Habits – beware they can make us busy fools!

posted by on May 13th, 2016

Our habits are automated and if we had the time (but we are too busy) to take a forensic look at our habits then we would all be shocked at how much time we spend running on ‘auto-pilot’.

Take this post for example. Why are you reading this right now?

Did you plan this morning to research the topic of ‘habit formation’ and hence found this article as a result? Or perhaps you got distracted trying to avoid writing up that report or filling in your VAT and ‘out of habit’ decided to check in on your social media account.

Whichever is correct it sounds counter intuitive right? That I would be bringing to your attention the idea that you could be better spending your time doing something more important than reading my words. However that’s exactly the point of my blog today and why being aware of our habits in order to create more effective ones is good for us and our wellbeing.

The fact is that we create habits through continuous reinforcement. Our repeated actions and thinking literally hard wires our mental processing. I think of it like the grooves of a vinyl record and over time our habits become entrenched. I am fascinated how we create habits automatically and how they run our lives. That includes everything from getting up and dressed; to choosing which way to drive to work and how we respond in specific situations. Make no mistake your habits run you as mine do me.

So that’s all well and good if our habits are positive and helping us move towards our goals. What if they are not?

Habits have three components a cue or trigger which may be external (for example a person, a noise, sight or smell) or the cue could be an internal one (a sensation/feeling/thought). This sets off a process or routine in other words what we have learned to do in response to the cue. Then finally we get a ‘reward’, that‘s what helps us to maintain the habit. This could be anything from a positive sense of accomplishment or pride, to that warm fuzzy feeling we get when we feel loved. The point is that habits need maintaining and once they have become well ingrained then they can be hard to change.

So over the next few weeks I plan to explore the idea of habits and see what there is to learn about breaking old ones and creating new ones. If you’d care to join me every Friday for the next 4 weeks then that’s great.

Let me know what it is about habits that you’d like me to comment on and I’ll do my best to include it in my post.

I’m now off to reinforce one of my habits now, that’s making fresh coffee. Have fun.