I write a lot about habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and about forty percent of what we do each day is shaped by habits.
For this reason, I’ve always been struck by this observation, by architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander. I really love Alexander’s writing; his book A Pattern Language (Amazon, Bookshop) is the book I most often give as a gift. I also love his four-volume collection called The Nature of Order (Amazon, Bookshop).
If I consider my life honestly, I see that it is governed by a certain very small number of patterns of events which I take part in over and over again.
Being in bed, having a shower, having breakfast in the kitchen, sitting in my study writing, walking in the garden, cooking and eating our common lunch at my office with my friends, going to the movies, taking my family to eat at a restaurant, going to bed again. There are a few more.
There are surprisingly few of these patterns of events in any one person’s way of life, perhaps no more than a dozen. Look at your own life and you will find the same. It is shocking at first, to see that there are so few patterns of events open to me.
Not that I want more of them. But when I see how very few of them there are, I begin to understand what huge effect these few patterns have on my life, on my capacity to live. If these few patterns are good for me, I can live well. If they are bad for me, I can’t.
When I think about my own habits, I realize the truth of this. Even in the most hectic times of my life, there aren’t a huge number of patterns running. If these patterns, these habits, work for me, then my habits can make my life happier.