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Habits Are More Important Than We Realise

1361 Views 13 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Phantasm
I've always skipped over this section as well-meaning but pointless. After all, great problems require great solutions, right?

I've just finished reading a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear, and it talks about how big changes are not made by big efforts - it just appears that way.

In fact, big changes are the long-term result of many tiny, manageable and achievable behaviours - all the 1% improvements here and there. Little habits that we can achieve, right now, can lead to a growth of related habits we didn't think we were capable of down the line.

It's not about results, it's about who we want to be and being that way in all sorts of small ways throughout the day. Habits define our identity, just as our identity guides our choice of habits.

As such, this hugely effects mental health. "How would someone without depression act today?" The repetition of habits becomes proof of who we are.

Currently my daily ones are:

Touch toes
Open book file
Open art file

Doesn't sound like much, does it? But touching toes requires a warm up with leg swings, which leads to a general workout. (One good habit leads to another related one.)
Opening my book and art files each day, without any other requirement, typically leads to me writing a line or doing a bit of drawing.(Just establishing the small habit of opening the files every day leads to everything else).
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Are you sure that’s a habit? I think that was smart of him, he didn’t allow himself to form habits around his clothing.

Instead of wasting energy on thinking about what to wear, he didn’t because he bought all the same clothes. So, I really dont think that’s a habit, just saying
I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with habits. When you learn how to drive you form habits and then it frees some of your mind to pay more attention on the road and drive more safely. You also make habits on what are the things that you need to pay attention to and what things you can ignore, which is very good when you drive.
But you are probably talking about what they say around mindfullness, that we do some things out of habit and without paying attention, we react automatically without being mindful, and then we make the same mistakes over and over for example, and our lives run by without being lived. I agree it is good to be mindful about stuff, but we cannot be mindful about absolutely everything, this is just impossible. We can prioritize our attention and habits help us to do that. Also habits can help us achieving stuff using less energy and less effort. But we can be mindful about how we use habits, we don't need to let them govern us.
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Wait, what are we defining as habitual? Learning how to drive a car, learning how to watch the road so you’re safer is not a habit. If it was habitual then it would have to be the SAME exact process every time. But when you’re driving you are watching attentively, because the same thing doesn’t happen every time. There’s a difference between learning how to do something and learning a habit. So, being free of habits means being aware of all psychological patterns. And we may not realize but most of us live IN habits, not just physical forms like brushing your teeth etc etc, but the whole way that we are. You think and form opinions around it, your mind has built a whole structure and network of habits. So I’m saying it’s important to be free of that, all psychological dependency and attachment.
But in turn, what do you define as being the same exact process every time. Nothing is ever exactly the same. And I am saying that habits when you are driving enable you to use less energy. Like, when I drive, I developed the habit of using my turn signals all the time. I know that a lot of people will not use their turn signals when they see they are completely alone on the road, like very late at night, because they think it is useless. But I use them systematically even if I see that there is clearly no-one around. This way I can develop a habit so that I always use them and I don't even need to think about it, it's automatic and I reduce the chance of a mistake. Also it helps me save attention for more important things. Also I could develop the habit of getting out of bed every morning as soon as my alarm rings, instead of staying there for "just some more minutes" and tricking myself and eventually being late. If I do this every morning it becomes a habit, which means it will get easier and easier to do it, it will require less effort, and less willpower or mental load. I will do the right thing on auto-pilot, which costs almost zero mental energy. I think that's what we mean by habit. It doesn't have to be exactly the same every time. It's just that when the situation comes, your brain is used to that type of situation and knows what to do without you having to spend energy on it.
But of course what they say about mindfullness is convincing, because they select the examples that work for them. Like if I do something on auto-pilot, maybe one day I will not pay attention to something and make a mistake, sure. But you see that this doesn't work with the turn signal example. Also if you use the turn signal on auto-pilot, you will spare more attention for things where you should not make mistakes. Maybe if you try to not have any habits, you will pay attention to your turn signals and to the feeling of your shoe on your foot when you press the pedal and how sacred perceptions are and then you will not see the kid that let go of his dad's hand and starts crossing, because we only have that much attention we can spend on things. So it's important to prioritize our attention, and creating habits is just that, if I understand correctly, and making things easier. Looking at this thing critically means that we should use our own examples, and not only rely on the examples that wise people have found for us. In the cult where I was it was always like that. Most of the time people repeated what the guru had said because it sounded full of light and was said to origin from a 3000 years old wisdom, and our "normal" thinking was presented as something gray and unattractive, and full of mistakes and neurosis, originating from a materialistic civilization that rarely thought about the important stuff and the meaning of life and that was almost "lost in darkness". Ironically it was more black and white thinking than they would admit. Questioning was encouraged, but only as a temporary technique to go deeper in the guru's wisdom. If people really criticized what the guru was saying and really meant it, they were regarded as people who didn't get the message and as a bit behind on the path to enlightenment, stuck in their neurosis. That kind of outlook undermines critical thinking. Personally I am always careful about the things that I read that are presented in this way. I don't know Krishnamurti very much, but I have read different things around mindfulness that were often presented in that way with not much variations.

Also I believe they talk about doing something out of habit like doing it without thinking about it, but using the rest of your attention to just think about random useless stuff and identify with your thoughts and emotions, which is maybe counterproductive in your life. But I think you can have a habit and do important things with the rest of your attention, it's up to you. And also a habit is just something you tend to do the same way over and over, it doesn't actually say you don't put your attention on it, although maybe you don't have to. It's just something you repeat, wherever you put your attention.
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