Define a Habit in a Sentence? I Can Do Better

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Yaki' the zombie in DoC's lab in front of a chalkboard that says "habit".

The other day someone asked me to define a habit in a sentence. I chuckled to myself as I thought about how much I’ve learned about habits since working with DoC – possibly the foremost expert on habits this side of the temporal gateway. My initial thought was “I can do better! I can define a habit in two words!”

The Joy of Habits

When you live with a bunch of zombies, you learn to appreciate the little things. When you are a zombie, you learn to appreciate the little things: even the occasional mental repetition.

But habits are both big and little things. They are big in what they accomplish, but require little effort to maintain when they’re in place. 

The idea of a habit is simple: take something you do over and over and have your brain subconsciously do it for you without thinking. At least that’s one type of habit – the type you use for typing on a keyboard without thinking about where your fingers are. 

Another type of habit is something you do consciously as part of a routine. Maybe you workout everyday. Sure, it’s not something you do subconsciously, but it’s something you mentally make room for in your day, like when I expect to be accosted by some mutant hybrid when I’m out and about. It’s just something you plan for.

So how do I define a habit in a sentence? By not using a sentence at all… just two words.

A Habit Definition

In talking with DoC about habits for so long, I’ve learned a lot (By the way, if you haven’t seen her lab, check out the sneak peek part one and two). She is utterly consumed by habits. All her research has been focused on the crux of how habits work. This is what she’s found so far.

Habits are mental shortcuts. That’s it! That’s the definition: mental shortcuts.

You see, when you do an action over and over again your brain rewires itself to make that action as streamlined as possible, to the point that it is often done without thinking. It’s something DoC calls plastic neurosis. Neurotic plastic cities. New plant sensitives. I’m sorry. It’s a bit over my head. It just means the brain can rewire itself over time.

So if you want to define a habit in a sentence, it’s simple: habits are mental shortcuts your brain creates for things you do over and over again.

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