For example, we already moved to a new place, but still find ourselves driving the old way home from work… to our old place. Passing by our conscious thinking, our behavioral patterns take over.
Habits must therefore be something bad? And perhaps they even have to be combatted?
But on closer observation we have to admit they also help us to cope with the challenges of everyday. Who would like to consciously think about the daily routines like opening the toothpaste tube, tying shoes or starting the car?
We do these things on autopilot. And that’s a good thing.
Meanwhile, mental capacity is free for other deliberate and prioritized actions. Otherwise, we humans would be hopelessly overwhelmed with making a plethora of decisions daily, which cost us mental “decision units”. Mental willpower.
Each day we only possess a certain amount of will power units.
So – are habits now good or bad?
It depends. Strictly speaking, they are formed after we ran an activity for the first time and then repeated it several times, until they went in flesh and blood. The brain does not like to waste more active thinking power to a habit the “brainuser” seems to have approved and moves it economically to the subconsciousness. Certainly energy saving.
Bad only when the behavior is no longer with today’s viewing or ideals of the person.
Unfortunately, later often we do not notice our own behavior anymore, because now it runs on autopilot unconsciously. A dangerous blind spot.
Often only the remark of a friend or a critical situation (accident, preponderance, health) pushes us out of this “mental rut”. We can see our habit with critical distance now and want to change it.
Recognized pattern, changed pattern? Far from it, because many years of habits have naturally left their marks. We can take this literally. Traces in our brain – we can call them “thinking ruts” as mentioned above or “preferred neural pathways”.
The only escape from them if wanted is by creating alternative patterns consciously and establishing a “mental bypass” in our brain. This way unwanted behavior can be avoided. Eventually – with sufficient stamina – the old behavior will be overwritten by the new pattern.
The habit pattern change is achieved. Now once again, this new pattern may disappear in the persons unconscious. Until he might one day recognize a pattern of behavior that is even more in line with his existing ideals or goals at that time.
Just as some history of our life is already written, the basic matrix of our brain is carved. Only consciousness and alertness can change that.
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