harder to go “outside” the path. The more we use a new pattern it eventually becomes a habit. Pretty soon we are able to multi-task because the action or procedure is so well learned that it is automatic.

Once a memory or routine is hard-wired in your brain, it may very well stay there your whole life. In order to establish a new habit such as remembering to bring along your reusable shopping bag, you must establish a new pattern and repeat it enough to hardwire it in your brain. It may take between 40-70 times of doing the new pattern before the brain wires it as a permanent pattern. When you finally reach your tipping point the desired routine is established and you are now a devoted reusable shopping bag user – refusing plastic bags fervently.

There are several things you can do to hasten the new habit along it its formation:
1)Create a roadblock to disrupt your old pattern. I placed my wallet inside the reusable bag as I went out of the house. If I started to get out of the car without the bags, I would notice as I reached for my purse.

2) I f you want to make something a new habit more quickly… visualize it! Researchers have determined that mindful practice is nearly as good as actually doing the real thing.

3) Make an emotional connection to the new action. We remember things when our emotions are involved (positive feelings would be best!) Make your reusable bag special! Have your kids decorate it or purchase one as a souvenir on a special trip. (My husband and I gave out 90 bags at our wedding as “favors” and asked our guests to use them and remember us).

4) Determine what happens just before you would do the new routine. Set up a way to trigger your memory to switch patterns. Hanging the reusable bags on the front doorknob, etc.

5) Practice the behavior several times. Hang the bags on the doorknob, place your wallet inside, walk to the car and get in, get out and fetch the bags, and lock up the car. Repeat to remember.

Just keep doing it! Practice makes permanent!”

QUOTE: “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle

Martha Kaufeldt is a veteran educator, author and teacher trainer. She is devoted to helping teachers and students discover how brains learn naturally. If the brain is the organ for learning, then teachers should be brain experts! Her books include: Begin with the Brain: Orchestrating the Learner-Centered Classroom (2009), Teachers, Change Your Bait! Brain-Compatible Differentiated Instruction (2005), and Think Big, Start Small: How to Differentiate in a Brain-Friendly Classroom (Sept 2011) Martha lives in Scotts Valley, CA in the beautiful redwood forest near Santa Cruz. Visit her web site: http://www.beginwiththebrain.com
Or LIKE her Facebook page: Begin with the Brain.

Other Stuff:

I am starting to make slow but steady progress in the right direction. This is good. Conditions today were rough, and I was repeatedly tipped off my rowing seat by boisterous waves. But no harm done.

I saw a Humbug Fish (aka pilot fish) squiggling alongside my boat today. First time in a while I’ve seen one. Nice to re-make the acquaintance of the little stripey chappies.

Ken B – appreciated the comment about “the green thing back then”. It’s true – not long ago we used to be a lot more sensible, a lot less throwaway. Even *I* can remember those times! I wonder how we can return to those values without people getting uppity and whining that we’re taking away their right to create as much trash as they want to?

Marks-the-Spot – you ask: Big corporations, big government, big religion, is there any difference? Interesting that what these three have in common is “big”…. I’m listening to “Jennifer Government” at the moment – a frighteningly plausible logical conclusion to the way we’re heading.

Deb Smith and Chance – thanks for the jokes. Very good!!!

Sponsored Miles: Thanks to Sylvia and Darrell Vice, Bonnie Sterngold.

(Why Roz’s progress is not shown)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Martha!  I got my very first reusable shopping bag from Roz. Thank you, Roz! It was a deep blue and emblazoned with a large Savage. I frequently forgot it, but decided to keep it in the trunk of my car. Still, several repeated “near misses” … my weekly routine is to stop to get veggies for the week on Sunday night, so as I drove from home to town where I work, I would visualize … IT WORKED!  Now it is permanent.  IT REALLY WORKED.  

    Now I have several bags.  The clerks at the grocery know me! I have made new friends, and they get it.  Paper or plastic?  “No, give it to somebody else.  Let’s save a tree and a turtle.” The ripples spread to the person standing behind me, hopefully.

    Now I am rearranging my shopping schedule to include the farmers’ market on Saturday instead of putting it off to Sunday evening.

    Having read Martha’s blog, I am redoubling my commitment.

    Row rippling, Roz!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1532019852 Joan Sherwood

    Hey, Roz! Don’t want you to think I’ve been forgetting about you. Just crazy-busy these days. Deb and I have possibly found the farm property we’ve been looking for. We’re very excited. We’re all well. Think about you every day. 

  • Stephen Stewart

    Yep, been using reusable bags for about 42 years.  My family used them before me.  Great info.,thanks.
    Sure can be annoying when one catches a crab or when taking a stroke you rise on a wave and are lifted off your sliding seat.  Or when the current or wind is contrary and one is obliged to row with one oar for miles to stay on course in a following sea.  The best is when you can roll with the waves and still make progress.
    Cheers Roz,  go go go    Stephen

  • Stephen Stewart

    Sent my father a link to the 5 gyres website.  He said thanks!  A friend and co worker  and I were talking about the plastic in the ocean yesterday.

