Our habits change us

I read a science article this week that said we are completely different at age 77 than we are at age 17. I found that hard to believe. Inside, I feel like I’m the same “me” I’ve always been; it’s just the circumstances around me that have changed.

But when I think about how much I’ve read. And how much I’ve learned. And how differently I think now than I did growing up, I get the change. Maybe it’s just my energy and core interests that are the same.

So here’s what I think is important: If we’re completely different, then other people are too. And how often do we recognize that? When someone you’re close to changes, do you accept it? Or do you hold onto who you think they are, to the person they used to be?

I talk to people a lot about changing habits, and how hard it can be to change when you define yourself by a habit. Say someone is shy but they want to be more outgoing. A goal might be to start a conversation with a stranger. But for a shy person, this isn’t just a new habit – it’s taking a step away from how they define themselves. Same with someone who’s the life of the party. If they want to party less to improve their health, first they have to decide to either no longer be the life of the party – or to be the life of the party in a new way! Then they can choose a calmer path. Right?

So…

Is there anything about how you define yourself that you’d like to change? And if there is – to do less of something or more of something – what’s a baby step you can take in that new direction? Now that you know you’re going to end up a completely different person, you have the freedom to change. And maybe even the obligation! What direction would you like to head?

Is there someone around you who’s changed and you haven’t seen it? I think this is particularly important with family and old friends. There’s a comfort to “knowing” old acquaintances as being messy, disorganized, the-one-we-always-turn-to, or the “creative one”. But what if that no longer describes them? Is someone around you on a new path and would love to have you see them in a new light?

Sending you love and kindness from the wilds of Maine. BRRR! 🙂

Photo courtesy of Bill Maxwell. This oak tree lives at the back of the Maxwell Farm property. The tree changes every year – and has deep, deep roots.

 

6 thoughts on “Our habits change us

  1. Someone told me this was “seeing someone fresh”. It’s so easy to hold onto our narrative of ourself and those we love, but not actually helpful.

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    • That’s a nice way to say it and to see it. I wonder what we could do to remind ourselves about this? Could we have an annual “reset” button? So much of this comes from conversations. Sometimes we have them. Sometimes we don’t!

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  2. I look upon change as a slowly evolving process. Those who knew me as a young man tell me that I was a bit “wild”–No, I didn’t do any crazy things that would have had a big impact on my life–When water skiiing I loved to cut across the bow of the Mount Washington and to “show off”‘ certainly would not do that today. I really loved to pit my thoughts against another-I loved challenges, I believe that I still challenge myself in what I might do but not to show others how damn smart I might think I am.
    Now, in my late eighties I am still competitive but I don’t choose to have others see me that way“““““““““““.
    An intersting topic

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  3. I’m sure, in that ‘nature vs. nurture’ way, that some folks change a whole lot while some, not so much. I’ve run into some folks from “back in the day”… like high school… who click now like they clicked then. And others who clicked then, but not at all now. Catching each other at different phases? Seeing each other with different expectations? I do know that with some old friends, we can – and have – gone for years without seeing each other and within minutes, the years fall away and it’s just the same.
    Great post, Janie, and great to hear from John Linscott, too!

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  4. Hi Sam. Thanks so much for the thoughts here. I’ve been thinking more about this. I’m wondering if challenges chip away at us to reveal what’s inside. Maybe some of us show that early on; in others it’s hidden. You know how Michaelangelo said he “found” the statues inside a block of marble? Maybe that’s us. It certainly seems when the tough things happen in life that we “see” ourselves clearer.

    On the old friends front, I think we pick up on energy. And I think sometimes we’re friends for a reason that’s beyond our ken. And sometimes that runs out. It’s weird when it does, yes? 🙂

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