Habituation Transcends Malaise

Day 173 Week 25 Q2 Friday, June 23, 2023

Do you know how some days you just do not feel like doing what you know needs to be done? Oh, I am sorry, not you, for you are more buttoned up than that, so let’s talk about me instead. Some days, in fact, most days, I know exactly what needs to be done. Or at least I think I know exactly what needs o be done. This may not be exactly correct because life is full of surprises, and what you need to do is extremely time-varying, often based on external events, some of which are beyond your control.

Well, even if you usually do know what to do, it does not mean you always feel like doing it. And although this can be due to some external event or crisis, it can also be your mood for no reason you are completely aware of.  It does not matter why, for we are not entirely rational; sometimes, we are not in the mood to do what we think we should be doing.

I have often been rescued from an unproductive start by relying on my habits or automatic behaviors. The terrific thing about habits is you have to work to break them; if they are good habits, you do not want to go to the effort to do so. Therefore if you can determine what behaviors will get you where you want to go and can habituate these behaviors to the extent they become somewhat involuntary, then you can relax, knowing your mood will not be able to hijack your day. Not that any of you have ever had a mood hijack a day.

Cultivating the right habit loops allows you to transcend local “disturbances in your field” to an amazing degree. And every day you engage in these consciously created habits, you vote for the you you wanted to be when you set these habits up. In other words, if you are not feeling up to what you have previously internally committed to, and you have some good well-designed habits to fall back upon, they can and will rescue you.

Now we all have habits for important things. For example, we do not forget to breathe, digest our meals, or look out for cars when crossing the street. We just do them, and they keep us alive. The first two we were born with, and the third one, looking both ways, we cultivated. Pilots have checklists to go through before they take off, and they no longer have to think about going through the list after they have been flying a short time.

As a composer, I thought writing a short three-minute piece of music every morning might be a good idea. Now I had the idea that composers do compose, right? Sounds reasonable. Well, it took years to actually habituate this behavior, even though it seemed like a good idea for a long time. After two months straight of doing this, I have over sixty new works in various states of completeness. Some are totally useless, and some are little jewels.   But committing to and habituating this behavior is presumably making me a better composer and has the fringe benefit of launching daily in a good mood with a sense of accomplishment.

This certainly transcends any kind of malaise.