Why good habits can be bad for you

I love Spotify. It’s amazing. Everyone should use Spotify. A friend of mine doesn’t, and I asked why.

“I don’t want to be dependent on that service. If I stop or can’t use it anymore by any reason, I will have absolutely no music at all. If I stick to buying albums, this can’t happen.” *

The point here is that even though something is amazing, it might not be worth it.

In the example above, Spotify would make things better NOW, and (in the unlikely event that Spotify goes out of business) worse later (music vise). Something amazing ends up being bad for you - a typical example. Unlike this example, we often know when amazing things will bring bad futures. And we choose amazing NOW over bad future later. Anyone ever stayed up late because it was amazing to listen to music/talk with friends/etc, only to regret this the next morning when you have to get up early - and the entire work day might be ruined because of this? Or staying up late and then just sleeping most of the next day, getting nothing done. The last one is arguably all-through amazing, but not very productive. (And productivity is arguably important.) The list is endless, and things in general that come back and bite us later isn’t really optimal. So we sometimes try to “start our new life” - new good habits, less bad ones. But in the long run this might not be entirely optimal either.

Consider the opposite of the last example. Instead of staying up late and having fun on evenings, you go to bed early in an exemplary fashion. You wake up early and are well rested, so work goes great. All is well in the world. But the problem is that this habit now has to be kept. Forever. You must keep getting up early and getting work done. Why? Because now you will feel even worse for sleeping until 14:00.

Before your amazing habit of getting up at seven, you did not reflect much about how many hours you were missing out. You stayed up, enjoyed the late hours, and slept until your body decided it was hungry. But once you get up early in a few weeks, you get tons of things done. You have SO many hours available! You can change the world twice before lunch.

And then comes the relapse. You stay up late, and sleep far into the next day. When you wake up, you no longer see the upcoming hours as your day. You see them as the last hours of a very much longer day, a day in which you just spent the first seven hours doing nothing more than possibly dreaming about spiders. This new habit has made it much harder to appreciate your ordinary day. The only way to avoid this problem is to simply keep the habit running. Forever.

Lets reconnect this with the Spotify metaphor. Spotify is amazing. Before Spotify, I listened to the music I had available, and was satisfied with my music setup. Then came Spotify and it was amazing. Lets now pretend that streaming music would suddenly become illegal. All music streaming services are instantly shut down. I would have to go back to my original music setup.

My music experience would be terrible.

The habit would have changed my view of the possibilities. And knowing about better possibilities, it’s hard to be satisfied with the current ones. Had I never known about Spotify, there wouldn’t be any problem.

Conclusion: New amazing things could be a problem if they won’t remain in your life**. So be careful what habits you decide to pick up. Also, Spotify is amazing.

* Okay. That wasn’t an amazing quote. Probably paraphrased. And you could still lose all your music if your house burns down and you don’t keep cloudy backups. Doesn’t matter. Move your eyes back to the beginning.

** I feel that there’s a drug reference here somewhere, but I’ll leave it be.