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Creature of Habit

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"I run my home precisely on schedule.
At 6:01, I march through my door.
My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02.
Consistent is the life I lead!"
George Banks, Mary Poppins

The Creature of Habit likes routine. It's as simple as that. No sarcasm, no Stepford smiling, no threats of going insane from the monotony. They are honestly, perfectly content with doing the same thing day after day. The same places, the same people, the same errands and chores... to them, this is bliss.

They tend to be a source of puzzlement for more dynamic characters and many audiences, especially in the cases where cultural differences come into play. Say the Creature of Habit is a pig-farmer in medieval England or a peasant in the feudal age. Surely they would be glad to get out of there? Or have some ambition beyond being stuck in a rut all their lives?

Not so. If offered the chance of change, the Creature of Habit may listen politely, be thoroughly uninterested, or even snap at the lack of respect for their viewpoint ("Look, I like being a servant, all right?!!"), but they will almost always decline. A higher calling or moral dilemma may get them to leave their old existence behind, but only reluctantly, and if possible they will return to the life they loved best when the crisis has passed. In-universe, this can cause a clash between characters who love change and adventure, and those who resent the whole experience.

Some versions are easygoing, while others verge on obsessive-compulsive, but neither likes change. They don't bother much about ambition, because ambition threatens the nice little groove they've established for themselves, although if a promotion is offered that's nearly identical to their current position they'll probably take it after some deliberation.

Unfortunately for the Creature of Habit, fiction does not respect their decision to live a quiet life. The Rule of Drama dictates that this is an interesting character to shove into Fish out of Water situations, be it through the revelation that they are an unlikely Chosen One, or The End of the World as We Know It blowing their old life to smithereens. After all, it's only when you upset their routine that the trouble starts. Tender-hearted creatures of habit may suffer a Heroic BSoD, or at least have their gentle natures shaken. Less benign examples often reveal they're bossy, often officious nature, and demonstrate why you should "Beware the Quiet Ones." Usually, the writer decides that since "change is good", the Creature of Habit will adjust to their new existence and learn to enjoy it, even if they occasionally pine for the days when "adventure" was a really hot cup of tea and a new brand of chocolate biscuit.

Slice of Life stories, however, favor the creature of habit — their contented, slow nature suits the genre, and they may be the Team Mom or the earnest main character.

Often a trait of the Everyman. When a Creature of Habit has his routine shot to pieces, with no chance of recovery, he'll probably become the Unfazed Everyman once he adjusts. Occasionally a trait of the Brilliant, but Lazy. If they are neurotic about the timing of their schedule — for example, they MUST wash their socks at exactly 6:05 pm every Tuesday and Thursday — then they aren't the Creature of Habit, but the much more energetic Schedule Fanatic.

Can overlap with O.O.C. Is Serious Business — if a Creature of Habit voluntarily deviates from their routine, they must have a very compelling reason.

Contrast with Allergic to Routine, who often pairs up with the Creature of Habit in Odd Couple situations, because of the domestic disharmony that results from their opposing needs.

See also: Clock King.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akari of ARIA is perfectly happy with her "familiar days." Sure, no day is exactly alike, but she likes knowing that certain things will always remain constant... except that they don't, hence the series' Bittersweet Ending. Throughout the series, she knows in the back of her mind that achieving her goal will mean big changes, and it's a source of anxiety for her. Ultimately, she decides to live in the moment and adjust when it's needed. But not before becoming all heartbroken when she has to say goodbye to her old gondola, once it has to be replaced by a newer version.
  • Yuno, in Hidamari Sketch, likes life to trundle along this way, which is the basis of the anime's large amount of Once an Episode elements.
  • Klaus, in From Eroica with Love, is as much a Creature of Habit as being an international spy will allow him to be, bordering on Schedule Fanatic.
  • Jyoji of Servant ◊ Service is so much of this that the fact the lunch break is ending trumps over his rivalry towards Yutaka and he leaves mid-challenge.
  • Yoshikage Kira, from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, has a very rigid schedule to ensure he lives a quiet, peaceful life... though he does make the occasional detour to murder women and collect their hands.

