We are what we repeatedly do. A habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated frequently and tends to occur subconsciously. In the American Journal of Psychology (1903) habit is defined as “a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.”
Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed while performing it. Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but the reality is more complex. Many of the daily choices are actually habits. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. This effort-saving instinct is a considerable advantage. We can stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors like walking, lacing shoes or sipping coffee. We can devote our mental energy to more sophisticated actions. Instead of concentrating on running we can play football. Instead of concentrating on holding a pen we can create art, make inventions or study the universe.
In a sense, habits are the backbone of our daily lives. Each small habit may mean relatively little on its own but over time they sum up to have tremendous impact on our health, social relations, success and happiness.
“Even though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impact on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.”
- Charles Duhigg. The Power of Habit.
Many times we do not create our habits but the habits create us. We just don’t happen to think our routines. If going unnoticed, our habits can take us to wrong directions. However, habits can be a very valuable tool if we select and nurture them wisely. They can create the structure for a creative, happy and fulfilling life.