I built my house 9 years ago on the culdesac of a quiet street of just 12 homes. My house backs up to the canal that carries irrigation water for hundreds of miles along the base of the Rockies on the Wasatch Front. I have illegally run thousands of miles next to this canal, since Utah has no trail system so we’re left with few options.
This summer, they piped the canal with a billion-dollar federal grant. Then they put a through-street over it.
Until this happened, you could only turn West at the top of my street, and go far out of your way. Even if you wanted to go East, you had to turn right, wind through a junior high school, and double back up towards the mountains. Everyone in Utah knows, the mountains are in the East.
So I’ve calculated how long it takes, taking the new through-street, compared to the old, out-of-the-way route. Going right, the old way, it’s 1 minute 35 seconds, to arrive at Main Street. That’s the straight shot to the gym, the kids’ high school, etc.
Going left? Only 1 minute flat.
So why is it, that every single time I leave my house, I turn right?
Entrenched habit. It’s far more powerful than I want it to be. I WANT to go the faster route! But I get in my car, and I’m on mental auto-pilot. I’ve driven this route thousands of times, so I start thinking about
–what I’m going to do at the gym
—some issue one of my children is having
–my to-do list for the day
……and BAM, next thing you know?
I’ve turned right and am wasting time and gas driving through the junior high again.
But I’ve been reflecting on how powerful HABIT is. How significant, and even powerful, it can be when we break a habit in favor of something better. Some things we do not because we want to, or even like it or are addicted to it, so much as that it’s simply the default path. It’s what we know.
I’m going to learn to go left—after 9 years straight of going right. I will I will I will.
Matthew would tell me to pull my ever-present ponytail elastic I keep on my wrist, and then release and snap my wrist, to cause myself pain, every time I go the old way. Pain avoidance is one learning technique. It isn’t my favorite.
What old habit are YOU determined to change this year?