Habits can be useful and efficient… traps
I like a cup of instant coffee first thing in the morning. It’s been a habit – every morning, without fail – and for as long as I remember.
And I always add a spoon of CoffeeMate, a coffee whitener, to my coffee. Always.
Now, ‘first thing in the morning’ is the time of day when most of us are operating on autopilot. We’re doing things automatically. Without much thought.
Especially at this time of the day we’re functioning as creatures of habit. And this is which is why it’s the best time of the day to introduce new habits – or challenge old ones, to loosen their hold on us.
Anyway, back to my morning coffee. And there’s one thing that’s always bothered me – the CoffeeMate would stick to the spoon, and it would take ages of stirring to get it free of whitener. (Yes, I live an exciting life.)
Then one day, a couple of months ago, I used a different spoon to add the whitener. I accidentally used a dry spoon – not the one I’d just used to make the coffee. And the whitener didn’t stick this time!
It changed my life… Well, no, it didn’t – but I now get to drink my coffee whole seconds sooner…
Sticky spoons – sticky habits
‘Beware of what you get used to’ is wise advice.
Once we get used to something we don’t bother to think about alternatives – we take it for granted. It can be labelled laziness – or efficiency.
Either way, the habit gives us a routine which works. It’s effective – so we relax and keep doing it this way, without thought. There’s no need for experimentation or novelty or freshness.
When habits become traps
Think about it for a moment. Which things are you so used to that they’ve become the ‘only way’?
Might they be worth re-thinking?
One clue is ‘have to’. If I have to have coffee especially coffee with coffee whitener then I don’t have a choice – I’m trapped.
Not a big deal. Not a serious trap or addiction.
Want to vs. Have to
But when you have to:
- eat at a certain time – and always clean your plate
- go to work by the same route – even if the new roadworks slow things down
- be nice to everyone – even when you’d prefer to ignore them
- you have to go on that foreign holiday every year – even if you’d prefer to relax and stay at home just once in a while…
… then perhaps you no longer have choice.
Perhaps you’re a victim of habit – because the habit has become a trap.
And perhaps it’s time to ask yourself some questions.
Routines are great because they are efficient. But they can also be like blinkers. Or manacles. Or traps.
Oh, and that coffee whitener that I ‘always’ have with my morning coffee? Well, after writing this article, a few years ago, I gradually became less comfortable with being trapped by the habit. Nowadays it can be a black morning coffee, or a coffee with milk, or a part milk and part whitener – or occasionally even tea! It depends of my mood.
(See also: Beware of what you get used to)