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While I was loading my washing machine early this morning I couldn’t help but notice that I never really move the dial. I nearly always use the same setting, never really thinking about I am doing and as I stared at all the different settings from eco over super, wool and dedicates, rinse and spin I couldn’t help but wonder about choices and habits.

A little later I deciding to have a rare treat, because my bread  was a little hard, I made myself french toast for breakfast, and I used the front left hob. There are four perfectly fine working hobs, two front, two back , but I never even consider changing it up, with a flick of switch a turn of a knob I used the same hob I always do.

As my toast turned golden I wondered why it was that we all have our ways of doing things and tend to stick to them no matter what. We tend to drive the same routes, buy the same brands, have the same routines without thinking, just running on autopilot. But why is that?

Most of us don’t realize that it more than 40% of what we do every day isn’t done through conscious thought at all but are actually habits. Every habit is formed through three elements: the cue, (the thing that triggers it), the routine or behavior (the habit itself) and the reward. This is the case in both everyday habits, like brushing your teeth,and bad habits, like those late night snacks.

When we make decisions the thoughts occur in our pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that sits right behind our forehead,. But when we form habits, we no longer need to think, we just act automatically,  so it moves into the basal ganglia, which is right in the middle of our skull and the oldest part of our brains.

This means that we no longer need to go to long though processes and our brain is freed up to do think about other things. In essence this is a great as otherwise we would be overwhelmed with choices every second of the day. And if I just let myself do what I do without having to think about turning knobs and flicking switches I am rewarded with clean washing, yummy food and my mind is free to wander.

Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.

American dancer and choreographer: Twyla Tharp

 

 

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