January 16, 2017 – Never Do Anything Out of Habit


I took a day off from writing, but not meditating.

“So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit. Since all that I’ve said is the case, the person in training must seek to rise above, so as to stop seeking out pleasure and steering away from pain; to stop clinging to living and abhorring death; and in the case of property and money, to stop valuing giving over receiving.” – Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 6.25.5-11

I have been employed by the same company for the past 17 years. During that time I have seen many intelligent people cast off as collateral damage due to the change of course brought about by new management, acquisitions or replacement of legacy products. When I refer to them as intelligent it is a means of focusing on their intellectual value to the team, company or project. Upon losing such people there is an inevitable feeling of loss, both personal and business related. How can I survive in this environment without their companionship or knowledge? How can we succeed at accomplishing our goals with such a big piece missing?

At no point of loss has there ever been a halting of progress. It may slow, but it eventually reaches its level for continued fluidity. Even at a personal level, the gap will be filled by an unknown that creates a new relationship.

Change happens. How do we respond to it? Do we fight it? And why?

In a study done by Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, they determined the following related to breaking habits.

These brain analyses suggest that going against the default in difficult decisions requires some kind of extra motivation or confidence. Otherwise, the decider in our mind is puzzled, and the doer in our mind is paralyzed.

We can be paralyzed by change, and when that happens we cease to think clearly. That extra motivation or confidence comes about when we can see the change as nothing more than something to be evaluated. It is neither good nor bad, it’s simply a break from the pattern within which we have existed.

Think of how we work as a habit. We get comfortable with how we do things, and with whom we do them. Just recently we brought in a new lead engineer to evaluate our Skype for Business deployment. His expertise and a fresh set of eyes found gaps we had either missed or that we weren’t staffed to address. I felt myself moving towards the “don’t say that about my environment” mood, but realized his assistance was beneficial to a better deployment. It was giving us a different way to look at the problem, and in doing so was breaking certain habits we had regarding how a product should be deployed.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, habits can allow our brains to function with greater efficiency. That does not, however, mean there will not be room for improvement. We should not be “mindlessly operating” in anything we do. As today’s meditation asks:

Is this really the best way to do it?

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