We ended the last article with the following point: Doing one meditative activity every day creates a memory that isn’t related to weed. It also creates a habit. It’s crucial to create new habits to replace your weed habit. It turns out that humans function largely on habit. But you wouldn’t come to that conclusion, say, perusing OKCupid profiles. “I like to try new things” appears in nearly every profile. Apparently people feel that trying new things is a positive attribute. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be putting it in their profiles. (Whether or not those people actually try new things on the regular is a horse of a different color.)
We Are Conditioned to Be Creatures of Habit
As children, though, we do routine like nobody’s business. Anyone who’s ever been a teacher, a substitute, or spent any time in an elementary school classroom can tell you how obsessed little humans are with habit. Put simply, kids go bonkers if you try to deviate them from their usual routine. This is why the plans that the teacher leaves for the substitute always read something like this: from 10:30 to 10:33, have students take their workbooks out of their desks. From 10:33 to 10:37, have students remove a pencil with an eraser–or a pencil without an eraser plus a standalone eraser–from their pencil cases. From 10:37 to 10:42, starting at the front of the classroom and going in a counter-clockwise direction one pod at a time, let them line up to sharpen their pencils. And on and on. Eventually the plan gets around to the actual teaching stuff.
Part of the reason structure is such a lifeline for kids has to do with the training they get from our educational system for the first 18 years of their lives. But as we mature, we learn that it’s not socially acceptable to freak out when our routines are upset. Instead, we act cool on the surface and panic on the inside. Change is scary, and quitting weed is going to be a big change in your life.
Trying New Things = Potential Future Habit
Let’s use our OKCupid example here. If it’s obvious there aren’t a lot of common interests, but we like the pics, we may still give him or her a shot–especially if it says “I like to try new things” somewhere in the profile. Here’s why: If we know someone is willing to try something we have a habit of doing, then there’s a possibility that person will like it. If that person enjoys it, then it has a good chance of becoming a habit. So what “I like to try new things” tells people is that they have a chance to sway you over to their habits. For example, if I like base jumping but you haven’t tried it but are willing to, there’s a chance you might like it. If you like it, it will probably become a habit for you, especially because you’re spending time with me, and it’s already a habit of mine. See how that works out for me?
Trying New Things = Routine Optimization
If trying new things is so good, then doesn’t that make habits and routines bad? No. Here’s the thing: trying new things and routines are actually related. How? First, keep in mind that we are the sum total of our routines, and we are always trying to optimize ourselves. How do we make the best of what we’ve got? By customizing our set of routines in order to mold us into the person we want to be. Trying new things, therefore, is just a way to temporarily tweak our routine. If we like what the tweak does for us, we incorporate it into our routine.
“Brad Pitt, seen here in movie True Romance, says he quit smoking marijuana because he was ‘turning into a doughnut’” It’s not easy to raise six kids and be a Hollywood superstar when you’re a doughnut.
Next Up: Memory, Habits, and Meditation, Oh My!