“A person who can’t bear to share their habits is a person who needs to quit them.” -Stephen King
This morning I was reading a book review in the Seattle Times of Gretchen Rubin’s new book, “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives”
In her book, Rubin focuses on our habits and how they create our identity, which is an interesting idea. She asserts that “we have the inherent power to start good ones and stop bad ones, but we are surprisingly loath to do so.”
Since we have moved, most of our normal routines are gone. We don’t have places to go weekly, we don’t know many people around here yet. Our weekly habits are definitely different, but the change in our daily habits have changed just a little. For instance, I wear a heavy sweater all day now, which is something I didn’t have to do after February in California. I have also been wearing Ben’s socks every day because my feet are cold/freezing, and this is a very different habit than my previous barefooted life in warmer climes.
Our food hasn’t changed much, thanks to the consistency of Costco and our already rather set diet, but where we eat out has. Instead of hitting In-n-Out, we now hit Jake’s Pickup, which is found in a Chevron gas station and run by a previous head chef who thought it was deplorable that people on-the-go are stuck with useless fast food instead of helpful nutritious food…and I’m not kidding, this guy is where it’s at. His tuna sandwich alone, made from sashimi grade ahi, is the best tuna sandwich I have ever had in my life. I have talked with the Sous Chef about finding the best gluten free bread recipe for them, since they make everything in house. We love this place, and we love what they’re doing. They are changing how people see food on-the-go, and they are making the small corner of the world they have to control, a better, brighter, healthier corner.
Habits are habits because they don’t change, though. That is the entire purpose of a habit: you can rely on it to be consistent. You can rely on the habits in your life for hourly, daily, weekly …or lifelong periods of time.
But what if you leave your habit? What if you walk away from it? What happens next?
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)
Leaving a habit lets you look back and see it with new eyes. Sometimes, if not most of the time, habits are a comfortable place. They are usually a safe place, only because you can depend on the habit to always be there. Leaving a habit changes the entire dynamic of your day, as well as the way you live your life because habits reflect your goals and values; even if they are bad goals and vacuous values. If your goal is to be a good person, then your values will be entirely absorbed in making sure you only do good things in order to attain your goal. The problem with this is that your values are supported by the habits you instill to reach your goal, which inherently revolves around the goodness of you.
Overall, it takes time and reflection to see how habits can be constructive, deconstructive or reconstructive.
How you can analyze your relationship with your habits is very similar to how to assess a healthy, or unhealthy, relationship:
In a healthy, constructive relationship, you treat each other with respect. You listen to each other, and you communicate with each other. You feel secure and comfortable with each other, and you can trust the other person with your vulnerability. You take interest in each others lives, and most importantly you support each other. That is what love looks like, in a nutshell.
On the other hand, an unhealthy and deconstructive relationship tends to have a more controlling, oppressive nature to it. One side, or both sides, try to control or manipulate the other person. They are not only not interested in the happiness of the other person, but they go out of their way to make them feel bad about themselves. Instead of spending time with the other person, they make many excuses as to why they do not have time for them. They criticize the other person for things they do, or who they are. But worst of all, they use tantrums or threats to prevent the other from leaving.
How many habits do we have that are, in truth, deconstructing us, that we could change “but we are surprisingly loath to do so”?
Although “we have the inherent power to start good ones and stop bad ones,” we continue on with habits that deconstruct us. Habits that make us feel worthless. Habits that are not interested in our happiness, and make excuses for why we don’t have time for ourselves. And worst of all, habits that throw tantrums and threaten us when we think about leaving.
You are not your habit. Your identity is shaped by the habits you choose to accept, and you have the ability to choose healthy, constructive habits that actually reflect on your values and what you really believe.
“Habits are part of your identity,” Rubin said in a recent phone interview. “Changing them means changing a fundamental part of who we are.”
What is frustrating is looking back on habits you have left behind, and thinking that creating the same habits again is a good idea. The amazing thing about changing is the opportunity to both look back on what you have done, and forge a new path ahead of you. Even though the new path will be paved with stones hewn from past adventures, this new journey will still lead you to somewhere farther off in the distance; and that is the whole point of a journey. To discover new corners of the earth, and of yourself.
What if change led to growth? And yet…”Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
You can be assured that however it ends, the journey will always take you somewhere.