Futile Persistence: Why Do We Keep Our Bad Habits?

Posted on August 27, 2020

Why do we persist in pursuing futile paths of action? For one, the tendency may be merely the shadow side of our innate tenacity. After all, the human capacity for perseverance in the face of failure has a large upside. Persistence through repeated failure often pays off down the road—the Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by multiple publishers--and is often a source of strength and a prerequisite for success. Becoming stuck in a futile pattern may just be a case of “too much of a good thing is bad.”

Alternatively, we are often inclined to repeat some otherwise callous behavior because it provides short-term relief or pleasure. Our brain has evolved to privilege the short-term. I know that my overspending will hurt me in the long run. But right now shopping is fun. And I'm here right now.

We continue to buy overpriced, stale popcorn at the movies because that's what we’ve always done. What we’ve always done becomes what we do. What we do over time becomes who we are. Thus, we may experience a change of habit as identity change—a far heavier lift.

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Category(s):Obsessions & Compulsions (OCD)

Source material from Psychology Today

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