Humans are biologically programmed to form habits and maintain patterns of behavior that are repetitive, consistent and predictable. The neural pathways of our brains are like tracks that are beaten through the bush. Once a trail has been blazed electrical signals are more inclined to follow the path of least resistance and maintain a familiar behavioral routine. The more we tread the same path, the more entrenched the behavior becomes. Our brains prefer us to undertake an activity that is familiar and will reward us accordingly.
This process commences very early on in our development as infants and children, then continues throughout adulthood. It can have both positive and negative impacts and has the potential to influence who we are, how we live and how we relate to others. As with so many aspects of life, being aware of its presence and how it affects us is knowledge that can be extremely empowering.
There are many examples of human behavior that evidence our propensity for routine and order. This article provides just a few to give you insight and to empower you with knowledge so that you may accentuate the positives and steer clear of the negatives.
Learning to do anything, be it walking when we are toddlers, reading, developing sporting prowess, playing a musical instrument, or acquiring knowledge and skills requires dedication and practice to be successful. Our brains are not pre-programmed to do any of these things. In fact, the only activities we are programmed to do are those that are essential to keep us alive. Everything else must be learned and the pathways in the brain developed to enable us to to undertake the task over and over again.
This is why learning by rote is often so successful as we continuously reinforce those neural pathways, each time becoming more proficient towards mastery of our chosen undertaking. The younger we commence learning a particular activity, the more pure and unadulterated our brain, reducing the time taken in achieving success.
This is not to say there is a limit on learning. Age is certainly no restraint, nor is lineage or even past performance. The only barriers are those that we place on ourselves and once we are free from the chains of self doubt a whole new world of opportunity is opened up that has the potential to change life's trajectory.
The way we live is dominated by habitual behavior that drive our everyday routines and become part of who we are. From the moment you wake up in the morning your mind and body are essentially on automatic pilot. Most people have a set routine that they follow to get themselves moving, nourished and prepared for the day ahead. Even in the workplace there are certain ways we act, set up our work areas and interact with others that are based on previous behaviors ingrained and reinforced over time.
This is why many people approaching retirement are terrified at the prospect of breaking their workday routines and living a life of supposed leisure. The uncertainty of retirement does not sit well with those who are unprepared or who have enjoyed a working life dominated by ritual and custom. Preparation is the key, ensuring that new routines are established quickly, reducing the shock of sudden change.
Forming intimate relationships with others is also heavily influenced by our preferences that are ingrained in our subconscious. Personality type, physical attributes and intelligence are all elements that make us human and impact on our appeal to a potential partner. We may believe that the attraction between two people is some sort of raw, animal magnetism. And, in a way, it is. However, it is more about how our brain rewards us for acting on familiarity rather than a magical, unseen force. A preference for that college educated, brunette with a good sense of humour is formed from an individual's past experience and entrenched in the psyche as it is reinforced over time. It may also explain why some people seem to continually make the same mistakes when it comes to choosing a prospective partner.
This is not intended to reduce the concept of love to a construct of biology. Love between two people is truly a wondrous experience, particularly in the beginning following initial attraction. As we progress through the various phases of the relationship we once again lay the foundations that will eventually manifest into familiarity and further influence our behavior and choices into the future.
If you are looking to change your life it can sometimes be overwhelming to know where to begin. Self reflection is an important part of acknowledging who you are, where your preferences lie and how you have come to be the person you are. If you want to change, it is within your power and all you need to do is step outside your comfort zone and fire those neurons on a pathway to a more fulfilling life.