Habits. I’ve never thought of my life as a complex organized system of habits. Last year has been challenging my discipline and questioned my habits. Obviously, I also must have a dark side if I am to be whole. (thanks Jung)
But seriously, as with every flawed person here, I also have a bunch of bad habits. Finally, 2015 made me confront and truly acknowledge them. I read a bunch of interesting things on the subject, and I take the opportunity here to recommend Richard O’Connor’s Rewire, which focuses on the mental self-destructive behaviours. Sure, all (bad) habits root in our brain, but I want to make a distinction between the physical habits (overeating, smoking, poor sleep etc.) and the mental ones (attraction to the wrong people — The Kooks, Bad Habit describes it perfectly, suffering in silence, lying etc.)
Build habits like they’re supplies for life
One of my general beliefs (which are subject to change in the course of time, but meanwhile) is that we need balance, and that means good and bad. Now, I was asking myself if my good habits outnumber the bad ones or if the intensity of a few bad ones is so big that it can outpower the numerous good ones. Life would be boring without bad habits, let’s face it. We do enjoy a little drama, a little adventure, a bad decision, a lazy day and so on. The point is to always balance the forces.
Thus I reached the conclusion that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to build good habits. This also leaves little room for dwelling in the bad ones, and there’s even a cooler trick: finding which of the bad habits influence the most of the other self-destructive behaviours we might have (you’d be surprised how many, actually) and work on those, something like a Pareto 80%-20% effort. Or we could just focus on something we want to acquire as a skill or simply develop throughout our lives -> e.g. a healthy lifestyle or listening more, being solution-oriented.
They don’t sound like “habits” in the traditional way, right? Active listening can be a habit? Uhm, actually yes. It is, after all, a skill.
Habit building is also … skill building
Constant learning is not a myth or an impossible goal or an overstated routine. But what’s a habit? What’s a skill? It’s a learning processed in our brains, more or less, being very connected to the others. The more skills we have, the better equipped we are for different experiences and emotions, in order to get through them with as less scars as possible. Whenever someone asks me “What’s the last skill you’ve learnt?”… I struggle because I don’t recall the last time I aimed to learn a new skill… and how many of us go through life exactly like this?
Roughly said, all our habits, all our learnings determine who we are and how we act, be it physically (we can’t resist temptation to one more) or verbally/mentally (responding in an aggressive way). I’ve grown tired of all the happy sciences of life and other pseudo-spirit crap. Constant self-development, progressing towards a better version of ourselves. That’s the thing. In its pursuit, happiness will lay gently on our way. Until then, dwelling in misery and bad habits for sure isn’t going to get us far.
Saying it like this doesn’t make it any easier. I reckon though we can face any adversity being armed with a pair of good habits. How do we do that? Well … that’s another conversation. :) But just think about it and simply ask yourself if your good habits overpower the bad ones. It’s a starting point.