Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Habitual Creatures of Habit

Sometimes in life we sit wondering what will happen next. These wonderings often are derived from life changing decisions such as whether or not to adopt seven Korean children. But our minds are also affected by the mundane snap decisions that we don’t even consciously think about, such as what letter will start your next sentence. In many ways, these rushed choices made while we’re ‘thinking on our feet’ tell us more about ourselves than the huge major important ones. What we do and how we behave under pressure reveals the inner ‘we’ even if it’s a simple matter of deciding between paper or plastic at the grocery store.
Imagine if you will that you are standing in line to order at a fast food restaurant and there is a line of about 30 grumbling construction workers behind you when you step up to order. In this case your mind tells you that you need to hurry up because they’ve already been waiting for 15 minutes. In the rush of it all, you make a quick decision about what you want to eat without even considering if that’s what you really want to eat. So the question is, why is it that we don’t find ourselves constantly sitting down with our food and thinking “why did I order this?” The answer is we are habitual creatures of habit.

In most cases, you have eaten at the same restaurant before and have ordered the same meal before. So by forming a habit, we as humans can remove the thinking process in order to simplify our lives. In this way, we are spared the risk of making bad decisions because we’ve already thought them out and found success with them in the past. We simply repeated the same “good” decision over and over again and thus a habit is formed. Why fix what isn’t broken, right?

Well, there are also some negative sides to this habit thing. First of all, it retards exercise of the human thought process. Sure, it’s nice to not have to think about anything, but what is the overall affect on society? Are we systematically training ourselves to become dumber? Secondly, the incessant habit former stifles creativity by constantly doing the same things. Sure, deviating from the status quo is unfamiliar and scary but being creative requires us to take those risks and very often the rewards are infinite.

So be creative and break a habit this week, variety is the spice of life…so spice it up! Post your death-to-monotony stories in the comments section.

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