Why are we Creatures of Habit?

For some time now my parents have kept only three chairs at their large, round, kitchen table. They’ve moved the other three into the dining room. They needed more space to walk around without falling after various surgeries, and have placed a standing lamp in one corner to improve the lighting. This is the table where the six of us ate most meals and while we didn’t have assigned seats per se, there were places we felt most comfortable and fell into a routine.

So I found it difficult adjusting during a recent visit to the three chairs and the different places my parents sat, shifting me to another spot. I tried to be adult about the whole thing, managing to eat somehow not in my usual seat and we laughed about my dilemma.

This week, at a yoga class I attend every now and then in New York City, I chatted with a woman who I’ve seen many times. I entered the room first and headed to the back corner by the window and she mentioned how that was her “spot.”   This being yoga, I graciously moved over, commenting that when she’s not there, I take her place.

In my yoga class in NJ, I try to arrive early, to settle in, accumulate my props, and of course, claim my territory. I’ve noticed others also set up their mats in the same locations week to week. Perhaps changing where I practice would offer a new perspective on life? For now, I’ll stay put.

 Why are we creatures of habit? Psychologists have studied this phenomenon. What distinguishes a habit from an obsession? In what ways are you a creature of habit?

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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26 Responses to Why are we Creatures of Habit?

  1. I think there’s comfort in sameness. The other day I got an odd spot in the parking lot at the nearby supermarket. I was fine with it. Lol. Nice that you were gracious to the lady who claimed she owned the yoga spot. It’s when people get bent out of shape (pun intended?) with change, then it’s a problem. Cute post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks! Really– we need to be flexible! But I was truly flummoxed by the moving of the seat I sat in all through school! One sons’ kids swap every meal sitting near their mother. Seating arrangements for holiday dinners require a negotiation.

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    • I know what you mean. The kids don’t seem to care in our family. My husbands family (the adults!) seem to make an issue over seating. My mil likes to set the seating. We let her. She’s 94. I personally think its a control thing but that’s just me. Ha. Who knows?

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  3. ShimonZ says:

    Don’t know if there’s really much point in asking why about such things. We are creatures of habit. most of us. And I think it might take energy from other things we do or want to do, if we tried to change our basic nature.

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  4. True– just found these couple of situations amusing.

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  5. Remember Dead Poet’s Society? I like to change my seat or position in classes and activities to keep it fresh. At the same time, there’s a deepening that happens from consistency. In Judaism people are encouraged to “set a place” for davening–to find a set shul, a set time, and a set place within the shul to pray.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Habit-What-Business/dp/081298160X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415207604&sr=8-1&keywords=habit

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  6. It’s as if we get stuck at the same lunch table in high school for the rest of our lives. Changing things up is better for brain health right?

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  7. susanissima says:

    Habits sometimes seem like mini-traditions punctuating our day. When my husband or I set the table for just the two of us, we always use beautiful linens, plates and wine glasses to match, place a lit candle between us and invariably sit in the same chairs. This predictable sameness feels like a sweet celebration.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post. Habits are habits with most of us. We take comfort. I have some I’d like to break, even though they have served me well.

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  9. I think that the reason you had your own seats when you we small a because you each had different preferece about how you liked your food. This made it easy to remember who liked ketchup, who liked mayonaise, and who liker mustard, for certain meals, anyway

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  10. I don’t remember that — makes sense I guess as long as whoever set the table knew what each liked!

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  11. jmgoyder says:

    I always like to sit with my back to the wall!

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  12. My morning routine. Pour a coffee. Have a few sips. Do my exercise. Brush my teeth. Shower. If I do these things out of order or skip on, like brush teeth before the shower, I sometimes forget to brush them after the shower. Familiar things are comforting and in a world where the unexpected comes flying in at you from nowhere, it’s nice to have the things that stay the same. I think we all need that.
    Diana xo

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  13. Barbara says:

    My daughter Laura has me reading The Power of Habit. Not sure why she thinks I need it so much but I’m open. Just started the book, so we’ll see!

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  14. It wouldn’t bother me one bit if I awakened in Paris, strolled on unknown streets, stayed a while and high-tailed off to the hill country in Italy. Moving around is a great way to break any habits I might have formed at home. In fact. the more I think about it the more certain i am that we need another trip: purely for psychological improvement!

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  15. Drjcwash says:

    Great post. I love getting up early and having my coffee. I feel off if I have to modify my routine. I hate missing Monday yoga. I have had to adjust.

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  16. marymtf says:

    My dear ones call me a stick in the mud because I resist change. 🙂

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  17. This made me laugh. Maybe I’ll take hubby’s place at the table tonight and see what his reaction is. 🙂

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