The main road of my town is under construction this spring and summer. My house is on the other side of the chaos and mess (yeah!).
Roads have been closed and detours have been set for almost two weeks now, so I am getting into the flow of navigating through the construction.
Or, at least you would think I am getting into the flow after two weeks of following the detour signs.
But I’m not.
Every time I drive, I head up the road, and without thinking, hit my signal light and turn left into construction and a barricade across the road.
I decided I needed a new strategy. Now, as I drive up the road I start repeating to myself, “don’t turn, don’t turn, don’t turn.”
And you know what? Over 50% of the time I still make that left turn, or, at the very least, I turn on my signal light and my wife calmly reminds me “don’t turn here”.
(Since starting to write this post, my son now helps me out as I drive by repeating “don’t turn Daddy, don’t turn Daddy, don’t turn Daddy)
Even when I expend energy trying to remember the construction, something else in my brain takes over and I repeat my routine of the past seven years.
I have a deeply ingrained habit, locked into my brain, to turn left on 2nd Avenue.
This little driving/construction challenge has really made me realize how strong this habit is. My Basal Ganglia (the part of the brain responsible for habits) is 100% fully in control.
And, it turns out, that is a good thing!
My habits save me a ton of energy each day by not having to think about them. Energy I can use for all of the other things I need to get done that do need energy and more direct attention.