  • Anonymous

    Roz Solidarity Sunset is slated for Saturday, August 13 at *your* sunset. Depending on your latitude (from the equator) it should be about 8:00 to 8:30 PM. The exact sunset time for your area can be easily googled and also through local news or weather channels.At *your* sunset, raise a toast of a concoction of your choice to Roz and send her fair wishes and good vibes in true bohemian fashion.  —   Additionally, (If you are in the US Pacific time, for instance, this is in the morning about 8:45AM) you can raise a toast to her at *her* sunset. This is how to guess at *her* time of sunset:  click on http://www.sunrisesunsetmap.com click on the date (Saturday, August 13) down, below “Time Zone”, click on “Change” from the drop down menu. scroll all the way down to GMT + 5 or GMT + 6NOTE: this is only an estimate, her coordinates remain private Then: On the map to the left, zoom out using the – or minus button until you see entire continentsclick and drag until you point to *your* estimated spot in the Indian Oceanclick on that spot. It will calculate and show you *her* estimated stats based on your guess. Look for sun and not moon times.It is important that you change all three parameters; date, time zone and map, in order to get the correct … guess :) PLEASE do NOT post your guess! I am superstitious about such things and afterall, this was my idea and fear that guilt would lay squarely on my shoulders in some kharmic way. This is meant to be a “sending of good vibes” from you directly to Roz and thus, void of our eavesdropping. Please also note that this is only for the more obsessive/compulsive of us… the rest of us could easily just raise a glass of water at any time, give or take a month, and send good vibes the “old school” way! 
    In other news: three minutes into this video is Jack Johnson changing his habits! Thanks to Surfing for Change and Kyle! (Thanks Martha, Marcus and Team Roz!)
     
    http://youtu.be/q1Pb6cEC_gw
     Cheers all~ Jay Row Roz Row!
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/Moonshadow2 Cynthia Kruger

    Great blog Roz and Martha!

    I’ve been using reusable bags for some time now and still get the strangest look from clerks when I refuse a bag at all.  Heck we’ve got two good hands to carry things with and there’s the reusable bag, our knapsacks, and purses.  What on earth do we need a bag for.  Especially if something like crisps is already in a bag??
    Anyway . . . there was an interesting article on the SF Gate website today about the Pacific Voyagers Expedition canoes making it to San Francisco Bay late yesterday.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/hawaii/detail?entry_id=94575&tsp=1

  • http://www.facebook.com/martha.kaufeldt Martha Miller Kaufeldt

    My post wasn’t as philosophical as Roz’s – but thanks for the feedback.. I also don’t think that forgetting to bring a reusable bag is as much of a problem in the UK or Europe as it is for us in the U.S.. And I was reminded of this classic Canvas Bag Anthem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVh15aUt8-c 

  • Stephen Stewart

    Thanks Jay for the info.  Great stuff. Are you really outside?  Or outside the norm.  I am in the PDT.  I miss the bay.  Dang.  It is only 700 miles away.  Perhaps I could row it.  Don’t have a boat though.  Listening to take 5.     Cheers Mate,   Steve

  • Rico

    Yesterday, OutsideJay made the following comment:

    “I dream a lot when out at sea ….”
    Sounds like a perfect cadence to the beginning of a poetic verse …
    Anybody care to take the helm of this one?”

    He was referring to a couple sentences that Roz had written in the blog:  “I dream a lot when I’m at sea.  Waves wake me up many times during the night either by crashing noisily into the side of the cabin or by shaking me into wakefulness.  So I’m often in the dream phase of sleep, and can usually remember quite a lot of what I was dreaming just before the ocean interrupted me.”

    I decided to take Jay up on his challenge, and I played around with using Roz’s sentence (“I dream a lot when out at sea ….”) both as the beginning or as the end to a poem.  I came up with a number of different versions.  But you know, Jay, ultimately I realized that with a little reformatting, Roz herself was actually the best poet.  So here is Roz’s poem, in her own words:

    “I dream a lot when I’m at sea.
    Waves wake me up
    many times during the night,
    either by crashing noisily
    into the side of the cabin,
    or by shaking me into wakefulness.”

    “So, I’m often
    in the dream phase of sleep,
    and can usually remember
    quite a lot of what
    I was dreaming, just before
    the ocean interrupted me.”

    Wow … Roz is actually a terrific poet !!!

  • Stephen Stewart

    This is fun, posting on your blog Roz!  Especially after fighting with a stubborn mortise lock all day! And it is hot here for the Nordoueste. (NW). only 85 degrees F.  I guess I’m getting soft.  I am a carpenter after all.  It should be easy.  Went to Stumptown (Portland, Oregon), (don’t ask me about contemporary forest practices I’ll tell everything I know!) to find  a used (repurposed) one that would fit but it gave us fits.  I hour on the road and 3 hours looking.  ARRGH,  is there a cure for frustration?  Beer? Many thoughts come to mind reading your blog but one burning question bubbles up to the surface….do you row left over right or right over left?   Go baby go!    Cheers,   Steve

  • Anonymous

    Stephen, I believe she had them cut so there’s no overlap.

  • Outsidejay

    Awesome!

  • Outsidejay

    Yup, outside, a little of both… :) I plan to stick to less open bodies of water. I might be able to do it, but for the life of me, I don’t know why. That Roz has some gumption. So I figure she deserves at the very least, our heart felt well wishes!

    Row Roz Row!

  • Pippa

    Excellent guest blog.

  • Stephen Stewart

    Thanks Unca Doug.

  • dawn

    Hafa adai from Guam!  I’m looking for some examples of visual rubrics with students demonstrating readiness.  Martha shared some at the January NTC Symposium, and I think they will be useful to share with one of our SPED teachers.