When a professional baseball player stands at bat he has about 300 milliseconds to decide if this pitch is worth a swing. The reason we are amazed that he can hit a ball hurtling at his head at 100 mph is that we know we don’t have the discipline. If I stood there I would have thoughts and feelings getting in the way of the simple ”yes” or ”no”. By the time I had sorted out my terror, the catcher would be doing that cool little elbow-only flick back to the mound.
Habit is what makes that binary swing or no-swing possible. Since he has seen a million pitches, all the other stuff goes away and then it turns out that 300 milliseconds holds the space needed for good decision making. That is a really cool human trick.
Habits, in this way, are useful. They get me out of the way of focused tasks. Most of the time though, habits make me unconscious. I stop having all those thoughts and feelings and I just react to the world with my defenses and the stories I decided must be true. Habits make all the decisions for me and I cease to be a part of the evolving reality that can give life endless joy. Like this building. I had to look at it for awhile and let myself just play with the shapes before I saw that I could decide it was a corner going in–concave, or it could be the corner coming toward me–conveX (there is that letter again about 7 stories from the bottom of the frame).
What can make habits lose their strangle hold on creativity is just the slightest bit of space to get curious, to ask for help, to stop and let the corner of the building fade into itself and show me something new, and cool. There will be plenty of time for swinging at baseballs; after all, it takes only 300 milliseconds.