The development of the human brain is a marvel of nature. I feel confident that no one will argue that point with me. As humans have developed over the years our brains have developed to allow as much of our daily routine to run on auto-pilot as possible. As I have been thinking about my habits/addictions, it became clear that habits are one of the greatest defenses early man had. Early man was able to have a regular routine of hunting and gathering so that while he was performing the mundane tasks of life for the thousandth time, he did not have to actively think about every step he had to perform to complete the task. He could perform the task on auto-pilot and allow his brain to focus on looking for predators.
Fast forward to modern man, we don’t have to worry about predators (okay, we do have to worry about zombies), but we have the ability to create our routines so that we don’t have to always think about every step to complete our tasks every time. Thus, we are able to free up some of the brain’s computing cycles to think about running, blog posts, how we are going to get our wives to calm down about the fifth pair of running shoes we just purchased, etc.
Habits have provided us with productivity and a sense of security. This is a good thing because we can achieve more and cultivate a mental, or possibly even a physical haven of rest and safety. Unfortunately, our habits all too often are detrimental to our lives. Case in point, through this odyssey, I will be breaking a habit/addiction of eating fast food. I can’t explain it, but something about the ability to have cheap food given to me in my car has become a very comfortable and safe haven. It doesn’t taste good. I have never looked forward with great anticipation to the culinary “delights” I get by ordering into a speaker, and yet it is still a very comfortable thing for me to do.
Recent studies have shown that once the pathways for a habit have been laid down in the brain they cannot be overwritten. We will always have the code for the habit in our minds. Sounds hopeless, but it isn’t. The human brain is pliable enough that it can establish another habit that would have a stronger attraction to us.
Applying this to my fast food habit/addiction, I will always feel a pull to seek the comfort of the fast food experience, but I have the ability to create another habit for purposeful, sustainable eating that can become a stronger comfort to me.
We will deal more with habits/addictions in future posts, but I wanted to get you thinking about what habits/additions you are allowing to hold you back, and what you can do now to make a stronger habit.