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Psychology | Skills and Habits


Bannister road 030

As children we acquire a lot of skills that become habitual, we can do them without thinking very much about it. We learn to crawl, walk and feed ourselves and later we learn lots of basic skills like reading, writing and numeracy. It seems the graffiti artist who painted on this bridge learned a little reading, writing and arithmetic. He seems to have a fascination for the spots on a domino. It’s a shame he wasn’t taught a respect for property and the environment.

Graffiti seems to be associated with low intelligence, well it’s not smart spoiling the work of the craftsmen who went to a lot of trouble building that bridge; which could be  regarded as a work of art in itself. I saw some graffiti style art sell for thousands of pounds on television last week. Perhaps, these graffiti artists need to learn to paint on a different medium and have opportunities to develop and sell their art? It seems that they have developed a skill but not fully. It is like when w learn to ride a bike, we first need to learn to balance and then we learn how to ride more accurately and change gears. I used to ride my bike down the tow paths of the canals and over the bridges, even across a plank of wood that spanned one canal.

When we have a skill that has become a habit, we are really good at it. It might be riding a bike or driving a car. Driving requires a lot of complex movements, pressing the clutch, turning the steering wheel and changing the gears, but it becomes so familiar we do it without thinking about it; it becomes a habit. Many people, including me, enjoy driving when there is an open road and not much traffic. The whole process is virtually automatic then and we can enjoy the experience. We do seem to enjoy the things we are good at and the things we are good at, we do virtually automatically. Our habits can be enjoyable and contribute to a quality of life; but we can have bad habits too.

We learn many things as children and can pick up a few bad habits if we aren’t taught properly. We can acquire bad habits at any stage in our lives. We might eat too much as children and this bad habit might continue into adulthood giving us a tendency to be overweight. Smoking and drinking alcohol can both be addictive and habitual. It makes giving up smoking difficult, but we have willpower and so it is possible. We tend to be motivated to acquire habits and to continue with them. Habitual behaviour has triggers too,  lighting up a cigarette at certain times, like first thing in the morning or after meals.

We can make our tendency to be habitual in our behaviour work to our advantage if we are more aware of what we are doing. Driving in a certain style, so we drive smoothly and avoid braking or accelerating fast will become a habit and we will use less fuel out of habit, when we become good at it.

The harder it is to learn something, the more we seem to appreciate and enjoy our new skill. This applies to riding a bike, driving a car or a skill that will enable us to make a living. Even the complex skills employed by a doctor or a technologist are practised and much of what they do comes automatically. There are decisions to be made, but the processes that leads to those decisions tends to be automatic; often processes of elimination. The doctor trying to make a diagnosis will go though a process of looking at symptoms, making an assessment and eliminating many things as he acquires more information.

You can acquire some skills more easily by practising repetitive movements. I am doing quite repetition movements while I type this and while I’m not expert at it; I am faster than most people at typing! I’m certainly not using one finger. This is a useful skill for most people these days because it allows you to communicate more easily with people online and with computers.

Doodling seems to be a useless pursuit, but in many ways it’s like the graffiti on the bridge in the picture. Some people become almost addicted to doodling and become very good at it. They express themselves creatively and improve their dexterity with a pen. I think when a tablet computer allows people to doodle online that will be a big creative step forward. You can express ideas graphically with doodles and even share your ideas with your friends. Is the future interactive doodling for the more responsible graffiti artist? You heard it here first! Try doodling, it’s very creative and therapeutic!

There are more amazing blogs on the Home Page and over on a Zillion Ideas.

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4 responses

  1. alex

    I still hunt and peck on the keyboard, i cant type without looking at the keys >.<

    14, May 2012 at 2:42 pm

  2. Hi Alex,

    I’m not that bad but I need to be able to see the keys. I type quite fast. I can’t use my little finger either and so I type with 6 fingers. I’m also keyboard dyslexic and keep typing a semi colon instead of an apostrophe; apart from that I’m alright! :)

    14, May 2012 at 3:29 pm

    • alex

      lol, that semi-colon gets me too, i type mainly with my first 2 fingers on each hand and right thumb is for spacebar
      ahh well, we get it done ;-)

      14, May 2012 at 4:20 pm

  3. Pingback: Make Your Bed! Start good habits early. - Randi Thimesch » Randi Thimesch

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