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Broken Windows

When you take your first steps towards improving what you see in the mirror (or the weights on the barbell) things can seem exciting,you’re full of enthusiasm and motivation.  You make sure you do a weekly shop that covers all your food and snack needs; you take time to prepare your lunch instead of grabbing junk on the fly and actually take a break from the desk to eat it; you hit the gym 3 or more times a week; you make sure you go to bed at a decent hour. Then the honeymoon period ends.  First you stop taking that time out at lunch, next you stop making yourself a decent lunch, then you start staying up late with a glass of wine to relax etc etc.  and before you know it you haven’t been to the gym in months and you’re back where you started.

Iwent through this cycle myself a few times until I asked myself thequestion, how did it start?  For me, it came down to not dealing withthe first little slips and letting the poorer habits take hold again;the first was not making my own lunches – this left me open totemptation when going in to the local shop.  It would all then fallapart from there.

Then I read an article about Rudy Giuliani’s “broken window”approach to policing and decided to apply it to myself.  The was based on the theory of the same name that states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism,public drinking, and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening(1). I figured I could use the same logic to stop me giving up.  Simply put, I just dealt with the first little slips as they arose (like the first set of broken windows on a building) before they led to other good habits falling by the wayside (in the same way as not dealing with the windows could lead to other acts of vandalism of both that building and others in the area).

It’s not a perfect solution, but if you build in a time-frame to get each broken window fixed (e.g. making sure that you have prep done for the following day’s or week’s lunch if you don’t get it done today), then it can really help stop you sliding back to old habits.





1.Wilson, James Q; Kelling, George L (Mar 1982), "Broken Windows:The police and neighborhood safety"