    Comic Books 
  • Skalman from Bamse. One of his inventions is a special alarm clock which rings when it's time for a meal or a nap. Come nap time, he goes to sleep as soon as he hears the ring, even if he's in the middle of something adventurous.

    Fan Works 
  • Liking for personal routine is a running characteristic for Sherlock Holmes in KCS' fanfic on the series.
    • Played With in Agreement and Disputation. While Holmes falls into black moods if interesting new cases fail to materialize, he resists any change in his life besides new mysteries. Part of the story involves him making adjustments as he gradually becomes fond of Watson.
    • In one drabble from A Study In Situations, the narration notes that Holmes makes a habit of rising at 7:00 and only extreme circumstances can pull him out of bed earlier. Watson unthinkingly causes such a circumstance when he opens the window to better admire the falling snow, letting in an icy draft.
  • Mr and Mrs Gold: Rose knows that something was wrong in Chapter 4 because her husband was late for dinner since he is a Creature of Habit.
  • Played straight, but then slowly averted, in Viva La Vida. Olive used to be content working at Odd Squad, helping out the same clients, solving some of the same cases, and generally living an average routinely life. However, the basis of the story involves her becoming bored with Odd Squad, with one of her major criticisms being that all she does is fight the same villains and solve the same problems that crop up from idiotic adults. Chapter 3 even has her blowing off dinner with Otto, stating that she packed her dinner, followed by Otto telling her that she never packs her dinner, then her telling him that perhaps she changed her routine up for the day.

    Films — Animation 
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet: Ralph revels in the life he and Vanellope have had for the past six years. Every day they go to work, every night they get to have fun and play in the many games in the arcade, they watch the sunrise together, then they do it all again the next day. For Ralph, he's living the dream. This is at odds with Vanellope who wants to mix things up in her life and face the rush of the unpredictable.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Kuman-Kuman from The Interpreter does the same routine every day, which makes it easy for an assassin to kill him by placing a bomb on a bus; after all, Kuman-Kuman takes the same bus at the same time every day.
  • Harold Crick, protagonist of Stranger Than Fiction. This will change somewhat, though.
  • In Ocean's Eleven, Terry Benedict is described as "a machine" because his schedule is so very precise, he even visits the men's room at the same time every day.
  • George Banks was like this towards the beginning of Mary Poppins, with his song "The Life I Lead" all about how wonderful it is that his life is so precise.
  • Ray Breslin makes a point of identifying these types when planning his prison breaks in Escape Plan.

