Rituals and Routines Part 4: Little Habits

Writing my last book has slowed down progress with this series, but here’s the 4th part now, got a few more coming soon.

Everyone has little habits, things that you do specifically. This doesn’t refer to things like smoking, but may refer to the way someone smokes. Or it might relate to things we all do, like washing dishes, but the way and process in which you do it.

Routines, habits, systems and processes are all very much linked. I was once told by a colleague when I asked his routines in the morning, he said:

“I purposely don’t have a routine, I always walk a slightly different route to work to keep it varied”

I replied.

“Isn’t that in itself a habit, a purposeful action that is normal for you?”

He agreed, his system may not be on the surface as routine as someone who goes the same route everyday but is still a routine. His intentional changing was the interesting bit, we always say change is good and positive but it was more about the fact his routine was very specifically his in the way he did it.

As a smoker I have observed many other smokers and largely people do it in exactly the same way, but have noticed some people who will hold the cigarette between their two middle fingers rather than the index and middle. I wondered if it’s a trend or maybe due to some sort of digit malfunction. Then I saw a man doing this and holding the cigarette right at the base of his fingers near his knuckles and held his entire hand over his mouth whilst inhaling. It looked odd but he appeared very naturally to do it.

Why do some people share habits, but conduct them in a way that is totally different to the majority? Maybe like my former colleague, to appear to not be doing what everyone else does? To stand out as an individual? Or maybe that is simply the way they learn? I have used this example before: I tie my shoelaces differently to the normal. The reason is I struggled to learn this particular fine motor skill and eventually found my own way which has stuck with me, now at age 40. People who see me tie them often comment on it. Standing out, being different gets attention, but I don’t want attention for the way I tie my shoes.

Young people often create new trends, slightly different ways of doing things to be different from the norm, but these often become mainstream very quickly due to social media sharing. When I was a kid it was word of mouth or off of TV and films, in the 1980’s in New Zealand things got their slower than the rest of the world, but with the internet this has changed.

Other little habits I have noticed are the way a person may enter a building, or the way some crosses the road, the way people cook. Just take the example from the first piece in this series of making a cup of tea. Each person has slightly different ways of stirring, steeping and even sipping tea. It might be the way you rub your feet together to get comfortable, the way you wipe your bum after going to the toilet (hopefully others don’t see that one) or the way you pull your duvet up at night.

Mostly these are organically formed based on your own physical abilities and the way you learn and get better at a particular task. You may not notice your own habitual idiosyncrasies until you see someone do it differently. The wonderful thing about this is it keeps us from robotic behaviour, we should have quirks. That is human.




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