Why You Don’t Miss 2:00 am on Some Sunday in March

Twice a year, we remind ourselves that change is easier than we think

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)

Let’s talk for a minute about what we just went through over the weekend. If you live in Arizona, keep reading. This involves you, too.

Most of us lost an hour of sleep on Sunday. Some of us went to bed an hour early (good for you!), some chose to sleep in, and some split the difference. Some of us forgot entirely. By Monday morning, though, we had all set our clocks ahead. The hour had been lost. We all got up an hour earlier.

And a funny thing happened.

We survived.

Step back from the time change for a moment. How many of us want to get up earlier in the morning? Ask this question in most rooms, and a lot of hands will go up. Mine would.

We all have our reasons why we don’t. Mine is that by the time the kids go to bed and I have a chance to get some work done without them interrupting, I’m getting to bed too late, so I sleep in. Some days, all I’m doing is “relaxing” by watching a little TV.

The biggest reason, though, is scripting. Somewhere deep inside, “midnight is a perfectly reasonable time to go bed” is written in your brain. You don’t even know it’s there, but it’s there, pulling your bedtime towards midnight.

Now let’s consider some of the other beliefs you might have written nearby.

  • “I can get a lot accomplished after I put the kids to bed.”
  • “I need at least 7 hours of sleep.”
  • “I will be more successful if I get up at 5:00 am.”

None of these beliefs are necessarily wrong, but when you put them together, they can create tension. Put the kids to bed, stay up until midnight working on the taxes… now do you choose to get up at five or to get seven hours of sleep? Something has to give.

We can make resolutions to go to bed at 10:00 pm and get up at 5:00 am, but if we don’t change anything about the beliefs that we’ve written in our brains, the change won’t last.

So what happened this week? Why were we able to get up an hour earlier and make it stick?

DST doesn’t work because a social norm (everybody’s doing it), or external accountability (I still have to be at work at 8:00am). It works because it doesn’t challenge our scripted notion of when we get up and go to bed. There’s some momentary discomfort, but after a week, we’re back to business as usual.

A wartime proposal to have everyone go to bed and wake up an hour earlier would never have worked. It would have failed miserably. Changing behavior—literally overnight—is difficult.

If you want to change your behavior, you need to change your beliefs. Unfortunately, it can be hard to correctly identify the beliefs that shape our behavior. It can take a long time to ask enough whys to get to the root of it.

Once you do identify the belief, you can change the behavior. Maybe not overnight, but quicker than you think.

Is it time to change the clocks again? Or is time time to change?

Question: What beliefs are holding you back? What beliefs are springing you forward? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.