The 4 types of habits

When a guide meets up with someone who is lost, ordinarily his reaction is to direct him on the right path, not mock or malign him, then turn on his heel and walk away. As for you, lead someone to the truth and you will find that he can follow. But as long as you don’t point it out to him, don’t make fun of him; be aware of what you need to work on instead.
— Epictetus

Instigating Habits

These are the life processes we establish to help guide us in the project of life. These move us towards a chosen idea. Leading to serendipity. Positive. They can be enjoyed in their own right without achieving the goal. They steer us on a path that in itself is rewarding. Leading us day to day, in the present. They often have a goal but that is not so important as the movement of the process. These habits are open ended. Because we are not focused on the outcome, whatever happens can be framed as a success. Examples: hugging sweetie every morning, going to the gym, reading, making time for friends, eating smart, building a home.


Avoiding Habits

These habits the ones we try to brake. Smoking, drinking, gambling, slothfulness, gossip, procrastination, media addiction along with all types of addiction. Here we are focused on moving away from something. We repulse the object of the habit. Push it away. Negate. Very outcome focused, closed, restrictive. Either you are in compliance with avoiding or you are not. 

To move these habits towards instigating habits — mentally reframe them. For example instead of trying to make stopping gossip a habit, make looking for areas in others to compliment as a habit. Done well enough this will naturally crowd out the gossiping and who knows where this will lead.


Regimental Habits

Doing an activity the same way each time leaving no room for serendipity. Automaticity. This is a devilish cycle that robs one of being present in the moment. Most people who rile against “habit formation” think of only this kind of habit. Giving control to a regiment is a recipe for missing life, not being present. These habits can become “unconscious” if we don’t watch out. Examples: showering, parking in the same place, traveling on the same path, coffee in the morning.   

To move these habits towards instigating habits — mentally reframe them. For example when having coffee, really be present. If just for a moment, breath, let the universe in. Sense the flavors, the smells, consider how it came it be in front of you. Who knows where this present moment awareness will lead?


Unconscious Habits

Unfortunately, this is the largest category of habits that operate through us. We all have them. By their nature we can not see them. We have to rely on family and friends to help us expose them. Unconscious behaviors that are repeated is the definition of this type of habit. So many of our behaviors we are not consciously in control of and some people have more awareness into this realm than others. These are the often outcomes of our biases. Examples: frown, picking nose, speeding, driving too slow, being negative or a pessimist, voting like our parents or peers.

To move these habits towards instigating habits — first they must be discovered once exposed then we can mentally reframe them. For example say you discover that you unconsciously frown in some situations, you have a sour look even though you don’t feel sour inside, it is just a habit formed after months or year of inattention. Now this habit can be reframed as wanting to show happiness and welcomeness. Who knows where this will lead? On thing that has been proven by research is when you smile, you become happier. 


Personal Note: This is a journal entry meant as a reminder to me. It is a reminder to me how I want to operate and some tips put together in a moment of clarity to help when I am less clear and caught up in stuff the I can’t control. Leave a comment if you want to dialog with me about this.