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No longer in danger of winding up the cat or throwing out the clock. Never again arriving at work barefoot or getting dressed before getting in the shower.

Having habits is very useful. I used to think that habits forced you to live your life in a rut, doing the same thing day after day. As a result of that belief I would find myself deciding ab novo what to do, remembering to brush my teeth, looking for my keys, forgetting to let the dog out before I went to work (or forgetting to let her back in. Woof!)

Now I use habits to free up my mind for real decisions—those things that need to be evaluated in the light of changing situations and are to be resolved to maximize the possibilities. The habits take care of the underlying constants: I brush my teeth as soon as I get up (morning mouth). I never have to look for my keys because they are always in the outer pocket of my purse. I let the dog out as soon as I come downstairs. And I never forget, because I don’t have to remember.

A key point for me is that these habits are not straitjackets. If something prevents me from brushing my teeth until later in the morning, I am not upset at the break in routine, but I’ll be nudged by memory until I do it. If I forget the dog, she will nudge me until I let her out. And I can’t go anywhere without my keys (but I can lock myself out of the house).

Another thing I like about habits is that I’ve set up the morning routine to follow in a logical order—I shower before I get dressed. No stepping in the shower with my clothes on. And I put on my shoes before leaving the house. (in my earlier years I did actually once forget to put shoes on because I prefer going barefoot whenever possible). Meanwhile, I can think about work and the upcoming day or about my blog and what I’m going to write—or about nothing at all.

And if I’m really exhausted or distracted, the orderliness of habits will carry me through the routines of the day without much willpower or thought on my part. If I’m feeling creative, I can temporarily trash the habits and fling caution to the winds. And arrive at work in my sandals (I've done that, too).

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