Habits

January 5th 2022

Today I’m reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits. I’m on a bit of a self-help wave this New Year, and this book was recommended to me by Instagram. There’s a cruel irony in there somewhere.

It’s interesting. And also, it’s interesting because a few years ago I would not have been the kind of person who could have even finished reading some of these sentences, let alone the whole book. There’s a lot of self-aggrandising, LinkedIn Motivator, North Star Thinking type language in the book, which I am kind of excusing, because at least the topic is something I believe in.

I don’t necessarily believe in other self-help practices like meditation, cosmicology (not a word), incense, feng shui, or other words I don’t quite understand which may or may not be related to self-help, but I do believe in the power of habits. It’s kind of who I am.

The only reason I am writing this blog right now is because I am in the habit of doing so. Aside from breathing, this blog is the thing I’m the most committed to doing every day in my entire life. And yes I rate that above eating and drinking because there are many hangovers days when I can do neither of those things.

I have written a blog post every day for the last 7 years because I am in the habit of it. It’s what I do and it’s who I am.

Last year, I ran 5km every day for 413 days in a row because I was in the habit of doing so. There was no question to me about whether I would run on any given day. If I woke up, I would run.

Of course, habits aren’t exclusive to me, they’re an incredibly human thing. Often you may not even notice your habit. For instance, do you even notice that every time you tie your shoes, you’ll most likely start with the same lace? Every time you brush your teeth, you do it in the same order. When you drive to the supermarket, do you prefer to pull into a space on the left or the right? Or are you my dad, who will drive to the other end of the car park and reverse into a space which has no other cars within a 10 metres radius, more than doubling the distance it takes us to walk to the shop and back?

Anyway what was I saying?

Humans like habits. Doing things on autopilot means we don’t really have to waste much processing power on making decisions, which gives our bodies more energy to focus on the “staying alive” part of their job.

I personally love a habit. Good ones, and bad ones. I habitually bite my nails when I’m anxious. I habitually leave my dishes in the sink after I’ve cooked dinner. I habitually put my socks in the wash while they’re still rolled up.

This book is about unlearning bad habits, and building good ones. And I need help with both of those things.

Until tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Jacn

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