“We are creatures of habit”. We’re told that. But in fact, it seems all creatures are “creatures of habit”. This little redstart really seems to like sitting on this particular flower pot in my garden. He has a number of favourite places – this flower pot, the arch over the well, and a couple of fence posts.
We probably develop habits to make life easier. They can let us off making conscious choices all the time, and they can contribute towards the feeling that we live in a predictable world, which helps us to feel more safe.
There are downsides to habits however.
Firstly, by letting us off making conscious choices they propel us towards a “zombie, not hero” lifestyle – they allow us to go on autopilot probably more than is good for us. Autopilot reduces our awareness and in that state we are less likely to see and appreciate the new, or in fact, just the reality of the world around us. Haven’t you had that experience of driving a car, or riding a bicycle on a very familiar route, lost in thought, only to discover that you have arrived at your destination and not taken in any of the details of the journey at all?
Secondly, they make our world smaller. By staying on the same path, perching on the same perches, we limit our opportunities to experience the new, the different and the real.
Thirdly, they limit our growth. We growth by putting ourselves in new situations, encountering different people and places, seeing and hearing new information. We don’t do much of that when we are on autopilot.
Now, I’m not saying your habits are “bad” (I know people talk about “good habits” and “bad habits” but that’s not what I’m thinking about today. I’m sure the little redstart prefers that flowerpot for good reasons!
But today, in the “A to Z of Becoming”, I’ve reached the letter “v” again, and one of the verbs starting with “v” is “vary”.
I think it’s a good idea to become aware of your habits, then, just occasionally, to vary them. (You can always go back to them again the next time) What varying a habit can do is wake you up. It can make you more conscious and in doing so promotes your autonomy of choices, and opens up your world and your learning.
So, why not pick a habit or two in the coming week and try a little variation?
Maybe take a different route to work or school? Maybe shop in a different shop? Go for coffee in different cafe, or somewhere different for lunch? Or simply choose something different for breakfast, or try a different drink from your usual one?
Just see what it feels like, and then make a conscious choice the next time, which might be to go back to the same route, or shop, or cafe, or whatever – because when you do, you’ll probably notice somethings you’ve never noticed before.