How much of your everyday life is just following the beaten path: the automatic pilot of habit, where we are not even aware of our own behaviour? I was made to ask this question by reading a book recently called ‘How We Are’ by Vincent Deary, where he talks about how and why we are creatures of habit. He also talks about how it can be hard to change, until we form a new habit and go back to automatic pilot again on a new beaten path.

It is not that it is wrong to function like this, but sometimes it is worth noticing that the beaten path you are walking is not really a useful one. For example, we may ignore signs of hunger in ourselves until it is becoming urgent and then snack because we can’t wait to make ourselves a proper meal.

Or we may always try to finish a task even though we know really that we need a break – and then we become clumsy or mess it up and it takes even longer.

We do know if we have a habit that’s not useful to us because we will say to ourselves: ‘Damn, I always do that!’, telling ourselves off after the event with the wisdom of hindsight!

And we can pick them off, one by one, (most of us have lots of them), by consciously choosing to deliberately change the habit to something more useful, forming a new beaten path.

It would be impossible to live our lives if we had to think through every action and behaviour – we’d never get anything done! But the more beaten paths we have that are useful to us, the more we free ourselves for a better life.

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