The power of habits

Learning about a new book while inscribing into the gym and forcing myself to go on a regular basis, had me thinking again about habits and routines.

In this new book, Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick, the psychologist Jeremy Dean talks about the function of habit. This is an amazing theme to discuss especially because we seemingly complain about its weight in our life at the same time of cherishing its necessity.

There are many facets to habit, mainly as a routine, or as an attitude towards life (eating healthy, exercise, reading or the contrary, constantly watching TV, eating junk food etc.). The interesting part is when we can actually learn from them about our lives, about ourselves and our interaction with the environment. For example, when we try to begin a new habit, learning a new language requires daily practice, so does learning a musical instrument or perfecting the one you have. It seems that there is time requirement before something becomes a habit. Doing sport is a good example. For someone who has just begun going to gym or the pool it will be a constant fight until the activity becomes routinely. How long will it be?

In his book, Dean is trying to help with some good advice of that problematic period of in between, when you are convinced at the what and why yet too weak for the where and when. Change is difficult in any context yet learning how to embrace the change will not only benefit your body (considering we are talking about acquiring a healthy habit of course) but your mind as well.

Changing habit is also well known creativity boaster. When in automatic repetition of our daily life, our creativity becomes dull, fading away into a circle of false sense of security. Being able to change your habits means to regain control on your life, bringing back that spark we all had as children in the search of our happiness.

RoutineWe tend to think that we are in control of what we wear, our choice of food, flavor, and our daily habits. “I can stop smoking whenever I decide”, we hear occasionally from a-pack-a-day smokers (I said it myself for some years), yet if and when we try to stop the habit in question suddenly we feel the void and we become less sure of that. Control and conscious decision-making is an issue we only little know about. “It is possible to neurosis to begin in childhood?” asked himself Freud. Well, it is certain that many of our identity do begin in childhood and with it many of the repercussion on our daily life as adults.

What are your habits you can´t give up or have difficulties begin?


6 thoughts on “The power of habits

  1. That’s so true that we just tend to think we are in control of our lives. In reality whenever we try to take the control it turns out to be a struggle.
    It certainly has much to do with our childhood experiences. I guess the main factor here is discipline. Kids who were taught to be self-disciplined, will find it easier to shape their life the way they want it to be in the future. For others it will take more effort to develop self-discipline as adults. And that’s my case -))

    1. Thanks Maria, I do agree about the importance of childhood experiences yet I think that discipline is not necessary a factor for how much control we have as adults. Take for example children of strict religious environment, the children there have plenty of discipline (enough for an army officer). Can you really say that when they will grow and have self-discipline (for all kind of religious practice), they will have control? Probably the contrary. I believe that the self-discipline you refer to is as an adult. Regardless of how you were raised, if you manage to reach the self realization of your being as the product of your childhood experience (with all that comes with it: social, cultural, economical etc.), then, you will require a strong self-discipline to change your habits into the person you choose to be.

      1. Shai, I agree with you regarding the kids grown up in strictly religious enviroment. However, there’s a big difference between self-discipline and other-imposed discipline.

        When kids are taught to be self-disciplined, they are taught to achieve their own goals and not somebody else’s. They are taught to organize their life to benefit from it and to get certain results (the results THEY want). When it comes to other-imposed discpline (as in cases of army discipline, strict religious practices) you are taught to do something that somebody else wants you to do. You are taught to obey rather than to organize your own life.

        Discipline vs self discipline is obedience vs self-control.

      2. I guess if you see kids as entities with a strong and clear self, than you might be right. However, how can they be with a clear sense of a self when they are still in the imitation process? Can you teach a kid self-discipline with results they want when all you teach them is how you see the world (if you teach, the You in the teaching is unavoidable)?

  2. Of course, there are personalities of our teachers behind each of us. None of us is completely independent when it comes to the way we see things. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, your behavior will always be affected by your background.

    Kids imitate first, but then they grow up and come to realise that what they’ve been taught is actually good/bad for them and works/doesn’t work. So they will either be trying to change certain learned patterns or will be developing them even further.

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