Is quilting a habit for you? This week I downloaded an excellent book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg which is about how powerful habits - things we do every single day - can be for our lives.
What was interesting to learn is how easily habits form. Way back in high school, I began eating a lot of fast food. Usually I would be out with friends at night, we'd be in town and get hungry so we began always grabbing burgers and fries. It was only after a few times that this routine became a habit.
Growing up, I ate fast food maybe 1 time a month. By the time I went to college, I was eating fast food almost every single day. It had become a habit that was so ingrained, I didn't really think about it or the consequences until my heath began to suffer, and by then it was a very hard habit to break.
Listening to this book, I'm finding that not all habits are bad, some are actually very good and helpful. Things like brushing your teeth - you don't even have to think about it, you just do it.
In fact, the centers of your brain that actively think about doing something - like trying a new applique technique - are very active the first couple times you do that activity because it's a new experience. Once the activity becomes a habit, however, your brain stops activity in those learning / thinking areas. You literally stop thinking!
I think this is enormously powerful evidence for why quilting seems so easy for some people, and so tricky for others. If it feels easy, to the point you don't have to think about it, chances are you've turned those steps of quilting into a habit. You literally don't have to think about every little step anymore because your body can move through those processes automatically.
If quilting still feels very difficult for you, chances are you haven't yet turned these motions, steps, ideas, and techniques into habits.
What's neat is it's not just the techniques - like piecing an exact 1/4" seam allowance, or free motion quilting stippling, but it's also the time you choose to quilt every day.
During the normal part of the year, I always try to get downstairs to quilt first thing in the morning because the house is quiet and I'm not likely to be disturbed.
During the summer, however, James is out of school and my normal sewing time is constantly interrupted. It wasn't long into the month of May that I saw a serious decline in the amount of time I spent quilting. I found this very frustrating, but didn't really understand what was happening until I read The Power of Habit and realized that my habits had shifted because of the change in our schedule.
Here's another thing I realized was a habit: negative thoughts.
When things aren't going right, does it feel like a CD gets started in your brain, playing the same old nasty thoughts? That's a habit too. The trick is to find the trigger that starts the CD playing.
This summer I have a lot on my mind and many projects occupying my attention. A year ago, I probably wouldn't be handling all this very well because my habit when things got stressful was to make things worse - pile more work, more projects, more ideas, and more craziness on my shoulders.
This year, however, I've consciously formed new habits around my turbulent emotions. When I feel tired, I stop pushing myself. When I get stressed, I make a cup of tea and journal about it. When I get a headache, I go upstairs and hand stitch binding until the pain goes away.
I began forming these new habits this spring because I was just so sick of being a slave to stress, and only now after reading this book do I understand how these simple habits have helped me become a more balanced person.
I now believe true change happens by making new habits that break or overlap old habits.
So is quilting your habit? Do you do it every day, at the same time, or just when time and energy allows? Are certain techniques a habit for you, to the point that you don't really think about the process anymore?
Is it a habit to talk down to yourself when things don't look perfect?
Think about it today and consider all those unconscious, unthinking reactions that happen every single day. All those habits we have that we don't even think about anymore, but with a little time and attention can be turned into new positive habits for growth and change.
Let's go quilt,