What is the big deal about habits?
Habits are a trending topic nowadays. Everywhere you look, you get confronted by a lot of advertising encouraging you to get the “good habits” and to stop the “bad habits”.
You can find hundreds of books in the bookstores or Amazon: “Habits for success”, “Atomic habits”, “Every single day, get smarter, better and faster by changing your habits”… the list is endless.
I can feel the obsession, the promise behind. We are longing for efficiency in our lives. We want to achieve more and better. We don´t want to deal with chaos, and uncertainty. We like the orderly World that habits create for us.
But, what is really behind developing habits?
When we look at the definition of habit according to the Cambridge dictionary, it says: “Habit is a settled or regular tendency to practice, especially one that is hard to give up; Something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it”.
Doesn’t matter if we consider the habit to be a good one, or a bad one. We are conditioning ourselves to follow a pattern; to put a system in place, so we can just play it out during the day, and so that at the end of it, we can run the to do list in our heads and say: “Checked, checked, checked”.
It rings an alarm inside me. Why do we want to become more unconscious of our activities?
I cannot deny it. I personally loved to plan and create schedules of my days. I have been a fan of creating routines to make easier my life. I liked to listen for advice and implement routine habits that experts, doctors, neighbors, and best seller authors recommend for a “Successful, healthy and longing life”, although I cannot really say it really worked for me. There was always this feeling of something missing. My days looked perfectly in order, but I am still longing for something else.
One of my most precious activities is to take a walk in the forest regularly. One day, while I was walking, I stopped for a moment to observe the forest itself: So wildly beautiful. Trees from all highs and shapes, forming together a beautiful green scenery; Birds signing and passing by, the sound of the water flowing from the river. The smells of the wet soil. The whole thing looked chaotic in a way, every element of the nature just doing it´s thing, with no apparent order; But somehow it looked all to be in harmony, and extremely beautiful. Suddenly, a thought came back to me: Am I creating a prison for myself?
We humans like structures, and we like to have a logical explanation for all the things we cannot understand. But at the same time, we love freedom. We suffer immensely, the moment we feel our freedom has been taken away. It is a funny paradox: We long for happiness and freedom, but at the same time, we create a little prison of our own, by attaching ourselves to imposing patterns to live our lives.
We set up our alarms to wake up everyday at the same time. We impose ourselves an exercise and meal routine, to remain healthy. We go to work at the same time, taking the same way every single day. We set a schedule even for enjoyment, to make sure we have time in our calendar to experience some sort of pleasure: Have a dinner with friends, travel, go for yoga, go for a walk… it might feel at the beginning like by establishing habitual patterns, we are getting more efficient with our time and with our energy and achieving more. But looking closely, on the longer term it looks more like imprisonment.
Whether is going to the gym, or smoking that cigarrete every morning; It has the same effect in our minds: It is an unconscious act. We stopped listening to our body and our inner senses. Our body, is no longer self-sufficient, it needs to be told what to do and when. We became slaves of our own logic.
I love a quote from a famous Indian guru, that I heard some time ago, and still remains in my mind everytime I reflect about this topic. In his talk, he asked to the audience: “What is more efficient, a manicure garden, where everything is perfectly taken care of, or a forest, which no one takes care of, and that looks like a mess?” If the manicure garden stops getting taken care of, after one month it is finished. But the forest, it stays alive forever; Million years can pass and it will still be there, so it is at the end far more efficient because it is self-sustained. Maybe to our eyes, it looks like a chaos, but is it really?
What if it´s the other way around? What if we have been wrong, thinking that we need structures and systems in place, our little prisons where life works perfectly and orderly, and this will lead us to happiness? What if there is another way to live? What if we could just be conscious to our own body and mind, and just do what it is necessary?
Life is for expansion, not for imprisonment. What we call “chaos” out there is nothing more than happenings in the world that we just don´t understand, because we cannot find any logical definition to it. Maybe, chaos is not inefficiency, but just a lack of understanding.
I felt like getting a hit in my head with a brick, looking at my own life. This new way of looking at life, made me question: What is the kind of life I want? Do I need to become more efficient? Or to become more free? What makes me more happy?
Being conscious, is being really alive. We know we are alive, because there is certain consciousness of this life, we feel it and see it. Why should we try to automatize ourselves with unconscious habits, so that we can get more things done, if we will not experience life consciously and intensely, like it should be? Are we here to act as a robots, achieving and accumulating stuff? Aren´t we here for living in the most conscious, intense and beautiful way as we can? If our life is limited and just last a brief moment compared to the life time span of the planet, and the cosmos, then why do we want to miss it?
My resolution is simple: Aim for a life self-sufficient. Aim for freedom, by listening the authentic needs of body and soul. Live the life as more conscious as you can possibly be, intensely, joyfully, and in the present moment. Because this is all there is, and will be. The rest, may be just an illusion. If you are conscious, there will be no such things as “habits”. You will do what is right for you, here and now.
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