  • Mycroft Holmes is so set in his ways that his baby brother knows that something catastrophic must have happened when he gets a telegram announcing that big bro is paying a visit. Why is it so strange? "It is as if you met a tram-car coming down a country lane. Mycroft has his rails and he runs on them. His Pall Mall lodgings, the Diogenes Club, Whitehall ó that is his cycle. Once, and only once, he has been here. What upheaval can have derailed him?"
  • Around the World in Eighty Days: Phileas Fogg follows a routine so regular and inflexible that his manservant Passepartout describes him as "a real machine."
    He breakfasted and dined at the club, at hours mathematically fixed, in the same room, at the same table, never taking his meals with other members, much less bringing a guest with him; and went home at exactly midnight, only to retire at once to bed.
  • Hermione runs into trouble in Harry Potter when she tries to liberate the house-elves. Turns out their whole species are creatures of habit (with the odd exception) and they find Happiness in Slavery — they don't want to be free.
  • Arthur Dent of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy really wants nothing more than a nice cup of tea and a sandwich most of the time. Regrettably what he gets is lots and lots of adventures.
  • Discworld:
    • Rincewind would like to be a creature of habit and truly desires boredom (and potatoes) but rarely gets it. In Sourcery, he is utterly bewildered to hear that Nijel deliberately abandoned a boring, routine lifetime to try being a Barbarian Hero.
    • Dios from the Pyramids novel is such a creature of routine that it is physically impossible for him to change his habits. There are marks in the stone floors of the palace where his habitual footsteps have fallen on the same place, day after day, year after year.
    • From Going Postal we have the Post Office's cat, which goes the same walk every day, and will wait in front of a door until it opens. It does this when the building catches fire!!
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden has aspects of this, one character pointing that given a choice he will go to the same restaurant, order the same food, take the same route, etc. Of course, his life tends to be full of enough unpredictable excitement that a little routine is an understandable relief. The issue came up when Harry was insisting that he was an aversion of this trope. He was told in no uncertain terms that he is a Creature of Habit in many ways, just not other peoples' habits. That's just as frustrating.
    • Getting old in the Dresdenverse gets you stuck in your ways pretty substantially. Even the more venerable wizards suffer from this, though not to the supernatural extent of the, well, supernatural. Harry frequently relies on this fact in dealing with heavyweight baddies and has even won a Boss Fight with clever use of this trope and some very creative magic.
    • Inverted when Harry encounters (who we believe are) members of the Black Council: they can think on their feet and slug it out in the major leagues; Harry sees himself in their methods, and is rightly cautious.
  • This is a defining characteristic of Hobbits in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Some of them occasionally get a bit "Tookish" and start thinking about adventures, but even the more whimsical ones mostly just prefer to stay in the Shire sipping tea and nibbling on cakes. Bilbo Baggins (pre-adventure) is a classic example. Nowhere does this trait make itself plainer than in their adherence to a regular schedule of meals. A Hobbit just doesn't feel right without a good breakfast. And the second breakfast. And elevenses...
  • In "The Ethics of Madness" by Larry Niven, Douglas Hooker starts as a mild example of this trope and then spends 120,000 years fleeing from his pursuer's vessel in a one-man ram ship.
  • A Man Called Ove: Ove is the poster child for this trope. To the point that he doesn't even need an alarm clock, because he's always woken up at the same time, every day, his whole life.
  • Nessy, the kobold housekeeper from Too Many Curses, is sufficiently this trope that she always eats the same thing for breakfast, looks forward to doing the polishing on the day of the week she always designates for that chore, and continues to sit on a stone beneath her boss's chair rather than the chair itself even after said boss has been eaten by the nurgax.
  • Nero Wolfe has an ironclad schedule of reading, drinking beer, eating, and tending to his orchards. With much badgering from Archie, he can squeeze in working on cases.
  • Dick from The Story of Valentine and His Brother is one, despite his vagabond upbringing. His greatest wish is to have his own cottage.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon. Penny uses it against him during an Escalating War by filling all the washing machines in the building when Sheldon was going to do his laundry, forcing him to do his laundry later. He doesn't take it well.
  • Breaking Bad: Big Bad Wannabe Lydia goes to the same café at least once every time she visits Albuquerque, orders the same drink, sits at the same table, and even adds the same Stevia sweetener to her tea. This makes it very easy for Walt to poison her in the finale.
  • Fawlty Towers:
    • The Major, who always has his evening drink in the bar at six o' clock. In a case of All There in the Script, the script mentions that as it is exactly six o' clock, Basil does not need to turn and see who has entered the bar.
    • In "A Touch of Class", Basil tells a family that when Lord Melbury visits, he always sits at their table, and orders the family to move, in the middle of their meal.
  • One episode of Home Improvement portrays Tim as one of these, as a Compressed Vice.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "A Vile Hunger for Your Hammering Heart", Louis de Pointe du Lac informs Daniel Molloy that Rashid is a stickler for routine.
    Louis: Sleep, pray, eat, pray, swim, pray, et cetera. [...] Metronomic, my Rashid.
  • Jerry on Parks and Recreation gets more joy from sheer bureaucratic routine than any of the other characters. In one episode he spends all night working on a bulk mailing for Leslie's campaign, realizes at the last second that he forgot an insert, and cheerfully says, "It's not government work if you don't have to do it twice."

