The Downside of Being a Creature of Habit


Last Wednesday I arrived in Atlanta near midnight and made my way to a rental car. My destination was 45 minutes to the north and I was relying on the Google Maps application on my iPhone. Without a wasted minute or a missed turn, I made it to my hotel. After a productive workshop I was ready to catch a flight home. I checked out of the hotel, jumped in my car, and tapped on my iPhone until Google produced a map and list of directions to get be back to the airport. I pull out of the parking lot and Google told me to turn right. “Now hold on,” I said to myself, “I didn’t come from that direction when I came from the airport.” A battle raged in my head, “do I trust Google or do I go back the way I came?” “Can I even remember the way?”

Sticking with the past won out and the consequence was 10 minutes of extra driving and plenty of mental aggravation. Reflecting on my “choice”, I realized I didn’t have a reason to distrust Google Maps, I’m just a creature of habit—doing things the way I did them last.

Do we habitually throw out the new information that doesn’t fit our current mental models? Do we implicitly distrust the data we’re getting from that new guy?

It’s time for me to be more explicit about why I’m choosing to discount something and muzzle the creature of habit in me. What about you?

Brett Pinegar