Today I finished listening to a podcast by Jocko Willink titled “Discipline Equals Freedom”, which got me to thinking about habits, routines and discipline and how they apply in my life, both for better and for worse. I’ve always resisted routines. When I try to establish new ones I usually fail. Of course I can force myself into a routine when necessary, such as getting up early five days a week to get to work, but I can't give up sleeping in on the weekend. So really, the up-early routine isn’t truly a routine, but more of an accommodation to the outer world.
Right now I’m not working, which is nice, and I go to sleep when I'm tired and wake up when I'm done sleeping - no routine. As far as the no working thing, I half-jokingly say I’ve been busy taking a deep dive into the rather shallow pool of myself. I'm hoping to come to some conclusion about who I really am and how I can best use my time and talents in the time I have left. The alternative explanation is that I’m just enjoying slacking off, smoking a little weed and not worrying too much about my professional self right now. Both statements are true.
Back to habits, and truthfully I’d say I’m largely unaware of a lot of my habits unless I really start paying attention. I have physical habits I catch myself at, such as slouching when I sit on the couch, or digging the sides of my feet into the floor when I’m at my desk typing. It’s pretty easy for me to check in with my body periodically; yoga has been really helpful with that over the years, and catch things like clenching and tension. I also have a few conscious habits, like brushing and flossing my teeth before bedtime, that have become so engrained over time that I do them whether I feel like it or not. Unless I’m dead drunk, I just can’t fall asleep knowing my teeth aren’t brushed.
Then there are the physical habits that fall under the category of vices. Smoking, five o’clock cocktail hours, the things that started off as an every now and then thing, then over time become habitual, unconscious, maybe even addictions. I have my share of bad habits, and I’ve dealt with more than my share of addiction in this lifetime – thankfully others and not my own. Watching others travel the path of addiction makes me very aware of my own patterns and vices and excuses. I may not be virtuous, but I am at least mindful.
But mental habits – those are the biggies, the game-changers, or the Achilles heels. I’ve found over time that I can “catch myself” and become aware of my mental habits, but it’s taken the better part of a lifetime to be able to say that. It’s so much easier to say things like “that’s just how I am”. But I get to decide how I am every day – it’s not something set in stone. Creating the mental habit of being present has been the first step for me to uncovering other unconscious mental habits and thought patterns. I think being present is the most important thing I’ve ever learned, and I like to practice it as much as I can.