Habits and Expectations - Do our rituals really make us better off?

This past weekend, among other things, Mr. F2P and I went out to eat once, picked up food twice and rented a movie:

  • Friday night: After practicing archery, we had French onion soup, wraps and beer at a local eatery and then rented & watched Deadpool
  • Saturday: We took care of various office and yard and home activities and picked up couple of double burgers for supper and watched the rental again (yes, again because there are so many references it was hard to keep up the first time! :))
  • Sunday: We went to my step dad’s for breakfast, read and picked up a slice of German chocolate cheese cake at Baked Expectations in Osborne Village, about an hour walk from home (Belle, our greyhound loved the long walk)


When it came to the food on Friday & Saturday night, both Mr. F2P and I agree that we make better food at home. It was good but not great.

Sunday morning breakfast is a ritual now. We alternate between households as to who hosts the breakfast—sometimes it’s based on who has bacon in the fridge. ;) I have to say that maybe it should be listed as an activity rather than food, as it's the company and conversation we're after...except for the bacon.

Sunday’s piece of cheesecake was quite good (especially when it’s a one piece, two spoons situation), but the walk to get it and two hours of anticipation were the best part. 


We rarely rent movies and I have to say it’s even more rare to watch the same movie two nights in a row. If you don’t mind copious profanity and a multitude of sexual references, I highly recommend it, especially if you like retro.


Archery was fun and, as much as we find it a nice, relaxing activity, it’s something we like to work on as a skill.

Reading? Duh! I never turn down a good book from our local library. This time for me it was Ted Talks by Chris Anderson while Mr F2P’s been getting into The Big Short by Michael Lewis.

The movie? Worth it, but we could probably have waited until it came out on Netflix like we do for most other films. What pulled us toward Deadpool was hearing so much about it from a friend of ours who never recommends movies. So we figured it might be worth it. It was.

Here's the trailer.

The walk to Osborne Village was something we hadn’t done in quite a long time and it’s a beautiful walk. It very much was worth it.

Spending money doesn't guarantee "better".

Consumerism traps us as we become habituated to the good life, emulate our neighbours, or just get caught up in the social pressures created by everyone else’s choices. Work-and-spend has become a mutually reinforcing and powerful syndrome—a seamless web we somehow keep choosing, without even meaning to.
— Juliet B. Schor, The Overworked American (1991), p. 112.

Out of the whole lot, the total of which was about $100, I’d say that just under $20.00 of it was worth it: the movie ($4.99), archery ($5.41) the dessert ($8.99), reading ($0.00), the long walk ($0.00) and breakfast with my step dad ($0.00).

Under the best of circumstances...change takes time. The same is true for all the other personal characteristics and habitual patterns that don’t work for us but that we keep repeating: impulsivity, hedonism, narcissism, irritability, and the need to control those around us. To imagine that such traits can be changed overnight or as soon as we become aware of them is to discount the well-established strength of habit and the slowness with which we translate new knowledge into behaviour.
— Gordon Livingston, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart (2004), p. 82.

Here’s the thing: Other than archery, which is fairly new, all the paid activities above used to be typical weekend activities for us years ago. And $100 would have been on the lighter side; it would have been closer to $200. And the reason we used to routinely participate in them was out of habit, expectation and a sense of entitlement. Mostly mine.

Thanks to our human nature*, when we start doing something regularly, it starts feeling like we’re missing out if we don’t do it. It’s like moving from a two-scoop serving of ice cream down to one scoop. It’s hard to appreciate the one scoop when all we can think about is the scoop that’s missing.

We never stop to consider whether we really wanted the second scoop, or any ice cream at all for that matter. After all, we’re entitled to the whole serving, aren't we? It’s just the way things are supposed to be!

Looking at this weekend with the fresh eyes of someone who doesn’t routinely do all these things anymore, I’m now able to compare it to what we get out of our typical low-cost weekends and that the low-cost/no-cost activities were the most valuable & enjoyable, hands down. 

If I could have a do over, I’d ditch the eating out and make something at home (Mr. F2P’s burgers are deadly). Maybe we could have eaten in the backyard if we wanted a change of scenery. I'm sure it would have been better than the crowded restaurant...and we would have had leftovers!

It's not about the money. It's about living well.

[I]t is disconcerting to acknowledge that much of our habitual conduct is determined by needs, desires, and experiences of which we are only dimly aware and that are related to our past experience, often from our childhoods.
— Gordon Livingston, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart (2004), p. 97.

When we stop thinking about what we can do—or are used to doing because we have the means— and start thinking about what will really help us create the best feel-good moments, we make better choices. But in order to do that, we need to wake up from our routine and reevaluate it from time to time. 

I think it’s worth the effort, in more ways than one.

*Maybe nature in general. Try not giving a dog a routine treat or walk and see how that goes. They'll torment you until you resume the regular programming.

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