The Importance of Habits
So, first, an apology for missing last week – I took vacation from the 5th through this coming Friday, so I was basically in weekend mode on the 4th and 5th – which means I completely spaced any kind of idea of writing the post. My bad.
I’m also hitting a specifically female time of life which is making me spacier than usual as well as having less energy. The culmination of which is that it took 5 days of doing bugger-all before I started on some much-needed house cleaning.
The point is that I’m pretty much running on habit at the moment, and anything that breaks the routine throws me badly. This isn’t exactly unusual: if you look at it closely, most of what most people do during the day is habit, not least because if we stopped to evaluate every decision we make during a day we’d never get anything done.
This matters a lot in terms of making things happen like, oh, words on a page. You get into a habit of doing something, and then when you start whatever your trigger routine happens to be the habit will kick in pretty much automatically. It’s like you’re telling your brain “it’s time to do this thing now”.
Of course, it can get kind of… interesting… when you’ve got a lot going on or you get thrown like I have been lately (lately being the last year or more. Don’t ask and I won’t rant at you). I’m pretty sure everyone here who has a regular commute has found themselves automatically taking their normal commute route when that wasn’t where they were going, just out of habit. Or – one of mine – going to the kitchen to refill my water bottle when I get up from the computer, even though what I actually wanted to do was use the bathroom. It’s just that when I get up it’s usually for more water so that’s the programmed default as it were.
Programmed defaults aren’t just for humans, either – the Husband and I have been having quite a lot of fun with the Bugger-cat and the Baby-cat lately, since both of them are having irritable bowel issues, and are on steroid medication as a result (the Baby-cat also has kidney disease which the medication is helping). After they get captured and
tortured… ahem… medicated, the Husband usually has a little ice cream – and gives them a small amount as a treat. So now as soon as they’ve had their pill and their squirt of vitamin B supplement, the pair of them park where he typically gives them their little bit of ice cream and wait for their treat. It’s hilarious to watch. Her Royal Highness Princess Buttercup is of course above this sort of thing (not that her kitty rank stops her trying to steal chicken from my plate), most likely because she is perfectly healthy and not being subjected to the horrifying indignities of being given pills.
So yes. Habits matter. We program them into ourselves, and once you’ve programmed a bad one, the only effective way to get rid of it is to program a different one in its place. Everything I’ve read says it’s best to do this one bad habit at a time – a useful thing to know, that.
Now I just need to kick the habit of not putting a book down once I start the bloody thing. I can’t afford the late nights when I get caught in something and forget the time.