Habits: Choosing and Re-choosing Your Path in Life
At any moment, you’re often surrounded by choices, big and small. A myriad of potential paths branching off in all directions, beckoning.
Just take a quick look around: choices about what to say (or not), to think (or not), to question or to assume, to do, to be. Choices about what to eat, who to spend your time with, how to approach your work, your leisure and your life, and even whether or not to keep reading this post.
So choice seems a fairly steady companion of sorts.
And what is it, exactly, that you’re choosing?
Moment by moment, deciding how to be in the world.
And so moment by moment, choosing who to be…
The philosopher Martha Nussbaum refers to something called “self-shaping.” The basic idea is that perhaps some kinds of philosophy or a sense of conscious living can maybe help shape this thing we call a self. To deliberately craft it. Form it. Hone it.
Is this what we’re doing when we’re making all those choices? Are we subtly deciding what kinds of things our self regularly does? (And what it doesn’t).
Maybe all these choices, great or small, are a kind of self-creation?
If that’s the case, then we’re literally making ourselves up as we go along…
So which way will you go?
Is the path that just feels easiest to travel down this second the one you’ll choose?
Is it the path you tend to slip down by habit?
The one you’ve always trod?
The one you wander down without thinking?
Or is there another way, another choice, that you aspire to?
As you probably know, these external paths and choices are thought to be mirrored internally, too – in the neural pathways in our brains. The more often we follow a particular course of action, the stronger that neural pathway becomes. So our habits are physically wearing deeper and deeper into our being, literally becoming who we are.
So what guides you in your choices, as you stand at the crossroads of who you might become?
Which values could act as virtual guideposts to point you down the road that leads to who you want to be? Or point a way out of the habit you’ve fallen into.
And how will you remember this the next time you’re faced with a choice that a habit might like to hijack? How will you take the decision back and make it yours again?
For, large or small, perhaps all choices are part of your self-shaping. Or, as Rev Stephanie Dowrick put it:
“No encounter is neutral…
it is creating who we are becoming.”
Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2011). Habits: Choosing and Re-choosing Your Path in Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 27, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapist-within/2011/01/habits-choosing-and-re-choosing-your-path-in-life/