Caffeine comeback: What to do when your new habit lapses

What will you do, when you clean out a Dirty Rabbit only to scuff up the den again? I broke my bad caffeine habit, then broke my good caffeine habit. Here’s how I mended it all

Incentivise sticking to a habit

I’m a mug when it comes to coffee. Laura Eades 2014

You have a shiny new habit

It’s good. You trust yourself. You are confident. Possibly cocky.

I was really pleased with getting my caffeine levels down to one huge cup to start the day, then a tea later. That felt really steady.

Stuff happens. Disruptive stuff. Like, Summer.

Like, I dunno, a deadline, a visit, a disappointment, an illness, a birthday celebration.

Like, you have a baby, just for example. I’m just saying. This is the kind of stuff that just, you know, gets in the way of your idea of your perfect lifestyle.

Makes you want another cup of coffee.

Habits are autopilot

My understanding of flying is, once you’ve done the takeoff, the pilot can switch on autopilot.

And it’s, like, some kind of computer or whatnot, which senses when the plane is drifting a little, and just corrects its course. Constant checking and tweaking, a little bit of correction.

I’ve started tanking up on coffee. WHAT A FAILURE! I WAS SO GOOD FOR SO LONG!

Alright, alright! Calm down!

Instead of giving yourself a hard time, when you drift, just know that is absolutely to be expected. You might spend your life checking and correcting, rebalancing. You haven’t failed, it’s just how your Brian works.

But won’t I have to start again now that I’ve RUINED IT?

Don’t exaggerate. That’s just the caffeine talking.

Set yourself a little incentive.

OK: A new mug after a week of going back to your one-cup-a-day. A really really nice new mug. Right.

One week later.

That was easy! It was stupidly easy, I was just scared of it. Because all was not lost. I had trodden a new path last time, I just had to choose to walk it again. And the really exciting incentive, and achievable timeframe, really helped.

Where did I read that? About making a habit being like walking a new path through snow on the way to school in Canada. Was it here, perhaps?

You’ve done the groundwork

It was right. I’ve had that experience with learning languages. After  a year of Italian lessons I couldn’t speak a word. I went to the country and had to start from scratch. Except, when I did, I found I’d carved the pathways, they just needed retreading.


My parents’ friend has a job doing that for real for Devon County Council! He walks footpaths to keep them in existence. What a job! What a metaphor!

* * *

How are your habit levels? Tanked up on espresso and raring to have your say? Click on the pale grey dot under the ‘plus’ sign to open the comment thread and pitch in.

* * *

Read more on Illustrated Guide to Life: