Trading Habitual For Purposeful
There are a million little things we thoughtlessly do every day. Some of these are biological, like breathing or blinking. Others are…less instinctual. In fact, I’ve noticed lately that there are some things that have cropped up in my life that a habitual and also potentially very bad for me.
(First, let me say that I probably stare at my own behavior more than most. It’s hard not to. I just wrote a book about the creative process. It’s hard to get more mind-numbingly self-critical than when creating a book about the creative process. My life has been a meta-conversation of a meta-conversation of a meta-conversation for a few years now. But I digress…)
Some of the habitual behaviors fall under the umbrella of “possibly addictive”:
Exhibit A: Within 5 minutes of rolling out of bed, I will have poured myself a giant mug of coffee. Always. No exceptions.
Exhibit B: When at all possible, I will consume some form of chocolate in the evening (chocolate covered almonds, Oreos, etc.) while watching the previous day’s episode of The Daily Show.
Exhibit C: I have been in the habit of biting my nails since I was a teen. Terrible, terrible habit. Totally mindless behavior.
Some of the behaviors, however, are more or less learned and the result of a lack of purposeful engagement:
Exhibit D: When in front of my computer with a few minutes to kill, I have a regular rotation of sites I mindlessly hit in the same order.
Exhibit E: I tend to ask my kids/wife/biz contacts the same set of questions to break the ice when I see them.
Exhibit F: I have learned patterns for things like brushing teeth, taking a shower, etc. I will often find that 15 minutes has passed and I’ve hardly been aware of what I’m doing.
So I’m on a quest. I’m going to make the effort to be more mindful in every area of my life, not just the “sexy” ones. I’m going to stop to think before engaging someone. I’m going to notice the taste of my toothpaste, the smell of the coffee and the warmth of the water in the shower. And I’m going to try broccoli instead of chocolate. (OK…maybe not that last one.)
Ultimately, it’s about who’s in charge, right? Am I going to allow life to slip by on autopilot, or am I going to really notice, relish and engage in each and every moment of my life?
Life is precious. We live with the stubborn illusion that we will always have tomorrow. We don’t have it – not yet. All we have is now. I, for one, am going to make the effort to make choices about how I act rather than acting on instinct. I want to be responsive rather than reactive.
How about you? What are some thoughtless acts that you’d like to be more purposeful about?
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I'm Todd Henry.
I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More