Rowland Carlson

Debug your habits


How was your day?

How do you answer this question? What do you choose to highlight? Why?

A few years ago, I was asked this question. I talked about suffering in the heat and the construction on the drive home. I stopped.

I had just returned from a medieval event. I had learned from a master swordsman, and fought in a tournament. I sat in court, dressed in my finery, where one of my friends had been recognized for his skill and service by the King. I had feasted on a seven course meal themed after the sword masters of old.

Why was I talking about the weather?

I spent the remainder of that evening trying to figure out what was going on. My memory yielded no answers. Every story I could remember focused on bad weather, long travel, or poor accommodations. The behavior had become automatic.

How am I supposed to learn about something that's become a habit?

If I was going to debug my actions, I needed to find a break point. Break points are an idea from debugging programs. When the program does something you don't understand, you can put in a break point. It will stop the program at a specific line of code. With the program stopped, you can move forward step by step to see what's going on.

To create a break point for my stories, I needed a trigger that would interrupt my automatic answer. The next time I came home from an event, I stopped before entering the front door. I knew that my roommates would ask me about my day when I walked into the living room.

This time, I was able to celebrate the tournament that I had won. Each time I came home, I paused closer and closer to my story, until I had broken the habit.

How can you use break points to explore your habits?