Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | By: HiDee

Creatures of Habit

I am a creature of habit. I eat the same breakfast every day.  I follow the same routine every morning, and every evening when I return home.  I rarely take a different route to or from work, and I park in the same space every day.

For the past few weeks, one or two days a week, a shiny new white SUV has been parked in "my" space.  We don't have assigned parking, but I've come to think of it as "my" space because I've been parking in the same space every day for almost eight years. (Doesn't that make it mine?) You wouldn't expect there to be a competition for "my" space because it's on the 5th floor of a parking garage. Not exactly a prime spot.

Because "my" space was taken on those days, I parked in the next space over. Yes, I cursed the driver of the SUV. I wanted to park where I always do!  But I stayed within my lines and didn't crowd her, as I have seen some drivers do to other parked cars.  Each day, the SUV was gone by the time I left work.  The last day it was parked there, the driver apparently decided to leave me a message.  "MOVE ME" was written in the dust on my hood, and my van had been keyed.  Two wavy lines now run the length of the passenger side, and another long, deep gouge is visible on the passenger side hood. I suspect the driver thought I should have parked somewhere else, somewhere farther away from her shiny new SUV. I may be a creature of habit, but that doesn't give her the right to key my van.

This experience has given me a lot to think about. How many of our daily actions are habits that we do every day without realizing it?  How often, when we are frustrated for whatever reason, is it because one of our habits has been interrupted?

Ian Newby-Clark, a psychologist at the University of Guelph, researches habits and self-change. Newby-Clark says "Habits help us through our day. When we are doing something that is habitual, we are not engaged in the task in the same way as when we are doing something that is not habitual."

Habits allow us to accomplish tasks effortlessly.  It makes sense then that changing habits, or creating new habits, can be stressful to us.

As a writer, I have my share of bad habits. I check email and Facebook, and surf the internet when I should be writing. I read newspapers, blogs and books when I should be writing. There are times when I can justify some of these habits as research. But most of the time, they are just habits, albeit ones I enjoy. I don't necessarily want to change them, but I am working on having better control so that I can accomplish my goals.

What habits do you have that keep you from doing what you should be doing?


morgan said...

Good Morning,
Research, yep, it does me in. I think was that inevented yet. So I google it. Chase down the patents, etc. Suddenly, I am looking at stars without their makeup. How did that happen?

Had my car keyed once insurance paid for it to be rpeair with no deductible because they deemed it vandalism.

HiDee said...

Thanks for stopping by, Morgan. I know that feeling so well! It's so easy to get distracted. I never thought about checking with insurance to see if the keying could be considered vandalism. Thanks for mentioning it - I'll check on that!