Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kill (Or Seriously Maim) Your Hobgoblin

Today in yoga class, my teacher quoted Emerson: "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Then my instructor asked us to analyze the small patterns of behavior, the seemingly harmless habits that we engage in mindlessly on a daily basis, and asked us to think about changing them. He was talking about that weird habit that most of us engage in; sitting in the same spot in a classroom over time, so that a randomly selected spot becomes "our" spot. Or walking into the house and turning on the TV, just because it's habit. Or checking your e-mail first thing in the morning.

Whatever they are--and I'm sure we all have many, many habits like this--it seems wise to me to examine them more closely. Do you turn on the TV so you don't have to confront the nagging thoughts in your head, the ones telling you to live a bigger life?

Do you choose the same seat in a classroom because everyone else has done the same thing, and you don't want to upset the order?

Do you check your e-mail first thing in the morning to cultivate a sense of "busyness" that makes you feel important and needed?

Obviously some habits are useful; if you had to reinvent the patterns of your day with each dawn, life would get quite exhausting quite quickly. Like whether you brush your teeth before or after you shower, for example.

But some patterns--like the ones detailed above--are not so harmless and may in fact allow us to avoid changes that we may need but are afraid to make.

So resolve to change at least one of these potentially limiting patterns this week; even if it's as small as sitting in a new seat in a classroom, or spending five minutes in meditation before the workday. Just change one of your habits, no matter how infinitesimally small it may seem, and see what unfolds from that tiny shift.

Indeed, just going to yoga once a week for me has been a change I've made in the last few months that has, at least indirectly, drastically altered the course of my life. It sounds crazy, I know, but it's true.

So kill a hobgoblin today, and if something does unfold from this change, please tell me in the comments; I'd love to hear what changes we can make starting from a very limited effort. Why? Because me? I'm all about the baby steps.

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1 comment:

Erzsebet said...


Two years ago, I started the long process of slaying the Hobgoblin of Writer's Procrastination. Instead of hoping to find time to write, I made writing a weekday habit, as essential as teeth brushing and just as unpleasant if skipped. It was a small change that has enriched my creativity, improved my writing, and given me insight into my own ability to shape my life.

One hobgoblin down, some unknown number still to go...

My new goal is to minimize the Weeknight Television Hobgoblin. This will be a bit trickier, because watching movies and shows with my husband is one of our "third things." The idea of "The Third Thing" comes from Donald Hall's story of the same name. In the story he writes that, "Third things are essential to marriage, objects or practices or habits or arts or institutions or games or human beings that provide a site of joint rapture or contentment." For this reason, I don't want to kill this particular hobgoblin, but I do want to make it less of a focus. With spring coming, I am hoping that evening bike rides or games of Frisbee can supplant some of the TV Hobgoblin's power. This will make us more active, get us outside for fresh air, and build new 'third things' for us to share. I will let you know how it goes!

- Erzsebet