Creatures of Habit?

Habit is a funny thing. It’s an amplifier. That can be good and bad. Washing your hands is a good habit. Doing it 50 times a day, not so much. It’s been said, and I think it’s true, that you can achieve great things if you control your habits. Discipline, in the form of habit, doesn’t feel like work. Exercise daily. Floss morning and night. Post to your blog every Sunday. (I was going to say, “post religiously,” but that would take this in a different direction.)

The idea seems to be: decide what you need to do to get where you want, train yourself to do those things habitually, then voila – you achieve your goal. Effortlessly! All you have to do is adopt The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and you’ll be, well, effective. At whatever you choose, presumably. Implying that otherwise you aren’t.

And no one wants to be thought of as an ineffective person.

Lately I’ve heard about some research on addiction that says it’s not chemical, it’s not genetic, it’s not a mental or physical dependency – it’s just habit! Habits cut both ways.

I have trouble with the concept of habit. That we do things without consciously making the effort to do them. I find it easier to believe that we do what we want. If we want to work toward a goal – and we ‘re not blocked by barriers of fear or time or expectation, or god knows what else (we all have our demons) – we do it and just may be “effective.” Likewise, washing your hands 50 times a day or drinking yourself blind every night might just satisfy some need, provide some pleasure greater than the damage it causes.

We never turn off our will power – we always choose. Whether it’s to post a blog or pick up a drink.

Take cats, for example. This entire post was inspired by the way mine likes to hang out in the tub after I get out of the shower in the morning. Is that a habit? Cats are mysterious. Dogs have habits. Cats do what they please and don’t give a damn about the rest. I like to think we’re more like cats.



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