Do you really need your old habits?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“I still have my old habits from the seventies.” This sentence got my attention when we were watching Fran Lebowitz in her biographical documentary “Pretend it’s a city” on Netflix.

She was explaining how she actually behaves a lot in the same way when she first came to New York City although the world and the City have changed tremendously. For her, some of the old habits are not necessary anymore and sometimes even don’t make sense.

Stuck with old useless behaviors

This made me think about how much we are actually stuck with some old behaviors that made sense when they first became our habits. Since the world together with ourselves is changing and developing all the time, we might not need them anymore or we should update them.

Our habits are automatic and we are not thinking about what we do – we just do, because we have always done like this. That’s why we don’t notice if they are not necessary anymore or even bad for us. 

On autopilot even during the pandemic

We all noticed how we act on autopilot when the pandemic started and we were not allowed to do the things we usually did without thinking. Automatically we started to shake hands, hug, or be too close. This is what we do.

To interrupt this pattern was not easy. We had to become aware and mindful of our behaviors. It has been almost a year, but even now it sometimes feels awkward to act differently. As they say – old habits die hard.

Everything changes

Luckily we don’t have to forget about shaking hands or hugging. Sooner or later we can go back to it. But probably there are some behaviors that we could forget. How do you think, what could they be?

Times have changed. We have changed. Our environment has changed. Our friends have changed. Everything around us keeps changing. So why not our habits as well? Some of them of course change, even so, that we don’t notice. But some stay. And they stay for a long time.

Habits from long-long time ago

All of us still have some habits that developed in childhood. Our parents, siblings, grandparents, close friends were affecting us and we learned most of the behaviors from them.

Here’s a story to illustrate: A woman prepares a ham for dinner by cutting off both ends. Her bewildered husband asks why she cuts off the ends. She replies, “That’s how my mom cooked it.” Well, it just so happened that her mom was coming for dinner that night. So they asked her why she cut off the ends of the ham. Mom replies, “That’s how my mom cooked it.” So they decide to call grandma on the phone and ask why she cut off the ends of the ham. Her answer? “Because my pan was too small!”

Some of our behaviors that we do might not have any reason at all, but we learned them a long time ago and we do them without thinking. That is how it’s always been.

What kind of habits have you learned from your family? Are they still relevant? Are they still useful? 

Soviet Union remnants

I found that since my parents lived most of the life in the Soviet Union and my first five years were also lived in this unfortunate union, it had a lot of influence and still has.

These were the times when almost nothing was available and you had to be very creative and economical. You didn’t throw things away when they broke, you repaired them or you kept them for spare parts for some other things.

I still am like this. It’s very difficult for me to throw anything away. Of course most of the time I will never need it anymore or I can easily buy a replacement, but still, my first thought is to keep it.

There might be a different (and more efficient) way

When you start living together with your partner or roommates that come from different families and backgrounds you will notice how you do things differently. How or if at all you wash dishes, when you brush your teeth, how you behave when you have guests, how you deal with money, and so on.

Quite often this is the first time when you realize that there is a different way to do some things. It doesn’t mean that your way or their way is wrong. Of course, there are different ways to do things and it also depends on the personality and some other factors, but sometimes your eyes can really be opened. You can discover that there is a much more effective way of doing something. 

For example, I always hated putting the blanket into the cover. But from my first girlfriend, I learned a much more effective way than my mom had taught me. Now it’s no problem and I can do it easily.

Find the behaviors that are not necessary anymore

So to find the behaviors that are not necessary anymore or that can be even worse for you, it’s a good idea to get new experiences. Try something new. Ask how your friends are doing some things. Make yourself think about the most regular stuff you do. Are there some other ways for doing something?