The power of the habit cycle.
This post stemmed from a thought I had during my run earlier on today. I was admiring the scenery and pondering that despite not having been for a run in ages, I suddenly had the urge to do so around 8pm. Why was this? After a while, I realised that when I used to live here, I had developed a habit of running in the evenings.
Over the last few years, while living in London, it had always been borderline impossible to convince myself to get my running shoes on, but in this instance it felt so natural and easy, despite the action (going for a run) being exactly the same.
A book that I recently read (moderately recommended) came to mind - it has some very interesting nuggets about how habits work and how we can manipulate them to achieve our goals. In a very simplistic way, a habit works like this: a trigger occurs (can be a thought, feeling, place, or whatever), which leads to a learned behaviour (the habit itself), which is followed by some sort of reward.
During my run today I realised: Whenever I'm based here, I tend to go for a run when it's almost sunset (location + time of day trigger). The action (going for the run) is then worthwhile, because I know there is the reward of the awesome views along my route, enhanced by a healthy dose of endorphins.
Habits are very powerful things - they control a substantial amount of what we do each day. Without them, we wouldn't have enough conscious mental energy to focus on the things that actually matter. They automate stuff for us, and become pretty damn persistent. If we can learn how they work, we can manipulate them to our advantage.