Creatures of Habit

If any of my close family or friends were to point out the one person they know who is most comfortable in their rut, it would be me. I am the type of person that clings to routine. Or maybe I should say clung (past tense), as I’m starting to become a believer in that old phrase “variety is the spice of life”.

Let me give you a little background. In fourth grade, I dropped out of the local gifted program. In junior high school, I dropped the chance to go to the Early Entrance Program at the UW. I went to the University of Washington when I could have gone to Stanford. I avoided taking advantage of a junior year study abroad opportunity in Jerusalem. I drank the same goddamned iced-grande-nonfat-nowhip-mocha for like 10 years. I stayed in a terrible, soul-sucking job for seven years.

Now? Well, past opportunities aside, I’m in a new phase of my career; working on a startup company; working on a patent; and have done things I never thought I would, such as attend a three-day conference full of strangers, or give a presentation in front of a large group of (mostly) strangers.

Admittedly, old habits die hard. A new article from the New York Times claims that you can never fully get rid of old habits – they are “worn into” the brain by repeated use, sort of like a trained neural network. But, good news: you can write new paths around them. And, for those of you (like me) clinging to habit because it’s the “safe, comfortable” path, you are actually avoiding some good things:

In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

There’s a quote that I read recently from William Wordsworth that I think applies:

Not choice, but habit rules the unreflecting herd.

So I aim to continue to ask myself this question: what other habits – personal, professional, or other – do I un- or sub-consciously hold on to because I’m not fully reflecting on the alternatives? I’m guessing that there are a lot.

What habits do you hang onto? How do you move past them?

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