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It's the dark side of your habits

You are a creature of habits by design.

Nature made you this way.

Habits dominate your lives. From the simple act of brushing your teeth in the morning to complex activities such as driving a car. No matter how difficult the task is, once you do it enough times, it becomes a habit.

And once it is a habit, you do it automatically. Without the need to think about it and pay attention to it.

If you are wondering what is so good about driving a car automatically without paying full attention to what you are doing, there is a strong why behind this design.

You need habits for your survival

As weird as it might sound, thoughtlessness is a crucial feature. (As someone passionate about thinking, it is not easy for me to write down this sentence.)

Being able to do things automatically, without thinking about them, enables you to stay sane and function.

Think about it for a moment – your brain is managing everything you do. It is responsible for deciding how to do things and executing these decisions. For example – when you want to have breakfast, your brain needs to decide what to eat. And there are so many options to choose from! Therefore, this decision alone takes effort and energy. Then, let’s say you decided to eat a piece of toast with butter. Now your brain must choose how to set up the toaster and how much butter to put on the toast. So even a simple thing, such as making breakfast, requires a lot of energy and effort from your brain. Now think about what happens when your brain needs to take more significant decisions, such as what school your child would attend.

Making a decision is an energy-consuming affair. It is a process that exhausts your brain. This means that your brain is deflated and struggles to make effective decisions after making a few.

Therefore, if your brain needs to think about every little thing you need to do, your mind will overload, and smoke will start coming out of your ears.

I often say that the brain is the most fantastic organ we have. But even this marvellous piece of engineering has limitations. As a result, your brain will automate any task it can, so it doesn’t need to spend a lot of energy on performing it.

Your brain is operating in a way that will save energy whenever possible.

And this is a good thing as this automation enables you to perform many different actions as part of your day-to-day life.

Having habits has additional benefits as forming habits also helps you achieve your goals.

For example, if you want to be healthy, forming habits of healthy eating and exercising regularly will help you achieve this goal. Forming such habits means you don’t need to invest mental energy, including decision-making and self-discipline, in performing these habits. You simply do it.

While habits are an evolutionary must and very beneficial for achieving our goals, there is a dark side to it too.

The dark side of habits

​Having habits is comfortable.

Having predictable routines is easier.

But you can get too comfortable that, without notice, you are stuck in a rut.

And when you are stuck in a rut, your creativity suffers.

Creative thinking flourishes with the new, the unknown, with having new experiences and learning new things. Developing your creativity requires moving away from the familiar, breaking your routines and stepping into the uncomfortable zone.

It requires you to change. And change is the opposite of habits and routines.

Therefore, your habits are one of the biggest enemies of your ability to think creatively and innovate.

So what do you do now? You need your habits to survive and be productive, but at the same time, you want to develop your creativity too. Is it a catch-22 situation?

Luckily, it’s not, as there is a way for you to enjoy both worlds.

Your way out of this paradox

The way forward is breaking your habits from time to time and stepping into the unfamiliar.

To develop your innovative thinking, you have no choice but to try new things. It doesn’t mean you need to turn your whole world upside down. However, it does mean that you must be intentional about doing things differently and stepping into uncomfortable territory.

So how can you go about it in a fun and easy way?

Here are a few ideas-

  1. Visit a suburb in your city that you have never been to before. Visiting new places is always a fun way to break your routine. Pay attention to your new surroundings. What is different? What new things can you find? What are the stories?

  2. Try new food. Try a food you never dared to eat. Be brave with your choices. Who knows, you might fall in love with a new dish.

  3. Volunteer somewhere. I am sure there are plenty of volunteering opportunities near you. Choose a volunteering option that would be a whole new experience for you. Can you help a group of people you usually don’t interact with? Can you help nature and animals? How can you contribute to your community?

  4. Learn a new skill. Be adventurous. Try something that is out of your typical behaviour. What about learning how to drum? Or tap dancing? Or a new language?

If you are an educator, here are a few new things you can try with your students-

  1. Change the environment. If you always teach in your classroom, teach your students somewhere else. It can be in the local library, local park, the school’s yard, or inside a tent. You can be as creative as you want with what new environment to use.

  2. Change the roles. Your students can become teachers. Higher-grade students can become your students' teachers, or parents can become the teacher for a session or two. Or invite someone from the broader community to be a teacher. Don’t be afraid to let someone else lead the way.

  3. Mix things up and change your classroom routines. If you always start by reading a story to your students, start by playing some music and dancing together.

  4. Turn learning into a game. Think about how you can facilitate learning through games. For example, can you teach your students math by playing a board or card game? (You can even create your own game that would teach them the material)

If you are a parent, here are a few fun things you can try with your children

  1. Have fun dressing up together. And then go for a walk and a coffee while wearing your costumes.

  2. Create a new game together. It can be a card game, a board game, a new sports game, etc. You are only limited by your imagination. Then, once you come up with a new game, play it together.

  3. Invent a new recipe and then cook/bake it.

  4. Mix up things at your house. It might mean rearranging the sofas, building a tent in the living room, rearranging your child’s room, etc. The main thing is to change your environment.

Looking for more creative activities?

Download a FREE creativity pack for primary school-age children here.

Download a FREE creativity pack for teenagers here.

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