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Losing Self Control

Why habits make life easier

· Books,Insights

Recently I've had conversations where habits, either the problem of a 'bad' one, or the elusive nature of establishing a 'good' one, have been the subject of much curiosity.

A common problem is the seemingly unconscious habit of scrolling through social media on our smart phones and devices. It just seems to happen. Then time has passed and things we meant to do aren't done. And then there's the habits we really want to form, like going to bed before midnight, writing our Morning Pages every day, or spending 5 minutes paying attention to our loved one each evening and try as we might we just can't manage to get them to stick as a habit.

Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life; about 40% of daily life is shaped by habit, so when we have good habits, it's much easier to be happier, healthier, productive, and creative. Gretchen Ruben

I've been listening to the audio book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Ruben. There have been a lot of aha moments, and realisations as I have absorbed the content and now without having a hard copy of the book to refer to, and only my mind to rely on I am wondering what gems I have taken from the book so far.

The insight I want to share here may be obvious to you but was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. A habit is something that doesn't take any decision making or self control. It happens automatically without thinking. This can be something we would rather not be doing, like scrolling through social media on our phone, or checking our phone constantly for notifications. Or it could be something we want to do. Like brushing our teeth before we go to bed, or putting on our seat belt before we start our car. Either way, it happens unconsciously.

The intention of creating a new habit is to make something automatic, to get to the point where we do it without having to decide, or think about it. For me, I want to create a bedtime habit where I switch off screens an hour before going to bed, not by using will power but because it is just what I do.

My understanding so far from the book is that once we know what sort of habit personality we have we can find ways that work for us personally to have the best chance of changing a conscious behaviour into an unconscious habit.

I will report back once I put the advice in the book to the test. In the meantime I am interested in your experience of habits. How easy do you find it to create new habits, or to stop unwanted habits? And how long does it take you to establish a new habit?

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