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The Tinkered Mind
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September 21st, 2020
A laundry list of good habits that are fully present in an individual’s life will do a ton of good when compounded through time. But habits, once properly adopted and installed as routine become just that - routine. Good habits become easier and easier with time, and the success they garner can seem strangely automatic. What is more impressive, however, is when an individual can consciously alter their systemic behaviour.
Take for example fasting. It’s impossible to make fasting a daily habit because after enough fasting, the lack of food is eventually going to cause some medical issues, and of course… death. But fasting is a powerful practice to aid and bolster the health of the body. So this becomes a conundrum. How do we implement a regular practice that can never become a routine that feels effortless?
This question spells the important difference between success that is in some sense foretold by the promise of good habits continued and the willing ability to twist the model of our behaviour on command to fit the needs of a new or larger situation.
It’s one thing to institute this level of discipline once to instantiate a bunch of good habits, or perhaps a few times to get the ball of life rolling in the right direction, but it’s a far more powerful skill to express willpower on command. It might feel as though we always have this available, and it is always possible, but like any habit or skill, it requires regular practice to keep in good form.
An accidental form of this is when a vacation or a move interrupts our routine. Getting things back on track is an act of will more than it is picking up habits again. It may be easier because these things have been a habit, but it still requires work to move against the antihabit that is forming in the absence of routine.
Beyond this, it’s an argument for keeping a flexible and less regulated schedule. The individual who can only be productive with a tight and decided schedule will flounder in a chaotic situation, but the individual who can flourish in a chaotic situation will be comfortable anywhere. The difference is a practice of constantly suspending the program in exchange for a larger meta program that is flexible and far more powerful than the tracks created by mere good habits.