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kyanblue's avatar

How long does it take for you to internalize an attitude/mindset and think that way automatically?

Asked by kyanblue (1182points) May 9th, 2010

This is a really obscure title, I know. I’m not sure how to word it. But I think it would help if I began with a story:

I was in Wal-Mart today. I bought a good deal of junk food and some toiletries. When the cashier handed over the receipt and moved on to the next customer I noticed she’d split my purchases into two plastic bags.

At this point I realized how much my parents have instilled into me a sense of frugality and aversion to waste (which the whole eco-friendly craze agrees well with) because I thought, “Why two bags?”

And since she was helping the next customer I ended up shifting everything into one bag (she’d divided it up so one bag was food, one bag was my toiletries) and going off. I’m pretty sure everyone else thought I was being too obsessive.

The thing is, this isn’t something I would’ve done a year ago. A year ago I wouldn’t have noticed I had two bags. I wouldn’t have thought about the pile of plastic bags I keep on acquiring. I used to have to consciously remind myself to be ‘green’ I do it automatically. It’s interesting.

Have you ever tried to change your way of thinking or the way you go about life (being less judgmental, more environmentally conscious, less confrontational)? How long did it take for you to do that naturally?

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12 Answers


I used to think that most teenagers were goofy and irresponsible because of poor upbringing, but when I learned that the reason why a lot of adolescents behave the way they do is not necessarily the parents’ fault, but that their brains, like other organs, haven’t sufficiently “matured” yet. The brains of most teenagers haven’t fully developed yet, hence their inability to adapt and cope with adult life. So now, when I see teenage boys yelling like crazy and acting stupid at the bus-stop, for no apparent reason other than to make a scene, I think “It’s their immature brains, nothing else.” I’ve come to accept that explanation and no longer get mad at such bizzare behavior. Lol.

myopicvisionary's avatar

It can be done in an instant.

marinelife's avatar

It takes 21 days for something to become a habit.

ninjacolin's avatar

I was just thinking about the can of soda I have in the fridge. I have an empty one here on the desk in front of me. It’s Cream Soda, to be specific. I had a hard time drinking the first one and I’m having an even harder time deciding to go get the other one in the fridge. It’s been two days now! Why? too much sugar! Not that it tastes bad, I love the taste.. but I’m developing an aversion to excess sugar ever since I started seeing this nutritionist chick.

I’ve cut down my double-double coffees to single-singles. I find myself second guessing ice cream options. I complained about how fattening my sushi might have been yesterday.. something’s definitely shifted in my thinking.

As far as I can tell, it was pretty instant for me the moment she said: “You don’t need all that sugar in your body.” Such a simple sentence about 3 weeks ago but I can’t get the image of her saying it out of my head for some reason.

Anyway, @kyanblue I was thinking your question could be worded: “How long does it take for you to become conscious of a new conviction.” I think doing any of those types of positive behaviors, whether making decisions for bodily health or global health, requires consciousness of the reasons why those behaviors are superior than their alternatives. I find it very similar to hypnotism. You have to just be taken by an idea and have it so present at the forefront of your mind that you can’t help but have your actions altered by that awareness.

I find we can sometimes act in lesser ways (eg. Not asking for a single bag a the grocer) simply because we forget or lose conscious awareness of our more useful convictions. It’s a lot like locking your keys in the door. Everyone knows you should take your keys with you when you leave your car, but if you forget for just a second.. shit happens.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Once I make up my mind to change my behaviour, it is pretty much a fait accompli (done deal).

kyanblue's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Interesting! But then sometimes stupid behavior is still stupid behavior when you’re older than 7—I cut no slack for my peers.

Thanks for the answers! It got me to thinking…I once read that it’s not particularly hygienic to rest your cheek in your hand because your hand touches doorknobs and other things, so over the day it accumulates germs that you just transfer onto your face. It freaked me out and I stopped that habit almost instantaneously.

Physical habits are easy for me to start or stop. I think mental ones are much tougher.

@ninjacolin Don’t know if that’s quite the right title yet; I’m going a bit more for the sense that you consciously seek to change your behavior to the point where it becomes natural.


@kyanblue You’re most welcome. That’s interesting about the germ thing. I also read somewhere that germs/bacteria can actually “migrate” from your hands to your forearms——that’s why you see a lot of doctors washing not only their hands but their forearms too, with hot water and soap. Surgeons, especially, will scrub not only their hands but their arms too before a surgery. :)

Chongalicious's avatar

When I first started learning Spanish, I had to train myself to think in Spanish in order to make it easier to learn; now, I do it without noticing sometimes… someone may talk to me in Spanish and I won’t even notice that I replied in the same language until someone points out how amazed they are that I can speak it so well lol :)

It happened pretty quickly! Within a year, I would say.

jeanmay's avatar

It really depends what it is, and how much I care about it. The green thing is important to me, and over-use of plastic bags and packaging drives me bonkers. I don’t remember a time when this wasn’t the case, so like you, I think I got this from my parents at an early age. I am, however, terrible about my hot water usage. Despite caring a great deal about the environment, I love a long hot shower and have a terrible habit of running the water when I’m washing dishes. When I lived at home my parents complained to me about this, but never got through to me. When I went to university and shared a flat with 5 other girls, they always complained about how long I would take in our one bathroom, so I cut down my shower time a fraction. When I got married and had a son, I found I had little time for personal indulgences (never could figure out when you’re supposed to wash as a new mum) and our hot water bill to be ridiculous. Those two factors contributed to my shower time being cut by about 90%. From the time I started taking my own showers, aged 6 or 7, to considerably shorter showers now: twenty-two years. Terrible!

In brief, the time in which it takes to change your thinking depends on what you care about more: keeping the old habit or adopting a new one.

YARNLADY's avatar

It really depends. The verdict is still out on how long it will take me to realize I can’t go out and move the wash to the dryer and leave my lunch on my table. Every time I do, the dog eats it, yet I do it day after day.

Berserker's avatar

I usually go through such changes gradually, and by the time I realize that some years back I was different than now, it’s much too late to pinpoint an exact and accurate factor which may have caused it then, Unless I have repressed war memories. and even reflecting on it can get complicated, since the subject seems to try to eats own tail when I think that I’m thinking about a way I was with a mindframe that I didn’t have then.

mcbealer's avatar

For me, a memorable attitude change was to accept compliments gracefully. This wasn’t terribly difficult to accomplish, more a case of learning to bite my tongue. Prior to that, I always found myself coming back with a “reason” instead of just saying ‘thank you.’ For an example, if someone complimented something I was wearing, my gut reaction used to be to comment on what a bargain it had been or how it was an old favorite.

More recently, I came to the realization that there is no reason to delay joy. So whenever possible, I don’t delay joy. Simple, right? For me it’s one further step down the road of living in the moment, and honoring a long held belief, carpe diem.

I agree with @marinelife in that 21 days is pretty typical for behavioral changes. Emotional ones are often more complex, and take longer.

I applaud you for committing to make what is seemingly a small green decision, and sticking to it, even when it’s neither popular nor convenient. In a related note, I think you might enjoy reading about schlumpy if you’re not already familiar.

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