There’s an old saying that goes: “We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” As children we haven’t had time to develop habits. Everything we do is a learning process. Every situation is new and difficult and requires our active attention.
Over time however, we figure out how to deal with some of those situations in a way that resolves them; or at least frees us from the anxiety of thinking strenuously about them. If we continue to rely on these strategies they eventually become automated and lo and behold; a habit is formed.
Whether or not this is a good thing depends on the nature of those habits, and in the video above, What I’ve Learned explores how habits are formed and the benefits of learning how to direct the formation of new ones consciously:
Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, analysed two groups of kids struggling with their grades. One group was taught that every time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neutrons in their brain would form new, stronger connections, and over time they would get smarter.
The kids who were not taught this growth mindset lesson continued to show declining grades, but those who were taught this lesson showed a sharp rebound in their grades. Carol says this kind of improvement has been shown with thousands and thousands of kids, especially with struggling students.
One I adopted this kind of growth mindset towards building habits, habit building started to actually feel fun. As Carol puts it, I used to be gripped in the tyranny of now, and not able to appreciate the power of “yet”.
Habits, whether good or bad, have an enormous impact on the course our life takes. Perhaps more than any other factor they govern our health, our career, even our sense of self-worth and the quality of our relationships. Our habits make us. So we do well to choose them wisely.