“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Creatures of Habit

We are all creatures of habit. The other day, the presenter Mark Forrest was talking about this on his breakfast programme on Classic fm. He commented that for him, the first cup of coffee of the day has to be in a particular mug, and sitting in a particular chair, otherwise it doesn't feel "right". The location and receptacles of the rest of his drinks for the day don't matter to him, but this first drink is special.

And I am much the same - I don't mind about which mug I have for breakfast, but my morning routine is unvaried: rise, shower, dress, then breakfast, sitting at the kitchen table, the same meal every day - mug of coffee (two sweeteners), bowl of Fruit & Fibre (same bowl every day), glass of breakfast juice. It is my way of easing into the day, of bringing myself up to speed.

Having a daily routine is not a bad thing, so long as we drive it, rather than it driving us. Certain things need to be done daily, or weekly, or whatever, and having some sort of routine can help with this. But I think we also need to leave some space for the unexpected, the new, the unusual, and not be so bogged down in our everyday routine that we cannot respond easily and quickly, to whatever comes up. It's a fine balance.

Habits can be good for us, or bad for us. For example, good habits might include regular exercise, cleaning one's teeth twice a day, and so on. Whereas bad habits might include smoking, drinking alcohol to unwind in the evenings, whatever. And most of us will sit in an accustomed seat in any particular setting, and be unreasonably annoyed if someone else sits in "our" seat. It's not rational, it's a matter of habit, and we need to be on the watch for habits which cause us to behave less than our best.

It reminds me of the old Native American tale about feeding the wolf, which appears in Rev. Bill Darlison's story collection The Shortest Distance:

"'Why is is that sometimes I feel that I want to do helpful things, but at other times, I just want my own way?' a little Cherokee boy asked his grandfather one day.
'It's because there is a battle inside every human being,' replied his grandfather. 'The battle is between two wolves. One wolf is kind and gentle, full of peace, generosity, compassion, and trust. The other is wicked, full of anger, hatred, greed, selfishness, pride and arrogance.'
The young boy thought for a moment, and then he asked: 'Which one will win the battle inside me?'
'The one you feed,' replied his grandfather."

We are all human beings who have been given free will, and can choose to follow a variety of paths through our lives. The story of the two wolves helps me to remember that I do have this choice, and reminds me to try to follow the best I know, and not to feed the wolf of bad habits.

1 comment:

  1. This is my favourite story Sue...for me the key is to begin each day with feeding the right wolf...for me this starts with prayer and seeking God's will for me and the strength to do it...there have been just three occasions in the last 8 years when I failed to do this and by golly what a mess I made of each day...if I start the day in the right way it helps me to live from the compassionate wolf as oppose to the other aspect of myself...by the way I put my day to bed each day too, before I sleep...since I've been doing this the insomnia that plagued me for 20 years as ended...as for the rest of the day there is no routine...thanks for this