Habits Are Statements About the Past, and the Past Is Gone


Illustration by Yukai Du.

It’s a red flag for me when someone says, “I always like to say…” and then offers some piece of advice. It makes me wonder if they’ve stopped examining their beliefs, if active thinking has been transformed into passive habit of mind.

Over the past few years, I’ve tried to become more conscious of the habits of mind that permeate my daily thoughts. The things I always like to say about myself. Here are a few things I used to habitually say or think:

I’m an anxious person.

I’m not artistic.

I’m not interested in ambition.

I’m not good at public speaking.

I don’t like managing people.

I’m awkward.

They’re mostly negative as you can see. And strangely, I doubt that anyone who knows me would actually think these things were true. (Well, everyone is awkward sometimes—but aside from that!)

Habits are a hot topic these days, but we don’t talk much about our habits of mind—and how damaging they can be. How limiting it is to think about yourself as the “type of person that always…” But we all fall into these grooves.

Are there things you regularly tell yourself you can’t do or don’t like? Are they really still true? Or is it time to let them go?

As Timothy Gallwey says, “Habits are statements about the past, and the past is gone.”

Get more tips on how to activate your creativity and do the work that matters:

Hi, I'm Jocelyn. I help people find more creativity and meaning in their daily work.

I created the online course RESET, a cosmic tune-up for your workday, and I host Hurry Slowly, a podcast about how you can be more productive, creative, and resilient by slowing down. Occasionally, I write books and give talks too.
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