    Video Games 
  • The Stanley Parable: Stanley worked for a company in a big building where he was employee number 427. Employee 427's job was pushing buttons on a keyboard while the computer told him exactly what keys to push and how long to push them. While some would have found this job unbearably tedious, Stanley was happy with it. Until one day, the instructions stopped coming, and Stanley realized everyone else in the building had vanished...
  • Carl in Hometown Story, who has a quite regular schedule and is a big watch nerd. He was quite the opposite in his youth, but being late to date once lead to his then-fiancee getting injured. To give an idea of how bad it was, Carl's wife Aisha is introduced to the player in a wheelchair.

    Visual Novels 
  • Played with in Daughter for Dessert with both the protagonist and Amanda. The protagonist makes changes in his personal life, but has trouble seeing past whatís right in front of him at the diner. Amanda likes routine, but takes the lead in revamping, re-branding, and relaunching the diner.
  • This forms one of the core character traits of Ren Fujii from Dies Irae. He simply wishes to have a simple and predictable life where nothing changes. And in this universe where strong desires and wishes can become real, his eventually materializes as an ability to stop time, even reaching the point where his wish could be made a law, freezing all of existence in eternal stagnation. Something that he comes to realize isn't much better than the Big Bad's world of eternal strife. His desire for a stable life also constantly puts him at odds with his worst best friend Shirou Yusa who is Allergic to Routine.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-453 forces many of its patrons to follow a specific script. In fact, many SCPs cause those affected to act a certain way for the rest of their lives.
  • Not shown in his main videos, but Chuggaaconroy revolves his personal life around routine. He does workout regimens at the gym to psyche himself up, he frequents the same restaurants, and he always keeps his collections of memorabilia well-organized. He mentions in his Animal Crossing: New Leaf Let's Play on his birthday that he leads a pretty fulfilling and happy life as a result of this, and mentions in his remade Earthbound Let's Play and his now-deleted 50 Facts video that his reasoning for this routine is because of being autistic and desiring since he was a child to live a normal life not plagued by his eccentricities.

    Western Animation 
  • The Incredible Hulk (1996): Bruce Banner declares the Hulk to be this in the episode "Darkness and Light, Part three", using his knowledge of the Hulk's fighting style to dodge and capture him.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Temple Fugate was this even before he became the Clock King. Itís implied that he was a middle-aged man when he broke his routine for the first time in his life.
  • This trope is lampshaded by Agura and Tezz in Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5 — Agura, the hunting enthusiast of the group, had said, "Humans, like most animals, are creatures of habit. Which makes it very useful when you're trying to hunt them."
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Adora is used to a strict regimen and The Spartan Way. The freedom and opulence of the rebellion often leave her uncomfortable. When she gets too stressed or upset, she tends to fall back on her Horde upbringing, such as approaching the Princess Ball with a battle plan, or seeking out training when she can't use her healing power.

    Real Life 
  • In real life, many autistic people are creatures of habit to some extent. What extent can vary greatly — some people just get a bit more narked when plans are cancelled/sprung on them with little to no prior warning or people are late, others have a certain way of doing things and a certain time to do them. In more extreme cases, this trait can become an obsession, to the point the entire family has to work around/avoid disrupting the autistic member's schedule, lest all hell break loose.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder results in this behavior as sufferers strictly adhere to their daily routines and often perform repetitive "rituals" such as washing their hands multiple times in a row, suffering extreme anxiety otherwise.
  • Personality quizzes/tests/assessments usually have at least one category that is a creature of habit. In western astrology it's Taurus and Cancer, in Myers-Briggs, Sensors, and Judgers seem more inclined to like routine. In the Big Five Personality Traits, this is ascribed to people scoring high in Conscientiousness and low in Openness to Experience.
  • German philosopher Immanuel Kant was famous for being one, especially in his later years. According to a famous anecdote, the inhabitants of Koenigsberg set their clocks on his daily walks, and the one day he wasn't on time, it was because he had just heard about the French Revolution breaking out. Or was reading É mile by Rousseau.
  • Pets, livestock, and zoo animals which are fed and exercised at specific times every day tend to become this trope, and can become quite impatient and anxious if their schedules are disrupted.