From habits to Happiness
Our habits give form to the fluidity of our lives. They are the structure, the rhythm of our days, the patterns of our perception, the defining boundaries of our relationships.
To change our lives, we only have to change our habits.
When we want to change our reality, our perceptions, our relationships, we only need to change the foundational habits of our lives and the ripple effect will touch every aspect of our life. This is how we guide our own personal evolution: by touching the seeds of our nature, our habits. We can polish and gloss the surfaces and appearances: taking vacations, changing jobs, moving apartments; but these changes don’t go to our depths.
True changes can come to us, when the world around us shifts and forces us to adapt. This is stressful: we are surprised, seek comfort, and end up deeper in our habitual nature than ever before.
Conversely, we can empower ourselves to create inner changes without the pressure of outside changes. This is the real revolution, the flexing of our innate agency, our freedom of will. We can choose our path, with conviction, with faith in self. This is not the same path as needing to be right, or to be certain of future outcomes. Faith implies mystery; it is ourselves that we choose to work with, and work on, allowing the future to remain mysterious and ahead of us.
When we create changes, why do we begin with habits? Because they are most often our vulnerabilities: the repeated thoughts and beliefs that we take for granted, do not look at, and follow blindly. When we are stressed, under pressure, we fall back into the low energy patterns that prevent us from being flexible, creative, and adaptive.
Routine behaviors create predictability in our lives, which is comforting and yet boring. We seek out entertainment, we drift into dreams and illusions. Breaking the routine nature of our lives, we behave far more intelligently, strategically, with a natural spontaneity. Daily actions feel more playful as we lend our full attention to what we do.
All habits are not bad habits and yet: when we fall into rote action, part of our attention disengages from the present, and we feel dull or dreamy, not needing to watch or guide what we do. Often our most important actions are habitual: the way we wake, the way we eat, the way we speak to the people we care for most.
When we are fully present, we do not make comparisons: there is so much to sense and do here and now. With habitual actions, we can disengage and fall into the habit of comparing: this day to other days, this year to other years, our prior achievements to other’s present achievements, etc. We create expectations of the present based on the past; we feel we are missing and wanting what we had already. We become competitive, with ourselves and with others. We measure ourselves and often find ourselves falling short and feeling old.
Why do old habits make us feel our age? With repetition, tracks are worn deeply into us. In the brain, groups of neural cells are triggered in tandem, creating automatic, mechanical reactions. It becomes difficult for us to tease apart the behaviors that we naturally group together, and so habits become difficult to change. We wear ourselves down. We get stuck in ruts. Behaviors become old and we perceive ourselves to be the same.
Being habitual by nature drops us into commitments we are unprepared for. When we make single choices that we enjoy, our habitual side goes towards it again and again, binding our future actions to decisions we made long ago. This is the underlying pattern of worrying: we think the same thoughts again and again, with concern for the future because of confusion in the present. We lose ourselves in the presumption that things may not be ok, which directs our present energy towards predicting, reasoning, and rehashing. We resist the present, relying on routines, so we can mentally project ourselves forward. Making that forward projection a habit prevents us from fully seeing and using the resources present in the Here-Now.
When this happens, it is difficult for us to change as times change. To be adaptive, we need the flexility to choose a new way, a now-relevant way, each and every time. This gives us fresh energy, ever changing perspective, the sensation of being young. Our body intelligence is empowered, and our body memory becomes loose, not-rigid. We are mobile.
With this innate, flexible, intelligence, we can feel the concept of synergy. When we bring together thoughts, actions, and beliefs that reflect our current perceptions, we can choose patterns in which the individual thoughts and actions enhance one another, giving us a sense of lift, of high.
This is the entrance into happiness: to choose to see what is here, what is now, without thoughts of comparison. The past will not make us happy, just nostalgic, or even grateful that it is past. The future does not make us happy: just impatient, or nervous, longing for what could be or hiding from what may be. When we are routinely pursuing pleasures, we are blithe, or blind, to the greater potentials present.
When we let go of our habitual actions, expectations, and comparisons, we open ourselves to happiness as a choice, as a way of life.