Is Predictability Addictive?

I was musing about this on my blog’s Facebook page recently, and it seems to be a rather intriguing topic.

Predictability is great, and in some ways, it can also deaden a lot of other things like spontaneity and adventure. Like Mike Freeman mentioned on my last post, some things make great servants but awful masters. If it’s true of Facebook, perhaps it’s true of predictability.

There are a lot of angles to take with this. On one hand, we have the inherent value of predictability.

Value of Predictability

If you know that when you go to your local grocery store, you can go to the back left corner and get your bread, and then go to the far right and get your miso, and stop somewhere in the middle for chips, then you are on a roll. You can get in, get out, know what to expect, and spend your time thinking about other things like what to make for dinner or what that text really meant.

You had to start somewhere, and then you found the route that made sense. You repeated it. You found that it worked.

Does Predictability Get Addictive?

It seems to me, at least in my world, that things can get addictive. This usually happens when they help me feel different than I already feel. Like coffee, or alcohol, or feeling grouchy while doing dishes. Some things happen over and over and over.

Why do these things seem so appealing? Maybe it’s because they help me escape the uncomfortableness, however temporary, of the present moment. They make me feel something I can count on (at least for awhile), and they let me know what to expect, which is nice because it gives an illusion of certainty to the near future. I say illusion because it is; we never know quite what is going to happen or exactly how it is going to feel when it does.

Predictability and a routine does cut down on stress to some degree. Not knowing what’s going to happen or where anything is can be a bit intense, especially if it happens for a long time without stopping. If you have traveled to a foreign country, you know the feeling of culture shock. Suddenly the things that you take for granted daily, such as how close a stranger will sit to you on the bus, are not a given. It takes extra brain power just to keep up with it all.

There’s an article on Psychology Today called Routines: Comforting or Confining?

That article talks about how some routines are beneficial, but it’s also good to re-examine them. What I’m more interested in is noticing the feeling of when I’m acting based on predictability, because when we know what to expect then we aren’t necessarily aware of the moment in all of its unique freshness.

Scary..or Fun?

Some years ago I was painting as a profession with a friend. At one point I had to stand on a ladder in the middle of the room to paint a rafter. I pointed out that it was rather scary. “Scary, or fun?” the other painter said. He had made an excellent point. The feeling of scary was the same feeling as “fun,” except fun would be something I choose and scary was something that was happening to me. As soon as I embraced my increased heart rate and hyper-awareness of balance, it felt more fun. But for me, “scary” is a predictable feeling. I go to it a lot in the day to day, but if I’m aware of that choice in the moment it happens, I can switch it over to “fun” sometimes.

Predictability takes so many forms, physically and emotionally, that it can be hard if not impossible to catch all of the ways in which we indulge in it. But you’ve gotta start somewhere.

My main point is this. A lot of times patterns are formed because they make something take less work one time. That feeling of predictability is preferable to feeling like everything is happening for the first time. But a balance is always key; and it’s nice to remember that there is always more than one way to do something. Just because repeating an action once helped the world feel stable doesn’t mean that it’s a good long term solution.

On a side note, it’s been hard lately to blog as much as I did before and to keep up with as many of you as I’d like to. Feel free to post a link in the comments of any posts you made that you think I’d like, I love when you do that!

Do any of you struggle with predictability, or pay attention to it at all?

Do you feel like you have a solid ability to keep things interesting and stay in the present without getting sucked into routines?



8 thoughts on “Is Predictability Addictive?

  1. I liked your points. Predictability is less scary. Either can be addicting. I remember I used to fly sail planes as a kid. There was this empowermemt of nothing but a wind sock being as predictable until the wind changes. The scariest thing I do now days is blogging about an unprecictable subject. But most of my followers are too kind to argue… they most likely just move on and wait till they agree with me. 😉
    Great post idea!

  2. While reading your post, I couldn’t get the movie Stranger Than Fiction out of my head. Predictability shot through the main character’s life (Harold Crick – Will Ferrell – one of the few roles I’ve enjoyed him in). Number of steps to the bus, number of brushstrokes of the toothbrush each morning and evening, etc etc etc. It’s one of those films that makes you want to break out of your ruts and routines, but not obsessively so. I suppose that’s the key. Predictability and unpredictability can both be addicting! Our identity can be locked into our predictable routines or into our pursuit of change. It is good to have the anchor of predictable routines (at least I’m thankful for them – but then next year I’m 55 and I can eat off of the senior menu!); we just need to remember that anchors are meant to be weighed…and while this isn’t an article, here’s a link to a song that I think connects with all of this – Mindy Gledhill, Anchor Me Back Down

    • I love the link to a song, I will listen to it shortly! I have not watched that movie, but what you say makes a lot of sense. I think for a lot of people, and probably you are one of them, the predictability thing doesn’t get so addictive 🙂 I wonder if some people are just so much more susceptible to it than others- kind of like OCD. OCD is so much about repetition, and control. Maybe people more prone to it for whatever reason are also more prone to getting attached to many routines? Hmm…

  3. Great post! I think routines are an inevitability. They provide stability and ensure the fluent progression of day to fay activities. Although this could be visualised by some and perhaps even misconstrued by others as boredom, without this essence of predictability,we may very well become lost. In-between these routines (going to the shops, cleaning, mowing, eating, etc) I believe that a person still has ample opportunity to mix up their existence with some fun every now and then, and you are right ma’am when you say that we never quite know what is going to happen. Our lives are genuinely spontaneous. On that note, I think our lives are entertaining enough already without being critical of possibly repetitive routines.

    • haha you are very right, we do not need to be too critical, that would be it’s own trap. I’m thinking that what it really may come down to is that since I’m more prone to ocd type things, I’m also more likely to get way too attached to a routine than people who don’t have’s an interesting thing to think about!
      There is always an opportunity to mix in new things and have fun, you are so right!!

  4. Oh wow. Finally, I found something we don’t share in common.
    I’m not afraid of much in life, but predictability is in my top three list of greatest fears… My deepest satisfactions come from a perpetual sense of novelty; the moment I’ve become familiar with a grocery store, I find an unfamiliar store at which to shop. Otherwise, my diet too becomes humdrum and dull; I can’t eat the same thing more than twice a year or I quickly lose a taste for it… If not permanently, then at least for years.
    The only exception to this seems to be with music. Once I discover a group/musician I love, one that registers on a soul level, I find myself needing the predictability of their music. It soothes, comforts, as you talk about.
    Everything else creates discomfort for me. I can’t even plant the same flowers two years in a row. Perennials? Forget about it.
    Interesting to think in opposite terms.

    • That is super interesting! haha I am that way with music, and then sometimes with food. It’s interesting how that sort of thing hits everyone differently, I want to use your approach to grocery stores 🙂

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