Although I write and think a lot about habits, I hadn’t read Atomic Habits by James Clear until very recently. It had been on my reading list for a while, and I finally got around to it and finished it last week. I’m working on a habit change experiment with my physical health this month and so the thoughts involving habits were all the more relevant to me. Here is what jumped out at me.
Daylight is in abundance now in the far northern reaches of Scotland. It’s light out really early now, and although I love the mornings regardless, it’s more pleasant than usual to wake up early. As a result I’ve started another seasonal shift in my morning routine, and even more that than that, a bigger thematic shift in the expectations I set for what I do when during my days.
I’m now running first thing in the morning rather than later (mostly), and am trying to pay more attention to letting my energy guide my routine rather than my willpower.
I was going to write today, but I don’t remember now what I was going to be writing about. I read something in the morning about late bloomers, and it gave me an idea I wanted to share about my experience as one. But as when I reached my afternoon break and left my office with time to work on it, the thoughts weren’t really gelling. Regardless, I was all set to give it a try despite not being in the best state of mind, as I had the window of time and an interesting (I thought) insight to share.
Instead, I took a nap.
I didn’t intend to, but my son happened to be sleeping in our bed, and when I went to check on him, expecting that to be a small detour on my way back to my notebook, I suddenly found myself lying down.
I gave in willingly. It was a short nap, followed by a long session playing legos, a late afternoon wrestling and superhero battle, and ending with me making dinner.
The idea that was so important to write about hasn’t seemed to come back. Instead of hunkering down and “working hard” to squeeze some productivity out of a spare moment, I unintentionally spent my time unproductively, and ended up very relaxed and happy as a result.
I guess there is no insight to be shared today. I’ll try to do better tomorrow. 😉
A couple years ago, I read on the side of a box of tea that you should “always use fresh water before boiling. Previously boiled water has lost oxygen…”. The implication being it won’t taste as good. Or it won’t steep the tea as well. Who knows, really, but I believed it. I casually accepted this as fact and felt a little better knowing that I knew a little secret to making my coffee and tea just a little bit better than before. Fresh water! Sounds true.
Months passed, and I dumped many a pot of previously boiled water down the drain. Mostly, this was water that had been sitting out overnight, but sometimes it was simply water from a few hours earlier, still warm. Something in the back of my mind made me wonder if it really mattered (I didn’t seem to be able to tell in the slightest), and it felt ridiculous at times, but I brushed those thoughts aside and kept pouring, wasting time and water over-and-over again.
But recently I decided this “not knowing” thing is pretty dumb, so I did some quick research and found it probably makes no difference whether you use fresh water or previously boiled for your coffee, and, most importantly, I can’t tell the difference. So I stopped dumping then and there.
Belief and habit thus changed.
This whole episode got me thinking, how many other unnecessary things might I be doing just because someone or something said I should?
There are many habits and decisions we make where it truly doesn’t make that much difference to research deeply and find things out for yourself. If you don’t spend that much time on something and/or it’s not important/interesting/life-threatening to you, then you probably should just dump the preboiled water and move on.
But I enjoy my brewed beverages, and I spend a fair amount of my life making them, so this counts as something I should pay attention to.
Yes, this previously boiled water belief might seem like a ridiculous thing to mention. A small bad habit to break in the grand scheme of things that isn’t going to amount to much in the long-term and has little impact on my day. At least, that’s one perspective.
Here’s another: if you can’t change these small beliefs that seemingly don’t matter, how will you ever hope to change the big ones that do?
Each time I go for a longer trail run, my typical turn around spot is a part of the trail with a clearning next to a cemetary. I never thought about it much initially, but after a few times I started to notice that the graves all had fresh flowers on them everyday without fail. Some had balloons, cards, and other items as well. Who was putting all of this out regularly? Certainly not every grave had a family member coming out everyday? Whomever it was, they never missed a day it seemed.
The fact that these graves were always being remembered seemed to peak my own remembrance of this place and what it symbolizes, and I’ve really started to enjoy the short time I get at the mid-point of my run, looking out at the well-attended graves.
“Not me,” I think to myself, “not yet.”
And then I head back, still running and still very much alive. Any trouble or anxiousness that was rattling around on the way there seems insignifigant after seeing the graves and being reminded that it could certainly be worse. Would I rather it just be all over? What would they give to trade places and take on my little worries?
No, best to enjoy it while it lasts because it will end soon enough.
But not yet.