Growing up, I lived in 4 different states and went to 6 different schools prior to ever going to college. When people find this out about me, they ordinarily make the statement, "That must have been really hard." to which I disagree but normally don't object. In these moves are lessons that I carry with me to this day, lessons that I otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to experience. The biggest thing that regularly moving taught me is life's relationship to habits.
A habit, as described in Charles Duhigg's book "The Power of Habit", is "a choice that we deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about, but continue doing, often every day." Upon reading Duhigg's description of a habit, it becomes clear that the "power" he is referring to is the ability to do things without having to think about them.
This power makes habits a sort of leverage that, if crafted properly, can drastically improve anyone's life. If you don't have to think about exercising, eating good foods, and sleeping well, but continue to do them anyway, that saves a ton of energy and you get the benefit of the positive flywheel effects these activities bring! However, as with all types of leverage, bad habits can destroy you and often do if you don't consciously craft them. I feel great empathy for addicts attempting to get sober that not only have to fight chemical yearnings for more substances, but also have to live with the same cues that trigger their habits to use drugs.
I was reminded this week how strong habits are when I returned to my parent's home for Thanksgiving. When I previously lived in this house, I had a terrible habit of eating copious amounts of food to the tune of ten thousand calories or more in single days and my body forcing me to throw up because of how much I was consuming. Now I still occasionally eat a lot, but it hasn't been this bad since I lived at home. When I returned, despite all my intentions to have a clean week, there I was in the pantry raiding all the Costco goodies my mom had picked up for the week. I proceeded to continue this habit everyday because of the cues present in that home despite not having the habit for over two years.
If I had to stay at that house and fight this habit, I'd struggle mightily and surely go through many iterations of trying to introduce friction to my bad habit. Luckily, these cues aren't present in my own apartment and I have the benefit of leaving my bad habits behind when I come back to my apartment without these same cues.
Moving around as a kid taught me the power of a fresh start, and gave me opportunities to consciously decide what actions I want to be taking when I'm not thinking. The actions you take when you first start a new job, move to a new home, or meet new friends set the foundation for your actions every subsequent time you come in contact with them. Don't miss the opportunity to yield the power of good habits, or at least, don't set bad ones.
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