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A Theory of Habits

Last night I put my shoes where they belong in my side of our walk-in closet. As I changed for bed,I placed my jacket on a clothes hanger and hung it in the closet and I put my dirty clothes in the dirty clothes hamper. This is good for me.

Good because I've had this bad habit of shoes left in the living room by the couch, dirty clothes ending up in a pile on the floor, and, basically, I make our closet look like "insert-coastal-city-here" after a class five hurricane. I'm sure this bloomed for me in college, and has continued to come off and on for years now. But, slowly and surely, I'm breaking that bad habit. I'm going on a week of successfully putting stuff where it belongs.

So last night it occurred to me that I hadn't only gotten out of a bad habit, but had replaced that 'bad' habit with a 'good' habit. And maybe that's the way people are with any habit. You don't just drop one, but you actually replace one habit with some other habit. You don't just "stop jogging" but you "start playing more video games". You don't just "stop coming home on time" but you "start working later". You're replacing time and actions with time invested in other actions. "You don't just lay something down without picking something else up." AND "You don't just pick something up without laying something else down."

If it works this way, maybe there's something to be said for how people try to alter behaviors (like not having a messy closet). Maybe there's a way to harness this point of view in correcting some of my other personal faults. Also, I know some people use 'habits' as a way of encouraging spiritual disciplines, and this may be a way to motivate people to engage in those types of habits.

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