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Coronavirus; Disruption = Opportunity

In listening to Wendy Wood’s excellent book, Good Habits Bad Habits today, I came across an interesting way of describing our present situation.  Wendy describes how ‘Discontinuity’ and a break from our normal habits and routines can create new opportunities.

Wood writes,

A book over for Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood
“Habit discontinuity is powerful. It alters the balance of habit and decision making in our lives. Disruption makes us think. In doing so it can make life interesting, allowing us to more closely align ourselves with our values and interests, but it can also put beneficial habits at risk.”


The discontinuity we are facing is hugely unwelcome in all of our lives. However, we have no control over much of that. What we do have is control over our response. We can use the opportunity to remake ourselves. To literally become the person we want to become. We are more pliable. The disruption of the status quo is out of our control. But the remaking of our current selves is up to us.

If you had just nailed getting to a gym regularly or sorted healthy eating patterns, it is important not to let this discontinuity disrupt those. You need to pivot contexts. Take stock of the confines you find yourself in now and think about how to make your old habits work in this new context. Right now some people are making it work watching Joe Wick’s daily P.E sessions. If you can make this work, it is possible to continue after this period is over, or to pivot back into the original context, keeping the positive habit. Think about it; where in your old routine would you have found time to do YouTube workouts with or without your children?

PE with the Body Coach – breakdown of behaviour

I want to break this down from a behaviour change point of view using the Behaviour Change Wheel (Michie et al, 2011). In order to make a behaviour work for you, you need to have the following 3 elements:

A chart explaining of opportunity (social physical), motivation (automatic and reflective) and capability (psychological and physical)
  • Capability: Do you know where to find the video and do you have the physical skills or ability to do it? You need to find a starting level that works for you and build from there. The whole point is to start small and learn the skills as you progress, whilst getting physically fitter.
  • Opportunity: The opportunity is easy to access on TV each day and an acceptable way of getting children and adults involved in home-school PE together. It solves a parental problem – keeping or getting the kids active, and it feels like being part of a wider social movement, since people are sharing their experiences of being involved online across the country.
  • Motivation: Parents want their children to be active and healthy, especially during this period where they can’t go out and can’t be active at school. It is much easier for parents to get children to do something established and so they are motivated to stick to the schedule or record it at least.

Be Proactive and Realistic

How well we use this opportunity to create positive habits is down to being proactive and realistic. How will you transfer all the great habits you were building to this new context? How will you take this opportunity of the disruption of your previous habits to align yourself with your values and interests? Think about what matters to you and how you can bring that into your habits and routines in your present situation.

You can use this opportunity to lay the first bricks in the foundations of a new pathway, or let this opportunity pass you by. Which will you choose?

All over the country we have seen people selflessly offering support to members of their community and actively look for ways to build community support, particularly for the most vulnerable. It aligns with our notion that people want to feel good, and do good. As a nation, we should embrace this unwanted disruption and carry out the other side of it a sense of community spirit and feel more connected than ever to what matters to us most.

You can use this opportunity to lay the first bricks in the foundations of a new pathway, or let this opportunity pass you by. Which will you choose?