First we make our habits,
then our habits make us.
— Charles C. Noble
It is impossible to make every choice anew everyday.
If we don’t have the bandwidth to really see everything in front of us, only seeing outlines and differences, how can we possibly have the bandwidth to make every choice consciously everyday?
If you are a theoretical physicist, modelling quantum phenomena in your head everyday to try and see it in a new way, why would you want to waste valuable mindshare thinking about lunch? A habitual cup of tomato soup and a cheese sandwich will do fine, thank you very much.
I have habits to change, habits that do not serve me anymore. I need to reallocate the energy that I burn off into more productive habits, starting with more focus on being fit.
I have changed my habits before and will again. This is what change is about, not so much rejiggering the big things in our lives but instead, altering the small, habitual things that don’t serve us.
How can we be ready for new challenges without new attitudes? We may habitually look for the worst case scenario, look for the signs that justify a bleak worldview, searching for the the views that satisfy our own internal critic and set us up to play small, but how does that serve us when we try and get the best we can out of the world?
It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one
than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.
— Whitney Young, Jr.
We prepare for opportunities by reprogramming our habits. Waiting until the crisis hits to engage change means we will end up woefully unprepared. We may know this, but if our habits — our practices — are without discipline and sloppy, they may be very difficult to change. We have no history of change that we can go to to find old models that might get us ready for new times.
Habits are notoriously hard to change, though, because those habits wouldn’t be habits if they didn’t work. We live in a network of other people whose habits connect with ours, because if our habits didn’t work in our environment, we would have much more impetus to change. There is a reason that the first thing in-patient rehabs do is demand people change their habits, a reason why external support is required.
To change our habits, we need to change the rewards and losses in our environment so they support and encourage new behaviours. If we stay altogether too comfortable with our routines in the world, we just guarantee that change will hit us harder, coming with a crash rather than in waves.
The easiest thing in the world is to carry on with old, comfortable habits. When those habits stop serving us, though, they become liabilities rather than benefits. One definition of insanity, the old saw goes, is making the same choices over & over again and expecting different results.
The cry “I want to my life to be better” followed by the refusal to change your comfortable habits is not a credible statement. Change requires change, so resistance to change is resistance to change; if you don’t work to change your choices, especially your habitual choices, you don’t really want to change your life. You only want grounds to be comfortable in your own abjection and self-pity.
To change our outcomes we need to change our choices. Until we have coded those changes into changed habits, every change will be a struggle. We become better at change by becoming better at changing not just our conscious choices but also our unconscious choices, changing our habits.
Otherwise, we are bound by our habits, calling for help because we are unable to help ourselves. Making a habit out of complaining about the results of your own habitual behaviours, well, that’s not a practice which will get you to serenity or satisfaction anytime soon.