Developing habits & questions about spirituality

I've always worked best in short bursts of energy, usually (but not always) accompanied by late nights. I don't think much has changed, but I'm realizing I also need to understand how to do things in a "long haul" sort of way. Not thinking about it as a project or goal with a deadline, but more like learning how to develop a habit. People talk about dropping bad habits all the time, but we don't really talk about how to learn habits, habits we want to keep for life. Well, we sort of do, I think we call it scheduling or time management or something, but that still requires some level of groaning and some sort of reminder or calendar. A habit is an unconscious thing, a compulsion that you only notice when you *don't* do it. Developing life habits can't be a sometimes thing, you really gotta love the habit slowly over time and be patient until it becomes a part of you, establishing a positive feedback cycle that takes place over a few years and continues way beyond. You might slack off occasionally but eventually you will return to the habit. That seems like powerful mojo to create momentum and capacity for self change.

Lately I've been trying to understand what spirituality is. I think I always associated it with religion, deities and theology, and strict moral and ethical guidelines for how to live your life. In the past I've dismissed most spiritual talk as either patronizing or as touchy feely, corny, new agey kinda bullshit. But I've noticed I feel different when I'm around familiar friends and family, versus by myself. I gain some sort of energy when I'm around or thinking about people that I care about. It's like an awareness of the people around me, and their awareness of me. I feel more complete when that awareness is there, and more alone when it is not. I think that energy and mutual awareness has some sort of spirit in it. I don't know exactly how it all works or what it's all about but I wanna try and understand it more...

xbeethovenx (not verified) says:

great entry. enjoying the new look + picsound section.
i support the move to try to understand and be open about spirituality

fereshteh (not verified) says:

Did you hear the Fresh Air episode with the guy who wrote a book about habits?
I also learned that Target can know you are pregnant before your dad does.

zirafa says:

Woah! What a coincidence. Just listened to it - what a great interview and it hit on so many topics. Thanks! I may just buy that book.

ladan (not verified) says:

I feel the same way about trying to develop good habits--I feel like the last time i was successfully able to do something like that was as a kid, getting in the habit of making my bed each day or flossing. Even now i sometimes feel lazy and don't want to make my bed but i always do it, otherwise i don't feel like the day can begin. Mind over matter...

I also heard about how Target knows when you're pregnant! But that they can't be too obvious about it or they risk creeping people out.

zirafa says:

Hey Ladan,

I can't remember the last time I made my bed. ha... But I know what you mean about associating certain tasks with starting the day. Feels like the task needs to get done to get things going for the day.

The target thing is insane. And that's just looking at receipts over time! It makes you wonder what kind of stuff can be inferred or data mined with the addition of any personal info, social connections or employment/credit background. No wonder there is so much money in tracking every movement and click on the web...

nofunsally___ (not verified) says:


ralf (not verified) says:

Wow great post - these should have been two different ones!

I am right there on the habits. I had seen a blog earlier in the year about trying on new habits for 30 days straight. Apparently that is about the amount of time required for it to become part of your routine. I do not agree. Book for leisure for 30 minutes a day, 30 days could be ok. But habits like working out/practicing an instrument/learning a language daily I think would require >6 months before routine. Then again these temporal benchmarks could be meaningless; hitting the right internal feedback, seeing results or not (though I'm sure they help), is probably more important.

When I was younger I never thought I'd be one to be so conscious about effecting personal change. I never understood why self-help books were popular, or why anyone read them. But I spend a lot of time thinking about these things these days (thanks grad school and winter). I constantly wonder where it comes from. Is it only that I am unhappy about something, and want to change? Is it luxurious to consider change? Is it because I have a lot of time to think? Have I developed a habit of introspection?

Do you keep a written journal? If so, how precise are you when writing? I think about this a lot. I don't keep a journal. I would like to but I am lazy as f* all. Not lazy in writing, or developing the habit, but lazy in precision. I don't know if I would have the energy to be intellectually honest with myself and chase down the heart of my ideas. Once I realize I am being lazy I get distracted and lose the big picture. This is why I really admire writers that can write clear and insightful prose, and make it sounds casual. Having put some thought into this, you would think I'd chase a writing habit, but I don't...

I recently heard about a rule called the "5 Whys" or something. The gist was that for any problem, asking the question "why" 5 times will let you get to the root cause. It would be nice to use this rigor in a personal journal, but I know I wouldn't. ("why?" x5)

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, I still think the hype between rules* and achievement can be misleading. There needs to be an initial fire, some organic genius, some energy, some awareness or spirituality, to realize the novelty. Hm, maybe these posts do not have to be have be two separate posts after all!

*10,000 hours/ 30 days for a habit/ Pomodoro technique/ 80,20/ inspiration,perspiration

zirafa says:

Hey Ralf, interesting thoughts. I too wonder how long you have to do something for it to become a habit...sometimes it feels like an overnight change, other times it really takes a lot of intentional thought and structure to put it in place. I think a lot of it relates to the feedback you get from the activity; if you feel good after doing it you'll probably want to do it again. Sometimes though it doesn't feel immediately good, but you know yourself well enough that you'll feel good later. How much you truly believe the new habit will make you feel better seems to be part of it. Either way it seems you have to do the activity long enough to have overwhelming evidence / good feelings to support continuing the behavior.

I think the desire to make and break habits is a pretty natural thing. We want to feel like we have control over our lives, and live in congruence with our true self (selves?). But it's hard because it's sometimes hard to know what we want out of life in the first place.

tj reeverts (not verified) says:

Hey zirafa, I live in Rochester ny. One of my recent habit woe’s has been that of in-action. and i assume it's common for a certain stereotype. think. scheme. intend. plan. day dream. miss life. i typically don't post shit on the internet but i have been trying to engage... so this is as much a tribute to positive change as it is a post.

I think your connection between habits and community is insightful. It's easy to see habits, healthy or otherwise, from a self-centered perspective. My action. My inaction. My strength or weakness. Whatever it may be. When in reality it appears many of my habits might best be viewed from a broader more social perspective. How are the habits of others affecting me or how are my habits affecting others. There is the obvious proximity affect. To quit drugs, find new friends type thing. But there may be a more subtle advantage to viewing my habits as products (or seeds) of social influence. particularly social spheres that I care about. I can see that advice helping me focus my mental strength in times of apathy. It certainly is giving me positive motivation here and who knows, perhaps it has helped others as well.

zirafa says:

Thanks for reading and commenting T!

I don't even think I intended to make a connection between habits and community, they were just two ideas that were floating in my mind at once. But you have shown how they are connected, and I think you are right. It seems like a subtle but important connection, and maybe a good source of motivation to create forward momentum for change.