Sunday, April 4, 2010


HABITS. BAD ONES MAINLY. They get our attention—and at times, others’ attention—for all the wrong reasons. They define us.

On the way to an airport to fly home one afternoon years ago, I climbed aboard a taxi, and clapping eyes on the driver, an older Asian man, we greeted each other. This was to be a ride I’d never forget. It was prophetic perchance—one week before my world exploded. He gave me a riddle:

‘Guess who/what I am:

‘I am your constant companion.

‘I have the brain of a human, and the precision of the machine.

‘Half your job you might as well give to me... you only need to teach me and after only a few lessons I’ll do it for you automatically!

‘You can use me for your success, or equally, you can use me for your ruin.

But, you need to be firm with me; if you’re not, I have the power to destroy you.’

Can you guess who/what this is?

Some people will say, ‘the conscience.’ Others say it is, our routines. The best answer, however, is it’s our habits.

The myelinations—or neural pathways—of the physical mind are like highways and freeways of default or preferred cognitive travel. These are represented by our habits. They take this certain route; it’s quicker, easier and requires less thinking, less bother.

Punching green lights all the way home, the synapses of the mind occur at break-neck speed—ultra-efficiency.

And yet, where are our habits taking us? We’re on an efficient road, but is it the right one? Where are we destined?

Changing track mid-life is not easy; it’s like deciding to go another way—a strange way—home. But, if we’re to succeed in life, it’s necessary to become a master of taking the strange way home, operating automatically in manual—rejecting the overtures of habit. And yet, if we take the strange way home—the emergence of a healthier habit perhaps—often enough, that too will become a habit; a good habit, a habit caused for our success.

Breaking habits is not easy, but it is possible. Our wills decide. And we have every motivation. It’s often the only thing that stands in our way of triumph.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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