I received a thought-provoking email the other day about habits--the things you do day in and day out without thinking about them. Habits can be useful; often it's the most efficient way to get something done, but they become a liability when you start to move through the day on autopilot instead of being conscious of your actions.
The message offered as an example tooth brushing. How did I do it? I realized I didn't have a clue, so yesterday I made a real effort to notice. Much to my surprise, I figured out I did it the exact same way every time. Talk about being on autopilot! After I wet the brush and put toothpaste on it, I brushed my left outer, right outer, and center front teeth. Next I moved to the inside surface and cleaned bottom right, bottom left, top left, top right, top front and bottom front. Then I ran the brush along the chewing surfaces and repeated the whole procedure a second time. After everything was cleaned I "swished" with water, rinsed the brush, and put it away.
I guess it's a good idea to have a pattern for brushing so that I don't forget any areas. But today in the interest of practicing awareness I reversed my teeth brushing pattern and went backwards. First the chewing surfaces, then the insides, and the outsides last. It was not intuitive; I had to think about it as I was doing it, and it took a lot longer, but I had the satisfaction of being truly aware of what I was doing.