Wandering the savage garden…

Building Habits

When I think of habits, I tend to think positively, which may surprise people who think I’m a cynic.

I’m not a cynic; I’m an idealist, which means that I tend to be disappointed because my idealism wants a better reality than reality itself can provide.

So when I think of habits, my initial thought is of something positive, something done that is beneficial. I have a habit of doing the dishes when they need to be done, for example. (This statement is a wish, not a fact – but it’d be a good habit for me to have, and it’s one I’m trying to form.)

I’m in the middle of trying to maintain a standard of behavior for myself such that things like the dishes become positive habits. The list of things I’m trying to actually stay on top of on a daily basis are:

  • Dishes
  • Dirty clothes
  • Prayer
  • Writing (which is part of what this post is, as a participation in a “31 days” challenge)
  • Exercise (which is what I’m doing most poorly with – I’m exercising, but not regularly enough)

Regular things – i.e., not daily, but often, maybe weekly things – include:

  • Floors
  • Bathrooms
  • Updates on various sites I’m involved with (records of things that caught my eye, for example)

I don’t know how that last group is going to make it to the level of “habit.” They’re just not happening often enough to build a pattern of behavior. I have to remember to do all of these, but for the daily things it’s just a matter of responding to a stimulus as it happens; for the others, I have to make a commitment.

A reminder can help: “It’s Tuesday, clean the bathroom!” But that’s easy to ignore. I can easily tell myself that I’ll clean it around noon, for example, if the notification is given at eight a.m., and that’s easy to forget or delay further… with the result that I don’t do what I intended to do.

That’s not good.

I need to work harder on following all of these… maybe my regular chores need to be daily, as well, just checked daily. I walk by our bathrooms every day (at least!) – if it’s not clean, well, why not clean it then? In that sense, my regular “habits” become daily habits – losing the quotes – and they actually have the chance to graduate into regular things from which I and my family can benefit.

I don’t think any of it’s especially easy, and it can be grating to always feel reactive about these things. But on the other hand, being reactive (“I woke up; that’s the instigator for prayer”) means that it’s easy to know when to do specific things, and it also means that those things are taken care of.

That’s a good thing. I can live with that.

It’s why I think the Bible says to do things daily – it also builds up those habits as positive actions, and when done on a habitual basis, they gain the power of a lot of force for good.

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