Daily writing prompt
What are your daily habits?

Habits are a funny thing. Some are age-long, and others are created and shed in a few years or months. 

As an undergrad, I cared for a retired doctor. He was a person of unalterable habits. Daily he needed his tea, newspaper, radio news, and then a visit to his office. A former ob-gyn, as soon as he arrived in his office, he’d have a second cup of tea and review his schedule. Now that he was retired, there was nothing on his schedule; his next steps were to the liquor cabinet. His daughters had long ago given up on altering Daddy’s habits, and Daddy had no desire to form new habits. It was a frustrating situation.

Our habits define, color, and shape our lives in many ways. We have certain surety, anchors, and boundaries around our life. But they also enslave us by limiting our possibilities for finding new meaningful experiences. We become denizens of our earlier life. And it is very stressful to slip the cable and venture into the new.

If our lives are disturbed, we scurry like a disturbed ant’s nest to rebuild the sense of comfort and safety that our habits give us.

I worked for a major transportation company that knew well the value of habit in increasing safety and production. They had the latest training mantras that forecast how many repetitions it took to create and enforce new habits. One day, one of the trainers confided that despite the statistics, research, and training methods, they could not alter the desire to change: no desire to change, no result beyond reluctant cooperation. The plan to change could be charted, but without a willingness to change and the will to enforce the change until it was habitual, the change wouldn’t happen.

So I see this every day in my own life. I have no more or less ability to alter than everyone else. And the power of habit is strong. It’s comforting and stable, and we are used to it even when it harms us.

As I write this, my father’s advice on habits returns to me: “Don’t get any habits you can’t afford to keep. They are hard to get rid of.” 

I’ve regrettably found this true when giving up tobacco and alcohol. Change is hard.

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