Habits make a big difference

Jan 19, 2022 | Insights

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Make a habit of making a difference. Even small habits are powerful and can have a significant impact.
The Big Issue seller stands on the corner of the square in our market town, next to the delicatessen. I walk past most days. Sometimes I’ll buy a copy. However, I’ll always smile and wish the seller good morning, which is reciprocated. It’s a habit.

C, who owns the delicatessen, makes a cup of coffee and gives it to the seller mid-morning. The seller is grateful. Wouldn’t you be in this cold weather? It’s one of C’s habits.

These and other little routines brighten the day of our homeless visitor, as well as our days. We habitually make a difference, and even small habits can have a significant impact. Donor and recipient alike find a bit more meaning to their lives as a consequence.

The neuroscience of habits

Neuroscientists are beginning to understand habits, which reside in the basal ganglia area of the brain. Every habitual action is coded and neural pathways mapped here. The more you repeat an action, the stronger the pathway grows, and the more the action becomes an entrenched habit.

Apparently, around forty per cent of our daily activities are habitual. Abba’s hit song ‘The Day Before You Came’ emphasises the habitual nature of our lives. (Of course, the song also offers a way out of excessively habitual life, even if it is a bit dramatic.)

So, make a habit of making a difference. Even small habits are powerful and can have a significant impact.

Photo: author

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