Recently I have been thinking about how easy it is for us to get hooked on actions and routines in our lives, especially when those actions bring pleasure and satisfaction. I personally have experienced being attached to behaviors that brought me joy in the past but no longer do. My mind overrode my actual experience. Instead of paying attention, I let the “tail” of habit “wag the dog” of my behavior.
This happened with marathoning. I needed a break, but I was attached to the idea of training. This attachment grew over the course of a wonderful year in which I experienced incredible heights of joy and fulfillment from marathon training. It was a truly magical experience, yet I got so attached that I didn’t let myself stop. I needed to know when it was time to get off the ride, at least temporarily. I didn’t pay attention*. As a result, for the first time in my running career, what had been a total joy became a burden.
To be clear, perhaps I love nothing more than doing satisfying things over and over again. But what about when it stops being fun? I’m learning I need to be flexible. I experienced this recently around going to the cafe. I realized I was unsatisfied with my visits. Instead of “blissing out,” I was checked out. So I took a break for a little while. Today I went back to the cafe, and as I sat at my table, writing and listening to Abraham, I experienced true satisfaction. It was exactly this satisfaction that caused me to form the habit of going in the first place! Apparently I needed a break from the routine in order to make going feel fresh and inspired instead of, well, just habitual.
As Abraham says, it’s not an action journey that we’re after. It’s an emotional journey. The tricky part about habits is that they can pre-empt being present and following our impulses. Habits effectively make our decisions for us. That is fine when the habits satisfy us. But sometimes the system stops working. The well goes dry. The habit remains, but the joy or satisfaction the habit is supposed to support is missing. In those cases, we should stop, check in with ourselves, and listen for our Inner Guidance.
Because the habit may get it wrong. Our Inner Guidance never does.
*Until I did. Things got better quickly after that.