The Forces of Habit: Part 1
Many of us are familiar with the phrase ‘creature of habit.’ I suspect the phrase originated from the hunting branches of our ancestral tree as they studied and attempted to predict the behaviors of their prey. In its current use, the phrase mostly refers to people. It’s curious, though, that the word ‘creature’ has remained and not been replaced by the word ‘person’ or ‘people.’ We’ll even refer to ourselves as ‘creatures of habit’ without much thought. (Ironic, I know.)
I want to shed some light on the topic of habits. All of this is directly related to the issues surrounding change which, in turn, involve the more fundamental issue of personal awakening. Sorry, but you gotta know by now that this shite is all connected.
A behavioral habit is defined as a repetitious, routine way of performing a task that is almost involuntary. In plain speak, we have developed certain ways of doing things and we can do these things without the need to think about them.
We can form habits in any area or with any activity in our lives. We can have hygiene habits (the way we bathe, clean our teeth, shave our parts, rinse and dry our hair, etc.), driving habits (where we park, what we listen to on the radio, what action sequence follows our sitting down–start car-seatbelt-check mirrors-move? or maybe–start car-move-seatbelt-mirrors? etc.), yard work or housework habits (what direction we mow, do we edge or trim first, how we load the dishwasher, wash the clothes, vacuum the floor, etc.), reading or television habits, work habits, sex habits, sleeping habits, eating habits, and computer habits. You get the idea. And all of these, to us, seem rather handy and innocuous. They’re like our shortcuts to getting through things. They’re like our time savers, energy savers, our internal CPU savers that free up our minds to be able to be thinking about something else while we’re stuck doing the menial task at hand.
I italicized the word ‘menial’ and here’s where I’d like to shine a little light. With regards to a task or an activity, ‘menial’ means lowly and degrading. We tend to form habits around and with those activities that we feel are beneath us, that no longer require or deserve much of our attention (much less our full attention).
This observation may meet a torrent of resistance within you that will naturally be directed elsewhere.
Pause for a moment, please. You can gallop off in any direction you want later but for right now, ask yourself this: Have you ever wanted to or even tried to form a habit concerning an activity or a person when that activity or that person was exciting, challenging, or engaging?
You know the honest answer is ‘no.’
When we feel or think that the activity or person merits our attention, there’s nothing that becomes habitual about it or them. It’s always different, fresh, and constantly new. We are there, present and accounted for, each and every time. We are enjoying the experience, not enduring it.
We only form habits around those activities and people we are not really that interested in.
When I realized that about myself, I wasn’t standing in a very flattering light.