Habits to Hang Onto

This one is late, short(ish) and sweet. But I have a good reason, dear ones! I spent all weekend nonstop wedding gown shopping with my mother and maid of honor. No one told me it would be the single most exhausting weekend of my life, but alas, I am so tired my eyes are crossing. And now I just want to lie on my couch and watch lame TV on Hulu. Speaking of which…

I meant to write about this around Thursday when Brian Lehrer, my favorite WNYC host, had an author named Charles Duhigg on to discuss the theories behind his new book, The Power of Habit. (We won’t hold it against him that every self-analysis book nowadays starts with The Power of… Fill-in-the-Blank-with-Abstract-Noun—Time, Now, Slow, name it—as not every good writer has the gift of originality. It is what it is.) In a conscious effort to focus on the sweet stuff, they did more discussing of positive habits than negative, and the rather reassuring idea that any bad habit can be broken and any good habit can be acquired.

Listeners called in with the habits they were proud of having. I liked hearing the nice things people recognized in themselves. One man said he made it a habit to pay a compliment to anyone who waits on him in a restaurant as soon as they come to his table. One single mother reportedly maintains her sanity by writing out a short list every morning of what she wants to do that day, including at least one small pleasure, like making a banana cream pie for no reason. Another gentleman claimed to make his bed every day. (“I do too!” I thought, which is 95% true. I’m big on making my bed every morning because I like the feeling of getting into a nicely made bed in the evening.) Brian, the host, talked about how he runs out of habit now. He started with discipline and now he says running is so habitual that he craves it, like caffeine. I noted that both good and bad habits begin with willpowereither exercising it or forgetting it.

I think of all the impressive habits of my favorite people. My fiance says “bon appetit” before every meal at a table. My stepfather does pull-ups every morning. My mother gets a manicure every Saturday.

I think of all the habits I have that I want to keep. This is new for me, as it is for most of us. I spend so much time thinking about either all the bad habits I need to break or the good habits I need to start, and devote zero mental energy cataloging the things I already do without realizing them—the things for which I should pat myself on the back. Like the fact that I can’t drive a car without my seat belt on, and it’s not because of the annoying beeping sound the car makes. For another thing: when I first come home at the end of my day, I spend five minutes straightening up. Dealing with dirty dishes, putting strewn clothes away, watering plants. Why? So instead of spending two hours doing this on the weekend, I can watch lame TV on Hulu. Which may or may not count as a bad habit.

What habits do you have that you’d brag about?

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4 Responses to Habits to Hang Onto

  1. Rex Berkshire says:

    You didn’t mention your habit of making lists (which you mentioned in an earlier post) for everything you do, even the things you’ve already done. Its a feel good habit, i’m sure. I have a habit of not making lists, so that I feel somewhat in control of my time and headspace. That’s a bad habit and it leads to being a little late and forgetful sometimes, I do have a good habit of enjoying my children and their accomplishments, and even their tiny triumphs of self-realization that might feel like failures. Oh, yea, i have a habit/curse that makes me read practically everything within sight, just to see if it is worth expending time and headspace.

  2. Rex Berkshire says:

    i’m thinking of writing a book called “The Power of Grump”. What do you think?

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