Habits, Habits Everywhere

“Look both ways before you cross the street!” How many times did you hear that as a kid? What I didn’t realize was that not only was I trained to look both ways, but I also was trained to look both ways in a particular order. You may not have thought about it before, but I’m sure you were too.

Imagine walking up to a normal intersection. What do you do? I’m going to bet that first you look to the left, then the right, and maybe the left again before you step out into the street. That’s a great method until you visit a Commonwealth country or Japan where they drive on the left side of the road. Then, it’s not so good!

It was shocking to me how deeply ingrained looking to the left was, especially since I don’t remember ever consciously thinking about it as an adult. On my first day in New Zealand, I nearly stepped out into traffic more than once. I couldn’t figure out which way to look, so to be extra cautious I turned into a jet-lagged bobble-head doll and looked in all possible directions at least twice before stepping into the intersection.

After a day I realized that I simply needed to look right first, then left. At each intersection, I’d gently remind myself, “look right”. It started to feel more familiar as the days went on. By the end of the month I rarely forgot.

Now, back in the States, I’ve had to remind myself to “look left” again. The old way came back much more quickly. Yet it’s still amazing to me just how quickly a new habit could be created. Especially when you understand the positive results consequences and are kind to yourself in creating the change.

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