January 2014 Archives

January 8, 2014

Habits and Mistakes

I recently finished “Making Habits, Breaking Habits,” a book that covers a lot of important points around the habits that make us and define our happiness—good or bad, deliberate or unconscious. It referred to tons of interesting research and experiments around the topic, and tried admirably to make a compelling read of the whole thing.

To save you the effort, let me point out the key takeaways:

  • At the end of the day, mindfulness and awareness of your habits is the key to making and breaking habits.
  • Habits can be good or bad, though we tend to focus on bad habits.
  • Much of what we do in life is due to habit, not personal choice.
  • It’s easier to divert a river than to stop it. Similarly, it’s easier to adjust a habit than break it.
  • Habits work best at an unconscious level; there they become automatic.
  • Habits work best at an unconscious level; as such pleasure from a new good habit diminishes over time.

These are very important things to remember as we work at those seemingly futile resolutions at the beginning of a year. They’re also tremendous factors to consider when working to establish a culture. Cultures are often formed entirely around common ritual, and in some cases the act outlives its functional purpose. Even so, we are often reluctant to change our cultural norms, despite the obvious detriment they have on our happiness and well-being.

Lately I’ve been talking a lot on Facebook (my soapbox of choice) about making mistakes. There are a couple reasons why I feel strongly that making mistakes are the right thing for growth, development and success, and they tie into the themes of this book:

  • The more things go well, the less conditioned we are to making mistakes. We have more opportunity to learn from mistakes than successes, so developing slows when we’re good.
  • If we are not in the habit of making mistakes, we become risk averse. For the most part, that’s a good survival mechanism. Low risk, however, yields low returns. You get what you pay for.
  • At the end of the day, you’re used to what you’re currently experiencing. It’s often easier to sit and complain than it is to make a mistake in the pursuit of something better.

I hope to think about things beyond myself, extending to the way my actions (and habits) affect (and take effect) in others. If you were going to create, or improve, the culture around you, what intentions would you implement?

January 1, 2014

Writing Habits

Happy New Year.

As 2013 came to a close, I found myself focused on deeper, more involved character flaws that have as much right to be called a part of me as anything good or distinctive I might prefer to be known for. And as difficult as it might be to self-evaluate and accept a losing record at addressing these attributes, it is certainly not made easier when you live in what is possibly the most accepting place in the world, working in the most wonderful environment you can imagine on the most ephemeral of things—the tweet.

140 characters is not enough to truly assess and detail the self. It was not intended for this purpose. I find myself occasionally opening a journal and writing (in cursive!) just to slow my mind to the speed of my writing and focus that extra bandwidth on truly investigating my thoughts. A cursory glance through the archives of this blog and you’ll know that it once served this purpose; perhaps it should again.

Writing is cathartic; it is also revelatory. Moving back to more regular blogging reinforces my resolve and develops a healthy habit of reflection.

I look forward to writing again. Perhaps this year I’ll be better—through writing—on the other side.