How Quickly We Form Habits

by | May 28, 2019 | Observations, Peter's Voice

We just moved into a new house.

When we first moved in, to make the kitchen usable, we put things in drawers and cabinets to get them out of the boxes and someplace findable in the morning. After a few days, we got around to shifting various items based on how we found ourselves using the kitchen.

We were shocked at how quickly we got used to where we put things those first few days. For example, we initially had all our sharp knives in one drawer then moved them to another drawer that made more sense. After living in the kitchen for almost a month now, I’m still reaching into the first drawer expecting to find those knives.

I’m sure after a few more months, I’ll build up the mind and muscle memory to reach for the correct drawer, but it’s incredible how quickly and firmly I formed the habit of reaching into the first drawer for the sharp knives.

If we can form a habit like that in just a few days, imagine how ingrained some of the patterns are that we’ve been practicing for years.

In our workshops, we frequently talk about automatic thoughts. They’re the thoughts that seem to appear out of nowhere when we face a familiar situation. Ones, like we’ve all, had when we instantly dismiss someone or something for some reason, or maybe we take ourself out of an event before it even gets started.

Those habits take such a short time to form, but how many of them do we continue to reinforce? We’ve found this is very fertile territory to begin unpacking old thought patterns that don’t seem to be helpful or are even downright destructive – like taking ourselves out of the game before it begins.

Automatic thinking can be useful in navigating more efficiently throughout the day, but it’s when our automatic thinking limits us in growing and experiencing a fulfilling life, which includes taking on changes that are not always easy.

Next time you make a move to grab something out of habit, check out the thoughts that led you there. Are they ones that reflect the person you are or the one you want to become?

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