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spend a day living in the mirror

May 24, 2011

Habits are powerful. We come to depend on them. They free our mind from the detail of the immediate task in front of us and allow us to focus on other things.

When activities become habitual we don’t have to think about them as we are doing them. Driving a car, typing, getting dressed all become habits.

Signing your own name, using the mouse, brushing your teeth, swiping your access card to get into work, brushing your hair – all things that we do mostly without thinking about them. In fact we mostly do them while we are thinking about something else.

The kids, the dog, the call we need to return, the report that has to be completed by 10 am.

Habits are dangerous.  We come to depend on them. They set our mind adrift and prevent us from seeing the detail of what is right in front of us.

In the worst cases habits can get us killed.

Try spending a day living in the mirror. Or even just an hour.

Brush you hair with the other hand. Wear your proximity card on the left instead of the right, put your wallet in the right pocket instead of the left and put your mouse on the other side of your keyboard. Drink your coffee without sugar.

Notice how such small changes make a huge difference in the level of awareness that you bring to the task. Then go back to doing it the habitual way and notice how disconnected you are from your body in comparison.

Notice the things that you don’t notice.

What do we miss as we go through each day dependent on our habits?
What details do we miss in those relationships that have become habituated?
What opportunities do we miss when our responses to life are habitual?

Spend a day living in the mirror and I know you will be amazed at what you see.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2011 10:54 am

    Great that you’ve brought this up Paul. Your mirror practice is potentially very powerful for people who don’t really ‘get’ their level of habitual programming until they have a means to bring it into awareness. I love trying similar things with clients and will add this suggestion to my tool box! Your three concluding questions are valuable doors to even more expanded awareness. Thank you!

  2. May 24, 2011 7:02 pm

    Thanks Susie. It was Lance Giroux of who first got me thinking this way when he stepped us through an exercise centered around signing your name. I have shifted my mouse to the left side of my keyboard and what I find really interesting is that I will often find myself twisted in knots so that I can use my (habitual) right hand. Habits are powerful things!

  3. May 25, 2011 3:41 pm

    I’ve tried brushing my teeth with my left hand and wouldn’t recommend it – you can potentially inflict some serious damage to your gums.

    I also like the 3 questions and find it fascinating just how strong the pull back to ‘normal’ or the habitual is. I’ve read a number of times (recently in George Leonard’s Mastery and also in previously in Tony Robbins I think) about the power of homeostasis. It helps keep things in balance, but also means that we potentially miss a lot of things – especially when people don’t see their habitual programming (nicely put Susie).

    Nice post, thanks!
    p.s. good coffee doesn’t require sugar 🙂

    • May 26, 2011 8:13 am

      Habits are powerful and dangerous! Practice is the key.

      Since writing the post I came across this TED talk that I think links nicely. It seems that after all these years I (and many others) still don’t know the best way to tie my shoes.

      Once you learn to do things one way you mind often closes down to other possibilities – like the fact that if you drink bad coffee it needs sugar so therefor all coffee needs sugar!

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