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Habit Forming

I recently learned, thanks to a somewhat failed party game, that my friend Anna Kate drinks half a cup of tea during the course of her morning routine, takes her dog Finn out for a walk, then returns to reheat and finish the second half of her tea.

Aren’t routines and habits fascinating?

There’s a new book out called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessI’m not going to buy it, but these reviews were entertaining in themselves, and somewhat instructional:“A Matter of Course” on The Paris Review and “Kicking the Dessert Habit” on Dinner: A Love Story.

Though I love talking and reading about this subject, in practice I’m intimidated, especially as a new parent wanting to establish positive routines and associations. Because even when you’re not doing something on purpose, you’re forming habits whether you like it or not.

It’s the greatest when you realize you’ve formed a nice little routine without consciously deciding to do so. (I’ve been singing with Mary Tobin–usually “This is the day”–when I get her up from a nap. Sweet moments.)

It’s not so great when you realize you’ve fallen into bad patterns (she says, sitting on her couch with glazed eyes staring at the commercial breaks during today’s broadcast of TMZ).

Do you ever realize that your mind associates an unrelated subject with a certain activity? Like you get in the shower, and you’re thinking about the conversation you need to have with your boss, and suddenly you remember that you thought about that yesterday while you were in the shower. The best thinking happens in the shower, I believe.

[Wait. Just learned from this week's 30 Rock that the phenomenon I just described has less to do with habits, and more to do with the Shower Principle, wherein one part of your brain being occupied with a mundane or "mindless" activity allows the critical thinking part of your brain to have breakthroughs. I have not verified this information, but I trust Tina Fey.]

So, what about you? Any habits you’re cultivating, or trying to break? Do you hang up your jacket as soon as you walk in the door? Did you wait til this morning to rinse out yesterday’s coffee pot? (I did!)

And, if you’ve had success replacing bad habits with good, how did you do it?

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