ruminations

Habits Matter

It has been more than a month since I posted here. And before a short streak of three relatively-consecutive posts, it had been nearly a month before that.

I say this not to apologize–it’s been far too long for that to be anything but hollow–but to demonstrate my point.

Around the start of June of this year, I broke the habit that had kept me filling words into this space on a regular basis. There were a number of reasons for this, not the least of which was a loss of time, ideas, and the feeling that it was necessary to write five times a week, Monday through Friday.

Breaking that habit–that constant pattern that didn’t let me escape without feeling guilty about how I wasn’t keeping to the plan–meant that I was free to interact with this space as I liked until such a time as I reestablished a habit of writing with a certain pattern of regularity. This certainly was a freeing act, but it’s also one that makes you suddenly look down and wonder what happened to your former prolific self.

I type this in a state of awe that I was ever able to write so much of, if not top quality stuff, at least six to eight paragraphs a day that I wasn’t embarrassed by. It seems like a stranger has replaced that prolific writer. Or perhaps that that prolific person was himself a stranger.

I don’t have a stirring conclusion, and my purpose isn’t to tell you to exercise three times a week so that you’ll have good health for far more years than you otherwise would. Though I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage you from physical fitness, I’m not in the business of telling people how to live their lives. But I’d guess that someone who is in that business is now trying desperately to convince a roomful of people of this fact that I’ve now learned on my own, through a series of months: Habits matter.

That’s not meant to judge habits. Some habits–lying regularly and recklessly, acting violently toward others–are galling. Some are undoubtedly bad, but not nearly so ugly. Your habit of having a cookie with lunch may not be doing your waist much help, but it’s hardly as bad as many other habits. And maybe you’ve got some incredibly beneficial habits, like sleeping eight hours a night, exercising regularly, and eating well.

Nor do I wish to encourage dogmatic adherence to your useful habits. Even those can be unnecessarily limiting if you spend too long fearing the impact that breaking them will have.

I just want to write this down so that I never forget: Habits matter.

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