Too often we are repetitively reactionary and little more. Life becomes something more of obligatory duty rather than gifted privilege. Our days become stale, methodical routines that hammer out another empty twenty-four hours on the incessant assembly line of our lives, rather than being an astonishing adventure that could peel off in a hundred different glorious directions at any time. Living becomes banally rote, the day-in and day-out devolves to stale routine, blandness leaves us forgetting that flavor exists at all, and habit seizes the reins with both hands. Left unchecked, habit strangles individuality by imposing sameness, and it crushes creativity by demanding adherence. Habit takes that which might have been mindful and makes it entirely mindless. If we are not diligently careful, habit will come to define the whole of our existence, leaving the fluid magnificence of who we are and what we could accomplish wholly dissipated in the backwash of lack-luster procedure and irreversibly dispersed in heartless protocol.
Yet, we are exceedingly more than the bland amalgamation of habit, even though we incessantly permit its lifeless rubrics to press the life out of us. The outliers of our essence extend leagues out beyond our own vision, and our depth is past plumbing despite whatever discipline we might bring to the plumbing. And it is altogether impossible that the whole of this essence can be packed tidily into the asphyxiating rubric that habit constructs. Habit might indeed be unswerving and fixed, granting us a steady direction and a secure course when all becomes unsteady. Yet, given unbridled rein to freely propagate the rubrics that make habit what it is, we would die the death of character asphyxiation.
Who We Are
We are an potently composite collection of experiences, wounds, failures, successes, relationships, genetics and a wholly incalculable array of other things that press together and then settle into some sort of uniquely amalgamated compilation that makes us, us. The nature of these things and the manner in which they have each jostled for position and eventually fall into place lends us a uniqueness that sets us apart from everyone else in all of existence, while concurrently creating both adoring and sometimes irksome similarities with everyone else.
From the core of this place that makes us who we are, there emerges a refined proliferation of beliefs, values, opinions and perspectives that both drive and dictate the manner in which we engage life in ways both large and small. Indeed, this core place becomes the sturdy helm from which the ship of our lives is faithfully navigated. In time, this place becomes sagely informed, sharply intuitive and shrewdly instinctual. This proficient compilation of assets lends itself to great things beyond even the scope of our dreams and fondest aspirations.
The Helm Commandeered by Habit
However, this helm can become insidiously commandeered by habit. It is our choice to let that happen, and the choice is most often based on the curse of ease and the ignorance of our abilities. Over time, we surrender to the reflex of habit. Habit is easy. Habit demands nothing cognitively. Habit subdues mindfulness, and reflex ousts wisdom. It blunts creativity and undercuts innovation. In time we react without knowing why we’re reacting, and when we reach that point we’ve devolved to mindless automatons living out the staleness borne of a reactionary existence. Habit has its place, but we habitually grant it every place.
In time, habit is confused with intelligence and wisdom. We deem ourselves to be quite astute, overtly mindful, shrewdly insightful and rigorously thoughtful. We commend ourselves for the tact with which we engage life and the wisdom that exudes from us with ever increasingly depth. Yet, this is often little more than the redundant repetition of habit that we’ve taken for something far more than habit. We ascribe to habit brilliant ideas, epic decisions and colossal achievements that are in reality nothing of habit, all the while allowing the grander part of ourselves to atrophy in the decay of life lost.
Habit as Ease
Sadly, it seems that we create habit so that we don’t have to create. Habit provides us a soulfully soothing sense that we’re being amply responsible and sufficiently judicious in living out our lives while permitting us to pay as little attention as possible to the living out of our lives. It’s the autopilot that we engage so that we can turn our attention to the endless other things that are pounding at the door of our lives. In time, we craft some sort of habit to deal with each of these demands as we grant them entrance into our lives. We then develop habits about developing habits, rendering each habit something of all the others before it. Our lives take on the redundancy of the habitual habits that we now apply to everything. Soon, staleness becomes our lot and the apathy of redundancy becomes our trademark. Despite the dankness of it all it is easy, and the habit of ease repeated habitually is the pallor of death.
The Habit of Getting Out of Habit
There might be a bit of wisdom in doing a little, or possibly a lot of introspective inventorying in order to determine the extent to which the decay of habit has infiltrated the fabric of our lives. We can fall to the mindless repetition of habit and live out our lives as a series of encoded reflexes rather than digging down, getting our hands marvelously dirty, and being mindfully engaged in a grand adventure that we’re on the verge of throwing away. We can ferret out the scourge of ease and confront the debilitating messages that ease has bribed us with. We can get into the habit of getting out of the habit.
Getting into the habit of getting out of the habit means that we need to be brutally honest with ourselves. Ferreting our habit can be overtly frightening due to the fact that it is often habit that has created the very framework that binds our lives together. If we abandon habit, we fear that will cause our worlds to implode beyond recognition or hope of recovery. Habit is the tightly cinching framework that binds the precarious parts of our lives together in a manner that allows our lives to hold together when life assails us. Habit retains a soothing familiarity when all becomes jarringly unfamiliar. Indeed, it may restrain us from great things at times, but in excess it also insulates us from falling into terrible things. It is a sure course when the course to adventure is unsure. Habit is a certain passage that is certain to keep us safe, but too much of it is certain to keep us safely at a distance from greatness and goals both grand and glorious.
The Benefit of Habit
It is both responsible and important to point out that habit has an important and terribly critical place in our lives. Habit provides consistency to areas of our lives while we concurrently push out into other areas that have yet to be consistent, or may never be consistent. They can be a series of strategic boundaries that intentionally set the stage for us to safely step outside of those boundaries to new ones. Habits can keep rather rogue and rowdy behaviors in check while giving more responsible behaviors ample room to flourish and grow. They can provide a framework until those parts of lives have matured sufficiently to stand on their own.
Yet, this brand of ‘habit’ is carefully crafted of wisdom, sown supple with flexibility, evenly tempered by vision, and held to places where it is needed while being withheld from places where it is not. These kind of habits are designed to pave the way for the next step rather than insulating us from the next step. They are the progressive not regressive. Visionary and not visually blind. Progressive habits frame our lives to advance our lives for the whole of our lives. And it is these kinds of habits that will habitually keep us from the death knell of destructive habits.
We need to get into the habit of recognizing our habits. Once we have, we need to develop the habit of evaluating our habits even though we have a habit of not doing so. And it is this piercing acumen that will allow us to bend habit so that it does not bend us and become our death knell.